Garlic is said to repel both vampires and mosquitoes and was banned in some conservative cultures because it was believed to have stimulating or aphrodisiac qualities.
These days it is better known as an essential ingredient for food from myriad regions around the world and is lauded for its many medicinal applications.
Guide to growing garlic
When to plant
Plant in autumn as the colder temperatures help develop the cloves. If your winters are mild, put the bulbs in the fridge for a few weeks before planting.
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.
You will know it’s time to harvest when the long, slim leaves start to yellow and die off in late spring or summer. When there are only about four leaves left, dig the bulbs up carefully. If you pull them, you may separate the stalk from the bulb, which may cause rot.
Simple steps for growing garlic successfully
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.