garlic from the garden

garlic shoots

I planted garlic cloves in late April and they are just showing their first leaves. April is the best time to plant garlic but it can be planted until mid June when the soil temperature cools [1]. I bought the cloves from my local Fruit & Veg shop. Most garlic from the supermarket is imported and treated with growth inhibitors so it won’t start growing on the shelf or in your garden [2]. Organic garlic doesn’t have this problem but I bought WA grown, so I wasn’t sure if it had been treated. Those new leaves tell me its fine. Imported garlic is also treated with methyl bromide, to kill pathogens, insects or weeds on the garlic [1].

Garlic plants need a sunny spot with well drained soil. I added compost prior to planting the cloves 5cm deep and 7cm apart. You can grow garlic from the bulbils that form in the flower, but it takes two years for these plants to form bulbs. In the first year the leaves can be harvested and used in stir fries [3].

garlic plants growing in previous years

Garlic grows throughout winter and spring and once a month I’ll water the plants with worm juice to ensure plump and juicy cloves. I’ll harvest my crop in November/December when the leaves start to die. A post on GardenWeb explains,

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.

The first year I planted garlic I harvested them too early, before the bulbs segmented into cloves. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and subsequent harvests have been bountiful, with tasty segmented bulbs.

garlic drying from a past harvest

There are many garlic varieties and some last longer in storage than others. The hardneck varieties store from 3-4 months and the softneck varieties can store up to 10 months [1]. I’ve only grown purple hardneck varieties so my crop has never lasted into the following winter. The first year I didn’t know all the tricks to storing garlic, which I now do thanks to the Diggers Club. After harvesting at the correct time, hang the bulbs to dry, in a cool spot, for two weeks. With the leaves still attached a garlic plait or braid comes in handy. After the bulbs are completely dry, store them in a cool, dark place, as you would with potatoes or onions.



  1. Trevorrow, Caroline (2011) “For your health’s sake grow your own garlic” The Diggers Club: Autumn Garden 2011, p.22-23
  2. “Fresher and smellier” (2005) The Age, 19 July
  3. McFarlane, Annette (2002) Organic vegetable gardening Sydney: ABC Book

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