Growing Garlic

Last April I planted garlic in my garden for the first time. At the time I wondered if I’d planted it too late, but it was just right. Matt a friend of Trina’s at Greenfoot recommended planting it a month or so before the cold weather starts.

garlic growing with carrots behind

My dad is my usual gardening mentor, but my friend Anouska is my garlic mentor. When I told my dad I was planting garlic he wanted to get in on the action and did the same. Anouska said she’d planted an organically grown bulb she got from the supermarket. I went to my local Absolutely Organic shop and bought a WA organically grown bulb. It has to be organic because ordinary garlic may be treated with growth inhibitors so it won’t start growing on the supermarket shelf. I divided up the bulb and planted the cloves 5cm deep, in a sunny spot. And then they grew, with no effort on my behalf – my kind of plant! You can grow garlic from seeds, but it takes two years to form bulbs. In the first year garlic shallots can be harvested, used in Asian cooking [1]. Anouska is trying this next autumn.

harvested garlic

I harvested the garlic in December because the leaves started to die. I wondered if this was too early, but Trina in Sydney harvested her garlic in November and she had a good crop. My garlic was round, like onion, not segmented like it’s meant to be. The bulbs are just one garlic clove that grew really big, but they smell and taste just as garlicky. I just found Manuel’s posting on the GardenWeb,

By mid November to mid December, the lower leaves start to dry and the plants start to get a yellow tinge. Don’t water after about late October, as you want the bulbs to be as dry as possible or they won’t keep as long. When the plants start yellowing, they’ll be ready for harvest. You want to harvest at the right time for maximum storageability, which is when the bulb has swollen fully and the cloves have segmented, but before the outer skins disintegrate. Dig up a plant or two when you think they’re ready and if they are, dig up the lot. After you grow them a couple of times it gets easy to tell when to pick.

my dad's segmented garlic

I must have pulled them all up too early, before they segmented. There are a few other things I will improve next autumn when I plant my next lot of garlic. Anouska recommended planting it in the middle of the bed so it gets more water, not the edge as I’d done. This year I planted carrots next to the garlic and I think they were a bit close, so I will give the garlic more space. My dad’s garlic grew for a shorter time than mine, but his segmented, so I will dig in more compost before planting.

After harvest garlic should be hung up to dry out, when a garlic plait or braid comes in handy. I thought my uncle did this with the garlic he grew, but he just twisted the stems around each other, which works just as well. Manuel on GardenWeb said it will keep into winter if harvested at the right time, but I don’t have enough to last that long.

A lot of garlic sold in supermarkets is grown in China. I’ve seen garlic from Mexico in shops, but I only bought it grown in WA, even if it wasn’t always organic. Grown in the garden is even better!



  1. McFarlane, Annette (2002) Organic vegetable gardening Sydney: ABC Books

4 thoughts on “Growing Garlic

  1. I love how it’s possible to learn so much from each other online – thanks for this! I’ve been trying to buy locally grown garlic ever since I learrned what is done to the imported stuff, but yes growing your own would be far better!

    Oh, and Happy 2009 Clare! :)

  2. Clare,

    Happy New Year!

    I’ve found that you do need a good chill also. One year we had a warmer winter and many locals complained of both small bulbs and non-segmentation.

    My mother is Sydney grew garlic this last year too but she over watered hers and they were soft and wouldn’t dry for good storage.

    My bulbs usually segment but they are often small due to the part shade they’ve grown in. I’m hoping for better results at the new place that has much more sun.

    And doesn’t it taste good. Not acrid but pungent and still kind of fresh even grassy.

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