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We often talk about our efforts trying to grow good garlic here in Brisbane. I thought this was a common sense article with some sub-tropical variety recommendations at the end.

Article from LIFESTYLE:

How To Grow Garlic


How To Grow Garlic

 

Is an essential flavour in countless dishes, so why not have garlic fresh and organic in your own garden? Janie Varkulevicius shows us how...

 

If you haven’t planted your garlic yet, it’s high time you did. Garlic, like onions, is a day-length-sensitive crop, so autumn is the time to plant.

Looking back to the 1950s and 60s, garlic was barely used in Australia; now, thanks to the culinary influences of so many migrants from the Mediterranean and elsewhere, garlic has become an essential in every Australian kitchen.

We consume about 3500 tonnes of fresh garlic every year yet much of it is imported. This means it has to be treated with powerful, often toxic chemicals, such as methyl bromide, that attack the nervous system. Our quarantine laws demand this treatment in order to kill any biological or fungal threats to our farming industry. So the obvious answer is to grow your own garlic and avoid these toxins.

Eating fresh garlic improves heart health by lowering bad cholesterol in the bloodstream, reduces high blood pressure and combats infection. Just one or two fresh garlic cloves a day can promote good health, whereas processed minced, dried or powdered garlic does not give the same benefits.

Garlic is day-length-sensitive, which means that as daylight hours are declining as we head towards winter, the plants put on vegetative growth, producing leaves and roots. The spring equinox, September 21/22, marks the time when daylight hours begin to lengthen and the bulbing phase of garlic growth is initiated.

The size of the bulb or head of garlic is determined by the amount of leaves and roots the young plants have at this stage. The more leaves, the bigger the harvested bulb will be.

 

Planting and soil preparation

 

Garlic prefers a rich, well-drained soil that has been well dug over with no hard lumps to inhibit the new root growth.

In sandy soils some extra potash will be beneficial, but usually ample nitrogen and phosphate will suffice. A pH of between 6 and 7 will allow these nutrients to be available to the plants.

Blood and bone is rich in these nutrients, so dig in about a 2mm layer over your planting area — a heavy sprinkle — and incorporate it into the soil.

You can buy your garlic “seed” (in other words the cloves) from the greengrocer or purchase virus-tested cloves from nurseries or mail-order companies.

Break up your heads of garlic and separate the cloves. Choose the fattest cloves to plant, pointy end up, about 5–7cm deep. The skinny, small cloves will not be as vigorous.

Break the bulb into cloves. Plant only the large cloves (right) not the small ones (centre).

 

Plant the selected cloves about 10cm apart with roughly 20cm between your rows. This should give you about 50 plants for just one square metre — a good yield for such a small space.

 

Growing

 

Garlic has a very dense surface root system that can dry out quickly and is easily damaged by cultivation. As it offers little competition for weeds, garlic beds should be kept as weed-free as possible. Therefore a good mulching after planting is essential.

Compost such as mushroom compost or seaweed is ideal. Tea leaves and coffee grounds are also good as long as they do not compact and form a crust. Use your own and make friends with your local café — they may be kind enough to save some for you.

Whatever mulch you use, keep the bed weed-free and avoid deep cultivation around the plants.

In late winter/early spring, a side-dressing of blood and bone will keep those leaves and roots growing. Take care not to fertilise after the spring equinox (September 21), as the increase in day-length initiates bulb growth and leaf growth ceases. Once bulbing commences, an over-abundance of nitrogen (as in blood and bone) will lead to soft bulbs that will not store well.

 

Harvesting

 

Depending on where you live, harvest times will vary. In NSW it can be as early as November or in Tasmania as late as December/January. Victoria and South Australia are somewhere in the middle.

As the time approaches, keep an eye on your garlic and reduce watering, as an over-moist soil can lead to rotting bulbs.

Your garlic plants will show you when they need to be lifted; when the tops start to yellow and the neck of the bulb starts to get soft and papery it’s getting to the right time. When the plant
has about four or five green leaves left it is time to harvest.

The bases of these leaves form the “tissue-paper” covering to the bulb. If you leave them longer they may open up and split.

 

Storage

 

The most important step in storing your garlic is to dry and cure it well. Choose a dry, airy spot to hang your plaits or use old orange (net) bags to hold your bulbs. Keep them cool and dry.

