Brisbane and surrounds in general are probably at the edge of the comfortable range for growing Garlic. So Autumn-Winter are the most likely times to plant cloves and expect a fair harvest. A few tips:
• Wait until the weather cools off before you plant, around mid to late March on current trends.
• If using a rotation, then plant when root crops are indicated. Even though the bulb grows above ground, Garlic does best with minimal soil nutrition and onion-family are considered ‘root crops’.
• If not using a rotation, then prepare the bed with only a small amount of compost or composted animal manures and go easy on nitrogen. Some calcium like Gypsum (clay breaker) is useful as is a little Potassium (potash, K).
• Plant when below ground plants are indicated in the lunar calendar.
• Refrigerate if possible for as much time as you can make - 6 weeks down to a few days will help the bulbs to understand growing time is approaching. With the Garlic we have just got, there will only be a few days possible in the fridge, but some are probably better than none.
• Only at planting time do you separate the cloves. Do not remove any of the skins - some will fall off but leave as much skin on as possible. Do not cut the root section off, either.
• Plant one clove in each space - allow at least 6 inches (15cm) in each direction between cloves.
• Push the clove just under the surface, pointy end up. They can be covered in some mulch, an inch or two at most. Just enough to keep the soil moisture in.
• Keep damp but if it buckets down you might well lose some cloves.
• Once the green shoots poke through give them a watering with Seaweed solution or Bokashi beer. Just don’t make it very strong. With Garlic and other root
crops ‘less is more’. Shoots will appear from a few days to a few weeks to months to years for the ‘little yellow jobs’ which are part of the Elephant Garlic cycle. But with the ordinary Garlic like the ones we have just bought, days to weeks is the most you would have to wait.
• Harvest time varies with variety and season but expect 6 weeks to 3 or 4 months. Pull up the entire plant when it starts to wither. You do not have to wait until the plants are dead. If any show signs of flowering (unless you want to try seeds) remove the flower-stalks to encourage the plant to keep producing cloves rather than waste its energy on seeds.
• Put the plants aside in an airy place out of the sun and with air circulation between the plants. Wait until the entire plant is dead. Trim off the now-dead leaves and trim the now-dead roots. But leave some poking out - say 2 inches of the leaves and definitely leave the pad from which the roots grew. Or plait the bunches if you know how!
• Store somewhere airy and out of the sun. Expect your Garlic to last in storage from 3 to 12 months. Do not store in the fridge though, or you will have the cloves shooting when you don’t want them to shoot.
Some references: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garlic
. Search this BLF site for ‘Garlic’ and find a lot of references and photos. I got a 20-page return for my search. Some of the info and the photos will be useful for individual circumstances.
Companions: opinions vary on this as many other topics! In general, no legumes like the company of any onion-family member. Anyway ... you need lower nutritional levels for onion-family so that reduces your choices. Cabbage family likes onion-family so that’s a start. As do carrots and I’d take a punt with any of the below-ground plants including potatoes.