The secret of growing garlicBack to Articles Page

The secret of growing garlic

Garlic is one of those crops you either have the grasp of growing or you don’t. When I am out and about talking to garden clubs and community groups, I am always questioned about growing garlic, along with the other usual suspects like potatoes, tomatoes, lemons and bolting herbs, such as coriander. Like people, once you understand their needs you can adapt your behaviours or the environment to get the best out of them. Treat garlic right and the best results will happen every time.

Did you know?
Garlic should not be stored in the fridge. It needs a dry, well-ventilated atmosphere to remain fresh, and hence the pantry is a good option. The papery white skin will protect it for six months or more, if the bulbs are kept away from moisture. To get the best flavour out of garlic, add it to your dish immediately after you have prepared it. The longer it is exposed to oxygen the more the flavour diminishes and it quickly becomes bitter. This surely explains why the pastes and pre-made jars never taste as good as the real thing.

Garlic seedlings
These appear in the shops from August until about October. These plants will grow, and are ideal if you only want to plant a few. Do remember, though, that the earlier they are planted the better the harvest will be.

Thou shalt not fear garlic, but if you do, you may well have Alliumphobia, which is an extraordinary fear of garlic. According to sources, people suffering from Alliumphobia experience severe anxiety or panic attacks when they are within close proximity
to garlic.


Just four ingredients

Understanding what garlic needs to thrive is the basis for a good crop. Only four elements are required to get started: good seed, the right soil, water and sun.

1. Good cloves
Just like baking, the best results always occur when you use the best ingredients. When dividing your own garlic to sow for next season’s crop, only select the biggest, fattest outside cloves – the smaller inner cloves never produce the biggest plants. Those leftover little segments are perfect for use in the kitchen.
When buying garlic seed, look online for bulk seed deals. We are lucky in this country to have such a good range of seed companies. A good heirloom seed nursery is Setha’s Seeds, and NZ Garlic produces big fat cloves.

2. Soil matters
Do not compromise on preparing your soil. Garlic prefers a free-draining compost-rich soil that has an ability to hold onto moisture, especially in November and December when it is plumping up the most. Clay soils are too heavy for it –
to remedy this type of problem, work in grit or pumice to open up the soil and add in well-rotted animal manure or mature compost.

3. Water
A high proportion of a large, fat garlic clove is water, and while garlic will grow nearly anywhere, to achieve the biggest, fist-sized cloves it is essential the plants get plenty of water when the soil is at its warmest (from late spring until harvest time). To conserve water, add layers of mulch or straw around the plants, which will keep the weeds away, too.

4. Sun
No sun equals no crop – no room for compromise here!

Sow garlic in rows, 15cm apart. Push the cloves into the soil at least 5cm deep, or finger depth. Mark the area where you planted it as it takes a while for the shoots to appear – sometimes you can forget where you’ve planted it.