 

Cultivars

 

Queensland gardeners can find growing garlic challenging. In subtropical regions the day-length does not vary widely as it does further south. The cultivars Glenlarge and Southern Glen are good selections for the subtropics as they are day-neutral.

The hard-neck cultivars, those that produce a flower head or scape, grow best in areas with cold winters. They have a superior flavour but will store for only 3–4 months. Soft-neck garlic is easy to plait (there is no stiff flower stem), can be stored for 6–8 months and performs well in milder climes.

There are many cultivars to choose from, so get on the net or consult your local nursery.

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Woo hoo! When it's harvested, get yourself a stall somewhere and sell the surplus.

Recently I bought some Garlic grown in Burpengary - very local to me here in Deception Bay.

The cloves came from the seller's grandfather who brought them from Malta. They've been growing it and selling it ever since.

I was told to plant it in April - done that, first ones are up now. She did not say to put it in the fridge so I didn't do that although I'd always done that previously.

Then the next trick is to pull the plants out and leave the leaves and roots on. Dry in a cool airy place as usual. Still leave those leaves and roots on even when dry. Then store in a cool airy place.

Interesting to see how this all works out.

Planted mine from the same source also at the beginning of this month and so far not a sign of a shoot :(

Hope they haven't gone the way of the Oca. Same bed.

I don't know what type we have, but my parents have been growing these successfully for the past 2-3 years now (wow, time flies). The same ones I've grown are pathetic in size compared to theirs, but then again, I have clay soil. We got them from an elderly Greek gentleman. Unfortunately so far we have not been able to grow adequate seed stock. Gonna have to cross all the t's and dot the i's come Apr this year.

Also grew some elephant garlic (I'm sure they weren't advertised as elephant garlic when we bought them) from Diggers last year. They grew huge but they weren't any good.

PS. Old + Greek = guaranteed success :)

I would agree Joseph! Those old Greek and Italian backyard gardeners really know what they're about. Have known some in the past but don't have any around I can chat to at the moment.

I planted Glenlarge early last year (2nd March) and being day neutral, they just grew and were ready for harvest on 23rd June, hadn't even seen a good winter!  Got a good harvest, small bulbs but good fat cloves.  This year I have planted on 16th April, see how we go.

I have read somewhere that , with softnecks, you should only plant the fat outer cloves, and discard the skinny inner ones.  I bought some Aussie garlic from the local greengrocer, and it was full of skinny little cloves, so maybe truth to it.

Getting on for four months - that's pretty quick to harvest time isn't it David? I've not had a lot (any) success with growing garlic but thought it was more like 6mths to harvest. Sounds like you keep a good garden diary for dates.

Some of the local garlic Elaine sourced for me has come up. Nothing like her bed though which has many shoots. Maybe I planted some too deep....lord only knows.

I'm a bit of a computer nerdy type, I have an XL spreadsheet for my gardening, 1 page for each veggie, (just date in one column and the diary entry in the other, plus pages for each garden bed, what was planted when, going back 5 years now. 

Garlic will grow a lot of roots first before shooting up, so it can take a couple of weeks, just mulch it well to keep the hot sun off the bed.

Lovely autumn weather.

Leaving aside the fact I don't know how to set up a spreadsheet, having a pen and paper solution does not rely on electronics.

There is still a 'Garden Diary' book, loose-leaf 4-ring binder. Just short of entries for the last several years.

The tag system that I use is OK as far as it goes. At least I know what I planted, how many and when. For trees, I use a tag with the 'date planted' on it so at least I know how long its been in the ground.

My garden is not so extensive that I cannot remember what I planted where ;-) I still think a brief written diary in some kind of order - date or alphabetical - is a good way to go.

Spreadsheets are a good idea especially for following specific plants. I've just been using my blogs, but it's all a bit hit and miss and I have to delve through a lot of stuff to find specifics. Always informative to re-read them though.

It's such stupendous weather I do not want to leave the house/garden. Birds singing, weather warm, grass mown, things blooming/cropping. Heaven right here. Have been pottering since the wee hours and really must dress and go out soon, but I will put it off as long as possible. Maybe til the arvo ;)

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