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Growing Garlic in South East Qld. - from a talk given by Phil Dudman

I thought I'd report on a talk given by Phil Dudman at the Nambour Annual garden show last weekend. I know that some people are having success with growing Garlic, but any additional knowledge that can be picked up along the way is usually welcomed by most, so I thought I might kick this discussion off.

Phil lives in Lismore so he gets a bit more cold that most of us but his day lengths are similar (these Garlic types are day length neutral) and he maintains that what he does applies to us as well. There are 3 types of true Garlic that we can grow well here - all seem to have derived from the Italian Red variety. This is a type that produces smallish cloves but which are good in flavour and reliable. This I am growing at present, the plants are quite small and ones that I have harvested from last year I made into a paste to store in the fridge as the size of cloves made it very time consuming to prepare for cooking. So it was easier to do it all at once and have the jar to call on at meal times.

Another type is Southern Glen - this wasn't talked about much, but has been developed from the Italian Red, so would no doubt share some of the same characteristics, I have not grown this type, so would be keen to get some cloves to try (any one know where I could get some?)

The third type is Glen Large. This I am growing, and the plants are very healthy looking. Phil said to plant in late March / early April having saved the biggest and best looking cloves for this. Don't separate the bulbs into planting cloves until you are ready to plant, they store much better this way. Keep in the fridge if it is unusually hot at this time until the weather cools down. A PH of around 6 - 7 is best and soil with good drainage is a must, sandy soil is the best or raised beds for heavier soils. Plant at spacings of 150 mm in rows 100 mm apart. A bed of around 1500 x 1500 will allow you to grow enough for the whole year. Below is my Garlic bed in May this year. I spread horse manure over the bed after a month or so.

You need to keep the bed well weeded as they don't like competition, and they need to be kept well watered. They will be ready to harvest in September, back off the water in August so that they dry out a bit for harvest. The outer leaves of the plants should be browning off at harvest time, check at the base of the plants to ensure that the bulbs are formed and the cloves are there. If only 1 central clove can be determined then leave longer before harvest.

Hang the Garlic in their tightly formed bunches in a cool dry place for at least 2 weeks to two months before using (depending on the weather), leave any dirt clinging to the bulbs as is. Only clean when you want to use them. SAVE THE BIGGEST AND BEST AS PLANTING MATERIAL FOR NEXT YEARS PLANTINGS. Eat the rest!!

Rotate your growing beads at least every three years to minimise disease / pest problems.

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Good info, thank you Roger for sharing.

I recall planting in May as that was when the bulbs (aka cloves) started shooting. Plant just below the surface, pointy end up. It's a trap to plant before the bulbs shoot I reckon as you're not sure if all the bulbs are viable.

Harvest when the plants start to look ratty, could be anywhere between August and October. Be guided by the plants themselves rather than the calendar. And lifting sooner rather than later results in no splitting of the whole cloves - meaning the covering peels away leaving the individual cloves exposed.

Phil's advice about leaving the whole plants alone until usage is good, the less amount of interference, the longer the cloves will keep. Although I have found that with both the southern-grown Garlic (a hard neck variety) and the locally-grown soft-neck, the storage time is around 6 to 8 months. With my crops over the years, there have been big losses with the bulbs going soft before that time, with only a few remaining bulbs to plant for the next season. I've no idea why and have decided to stop growing Garlic for this reason. For months the dry plants are hanging about and when I go to  use them, few cloves are useable. Any ideas on why and better, any ideas on what to do about it? Apart from buying organic Garlic which I do now, even Woolies stocks it. There was a time when there was almost no Australian-grown Garlic, so great was the impact of imported asian Garlic. Fortunately that has changed enough for we ordinary (as opposed to gourmet) folk can buy the real stuff locally.

Funnily enough, I had read that the Russian Giant Garlic was more suited to the cold, now I read that variety (not a true Garlic but a good substitute) is more suited to warmer conditions! Take your pick. It has grown well for me but the down-side is that it is a 3-step life cycle and is tedious to store and replant the different types of cloves but then it is good stuff and keeps well so is worth the effort.

And yes, plant the best - eat the rest!

Thanks for your reply Elaine. I have no idea why your Garlic went soft. I would have tried putting it in the fridge after I was sure that each clove had dried out to a plump feel, but I'm only clutching at straws here. I hope that I don't get to have to find a solution to this problem!

Good advice about waiting until the cloves start shooting before planting, as well.

Some of the softness issue must relate to storage. I use a metal basket, bottom tray in a storage unit standing in a passageway and close to the back door. On hot days it is just as hot as anywhere else and being close to the floor doesn't count for much when inside the house it is 30plus. Fridge ... tried that once and all the cloves started to shoot after a while so that idea stopped in its tracks.

Here is an update of how tall the garlic is now - July 17

Looks great Roger. I planted my garlic in two styrofoam boxes and it came up beautifully but after about a month the leaves all fell over and have now disappeared. I assume it got too wet although I barely watered it at all. I poked around and can feel the plump cloves in there still firmly rooted but no sign of shoots.  Do you think it will reshoot? I have never grown garlic before and I would love to.

I could only grow it on the sunny side of the yard Cathie.  

Cathie, I doubt it will reshoot, at least until next years growing season, I'm afraid. Did you have drainage holes in your Polystyrene containers? My current grow place was previously a bath / shower cubicle made of fibreglass. I have converted it to a wicking bed, the soil is always dampish but not soggy. I water it twice a week. It has a lot of drainage holes (where the pipes/taps/shower heads were).

Cathie since you can feel the cloves, I'd take the plants from the soil immediately. The plants will have done all the growing they are going to do.

My Elephant garlic on year two has shot every round that I planted - although later than the other varieties (yes, I know it's not a real garlic).  Garlic "Dave" is also doing quite well too.  In the spirit of the Phil talk, I'll replant only the best of this one.  The "ring in" Argentinian garlic is going ... well, just going.  It will not be replanted.  I'm quite excited to compare the Elephant to the Dave (a Caboolture local, I think).  If the Dave is productive then I will probably go over to it, given the two year span of the Elephant.  Time will tell. 

Thanks. Great info, Roger.

3 years.

I assume that garlic must be refrigerator-stored otherwise it will sprout. As soon as I take my Glen Large out of the fridge it gets keen to sprout.

Dave, my Glen Large and Italian Red types were hung up under my verandah since picking. Some had started sprouting, but not too long before I planted it out. When I processed the ones that were too small to use as seed, I processed the green shoots in with the cloves as well. I only rolled the cloves in a soft rubber tube to remove the husks / skins or whatever they are called.

Must have missed you this much Roger. Julie and I were in this tent for the talk before this Garlic one and I wanted to stay but there was also a stand I wanted to find before we left for the day.

Thanks for posting the info :)

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