Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

After deciding not to tie up my beds for months to grow Garlic, circumstances have conspired to encourage me to plant for this season.


After the almost-failure of the crop last year, I bought some kilos of Biodynamic Garlic from Patrice Newell in the Hunter Valley. This is divine Garlic, the best commercial bulbs I have ever eaten. However ... coming from a cold place to a warm place, it decided it would like to sprout. Meaning the Garlic arrived in January 2011 and is sprouting in May 2011, not really a practical solution to year-long Garlic eating. Certainly it is still very much edible and will be for a while yet (how long remains to be seen). It's pointless growing that variety here, it's cold-adapted for a long growing season (they plant in May and harvest around November). All the more reason to buy local!


Earlier in the year, I had bought a kilo of organic Garlic from the organic shop at Forest Glen (they used to have a stall at the Deception Bay markets and we really enjoyed getting fresh organic local produce). This Garlic came from around the Sunshine Coast and is quite different to any I have seen. The papery coverings (there must be a proper name for these things!) are a light-tan-slightly-golden with no hint of the purple I expect to see on Garlic. The bulbs are quite big and there's the occasional one which is dried out and brown but the rest are very tasty.


So since some of my winter veges didn't grow as planned, I planted 44 cloves of this Garlic out over 3 beds which are in the sun (my major issue last year was not enough sun).


They've been planted since I took the photo ;-)


I'll update the blog when there's more news.


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Comment by Anne Gibson on November 25, 2011 at 9:14

I totally agree with all you've said Elaine. A lot of my gardening 'insights' have come out of doing things at the 'wrong' time or just experimenting and giving things a go. I figure nothing ventured, nothing gained! Sometimes it's best to go with your gut instinct rather than textbook gardening advice - more often than not there's unexpected surprises at the end of the journey. 

I am thrilled to discover this variety of garlic will grow successully at this time of year because I'll have around 40 bulbs to get me through till the cooler season when it's technically the 'correct' time to plant.  I notice that Green Harvest mentions that planting after April will result in smaller cloves but hey who cares just so long as you have some to harvest?

I also read at Garlic Central that "As garlic reaches maturity, the leaves will brown then die away. This is the cue that it is time to harvest your garlic crop. If you harvest too early the cloves will be very small, too late and the bulb will have split. Proper handling of garlic after it's been picked is almost as important as looking after it whilst it's growing. It's essential that garlic is dried properly, otherwise it will rot. The bulbs are often hung up in a cool, dry place. After a week or so, take them down and brush the dirt off gently - don't wash the bulbs at this stage." 

There's also some interesting info about storing garlic on their website too. I've always put mine in the fridge but apparently this causes the garlic to go soft and even mouldy although mine never seems to last long enough as we consume it fast. I've also read after curing for about 3 weeks the tops can be trimmed and the whole bulb can be stored in paper or mesh bags in a dark place so it can breathe. 

It's recommended to refrigerate before planting too.  Another way to store it is in a garlic keeper (a small pot designed to stay cool and has holes to allow air to circulate.)  Must investigate!  Do you use one of these?

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on November 25, 2011 at 8:35

Well now this whole idea of refrigerating Garlic is quite new to me. This post was originally about the Biodynamic Garlic I bought from down south which sprouted and was lost to everything except the compost. Talking with the growers, they are now suggesting that I keep their Garlic in the fridge (they've finally offered some 'freebies' for the ones which died on me) and reckon that customers from north Queensland do that. One thing I did with the southern Garlic was plant a few in a pot to harvest the Garlic shoots and weirdly although it's quite hot on the back patio where they are, they are still green shoots. I'm not expecting cloves though.


So maybe Garlic can be grown year-round although I reckon there would be a lot of failures until you got the right varieties for your area. But worth a whirl if there's cloves to spare and micro-climate will have a big bearing on success. I've just read recently about someone putting in summer Potatoes - the Radish blog guy from Hampton near Toowoomba - but it's much cooler there. Anyway - there's plenty of room for experiments and nothing to lose. Some plants are more adaptable to different conditions than others.

Comment by Anne Gibson on November 25, 2011 at 7:43

Thanks for enlightening me Elaine!  They do have a 'soft neck'!  This was really an experiment from my perspective because I had read you can grow garlic throughout the year and still harvest smaller bulbs.  That doesn't worry me because we use so much of it. 

I also observed that there appears to be truth to the size of the cloves planted having an impact on the final bulb size.  i.e. Smaller cloves = small heads of garlic and vice versa. 

I'm only harvesting the soft necks that are brownish and have fallen over - the ones that are still upright and not going brown, I'm leaving to mature.  Do you know how long to leave them out to dry before refrigerating?

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on November 25, 2011 at 4:42

It looks as though the warm-adapted softneck varieties don't take many months to come to maturity. Yours look like really nice well-developed cloves. The Russian Giants usually do take longer, 4-5 months and you get that weird 3-stage growth habit with them: big cloves, little yellow jobs which grow into rounds and rounds which grow into cloves. Little yellow jobs and rounds take another season to become the next stage. Russian is more cold-adapted than the softneck Garlic.

Comment by Anne Gibson on November 24, 2011 at 20:50

I decided to grow some garlic this year after buying some organic bulbs like you Elaine, but life conspired against me and I didn't get to plant at the optimum time.  Rather than waste it all I thought I had nothing to lose putting the garlic in at apparently the 'wrong time' - 25th August this year.  Some was Russian garlic with huge cloves and the rest just regular cert organic garlic of unknown variety!  Just harvested my first bulbs this week (after 3 months??) seems too short a time but they are ready to eat and just curing in the kitchen.  Maybe they are a variety that doesn't take as long. 

Comment by Daniel on May 20, 2011 at 9:18

I heard a quote once... I think it was from a French chef: "If there was no garlic, I simply would not care to live" :-)

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on May 20, 2011 at 9:14
Never too much Garlic! We're eating the ones which are shooting first, toss a couple of cloves each into the pan when frying something else. Succulence on steroids ;-)
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on May 18, 2011 at 22:15
Expect your Garlic to sprout about now Ali - sometimes it beats you to it in the vege rack, other times it shoots once it's in the soil. Mine is sprouting now too (the ones I wrote about above). You can use the green shoots as you have, they taste just fine. I am cooking with the Hunter River cloves which caused all my Garlic-planting flurry and they are wonderful.
Comment by Daniel on May 13, 2011 at 17:48
Hi Kaley! The Aussie Farmer site looks good :-) Yes, the supermarket garlic is sprouting :-) I think it's Australian, so maybe it didn't need the anti-sprouting spray Elaine mentioned because it didn't have such a long journey :-)
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on May 13, 2011 at 14:21
Some of the Garlic at the supermarket comes from the northern hemisphere. It is  supposedly hit with something to stop it sprouting. I know it grows into 'rounds' here in Briz and proper cloves in Toowoomba despite the change in hemispheres. Then there's the south American Garlic which will also grow here in Briz. You will probably get better results if you can get local (as in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast) Garlic rather than overseas or southern cloves. But whatever you've got, bung it in and see what happens; what have you got to lose? ;-)

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