Your edible garden: Garlic

There’s still time to plant garlic – one of the easiest veggies to grow. Kath Irvine shares her tips and tricks. 

Words Kath Irvine

Garlic is a special crop for me. I’ve been growing and saving the same seed for 17 years and now it’s like part of the family!

Garlic can be sown from May right through to August, ready for a mid-summer harvest. The trick to fat, juicy bulbs is strong soil, and nothing builds soil like a nitrogen-fixing greencrop. A great way to achieve this is to sow this mid-summer and chop it down late April. Harness all that fertility by cutting the greencrop up and turning it into mulch for the garlic bed.

If you’re starting now, and your soil is heavy, go over the bed with a broadfork to aerate it. Work a 5cm layer of compost into the topsoil, then dust with lime and an organic fertiliser such as Rok Solid. Cover the bed with the greencrop mulch and let it settle for at least a week. 

Drainage is essential; the best garlic I ever grew was when I lived at the beach. A deep layer of seaweed-based compost on top of a sandy base is garlic heaven. If you live on heavy soils (as I now do), make raised mounds for the garlic to grow in.

Airflow is important as well. Group your bulbs too close together and you’ll limit their size and encourage fungal problems (to which garlic is prone); plant them too far apart and you’ll attract weeds, which compete for nutrients and limit airflow. Plant bulbs 10cm apart and so their tips are just showing.

Garlic diary

• Late Jan/early Feb: Sow a legume greencrop and brew up garlic compost 

• Late April/early May: Cut down your greencrop and prepare your beds.

• May – August: Garlic is an easy-care crop you can plant late in the north.

• May – Sept: Keep beds lightly cultivated; use a hoe to aerate soil and prevent weeds. Liquid feed with seaweed once a month.

• Sept-Dec: It’s bulb growing time! Keep up liquid feeding and hoeing.

• December-February: Harvest when the tops start to yellow; check this by digging up a bulb. Don’t let the tops dry completely or your bulbs will be split.

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