When it comes to doing your own veggie patch, the first ingredients that should spring to mind are foods that you can use in your every day cooking. And one particular plant that comes to mind is garlic, a pungent bulb that can be used in roasts or marinades. Fortunately, we've put together a guide on growing garlic in Australia, planting garlic and growing garlic from a clove. And when it's ready to be eaten, you'll know how and when to harvest.
Guide to growing garlic
Where and When to Plant?
If you’re looking to grow your own garlic, the soil and temperature is crucial.
The best time to plant garlic on the Australian calendar is in March or early April in warmer climates. In cooler parts of Australia, spring is preferable.
In your garden, you should look for a spot exposed to sun. The soil should also be well-drained.
How to Plant?
1- Separate the cloves and plant the largest ones into moist soil, 15 cm apart. Push them in, pointy end up, until they sit just below ground level.
2- Apply a slow-release fertiliser at planting and against three months later. In spring, apply a nitrogen-based fertiliser to fatten out the bulbs.
3- Don’t water the soil until the cloves have germinated, which should be about two weeks after planting. Water often enough from then on to keep the soil moist but not cold and sodden.
4- Mulching helps keep weeds away and the soil moist. Use straw to about 3cm deep, which will fall to about 2cm over winter.
Rather than plant garlic bought from supermarkets, buy your bulbs from nurseries that have a range of named varieties. This way you can choose the garlic that suits your particular taste. And you can be sure it will grow.
Select an area where garlic or its relatives have not been planted the previous year, in full sun with fertile and free-draining soil.
You can improve heavy or sandy soil by turning it, working through manure or compost on top.
The soil should have a pH of between 5.5 and 7.
How and When to harvest?
Typically, homegrown garlic are ready about seven to eight months after being planted. Typical signs that garlic is ready to be harvested includes green leaves turning brown and flower stems beginning to soften.
If the garlic is buried close to the surface, you’re able to pull them out by the leaves. Otherwise, if too deep, use a gardening fork to carefully lift them out.
There are two main types of garlic: softneck garlic and hardneck garlic, with several types falling under those categories.
Softneck garlic is arguably the most common type that you'll see in supermarkets. Generally a white colour, the skin is thin with multiple layers of cloves.
This variety has a strong flavour and is perfect if you want to grow garlic with a long shelf-life.
Identified by having fewer yet larger cloves, artichoke garlics can be recognised by sometimes having purple spots on its skin. Flavour is not nearly as intense as silverskin garlic.
Hardneck garlic has a much firmer stalk, a couple inches in length while the bulb carries over 100 cloves. Typically, this variety doesn't last as long as softneck varieties.
Rich in taste, rocambole peels effortlessly. Doesn't keep as long as other varieties, just six months.
Similar in flavour to rocambole, porcelain garlic only has several cloves covered by a white casing. Porcelain garlic tends to keep for around eight months.
Like their name suggests, this hardneck variety is identified by bright purple stripes on its outer layer. Purple garlic will usually last for six months.
It's important that during the growing process, your home-grown garlic is well cared for. Choose a high-nitrogen fertiliser to help feed the plants. As the weather warms up after winter, garlic can form flower stalks. Ensure that you remove the stalks to maximise growth of the actual garlic bulb.