• Garlic grows best if planted in full sun, in soil that drains well and has been enriched with compost.
• When planting, break up the garlic head into individual cloves.
• Plant each clove deeply with the tip of the clove pointing upwards. Make sure the tip is covered with soil. Firm down gently.
• Space cloves 15 cm apart. Cover with a layer of mulch.
• Shoots should start pushing through the mulch within 4-8 weeks of planting.
Another planting option
Individual cloves can also be started in small pots. Use good-quality potting soil, or a mix of potting soil and home-made compost. Keep soil moist but don’t over water during sprouting. Young plants can be kept in the pots over winter and planted out in early spring.
• Garlic stops growing in winter. Mulch the beds and reduce watering.
• In spring, when growth starts again, increase the watering to once a week. This depends on the temperature and type of soil.
• Foliar feed with a kelp-based plant food once a month, from September to November.
• Remove any flowering tops as this affects the quality of the bulbs. Flowering tops curl as they mature and then straighten out. They are called ‘scapes’ and have a mild garlic flavour. Chop them up and add them to salads or stirfries.
Home-grown is best
How about growing your own super-tasty garlic? Like with tomatoes, home-grown garlic tastes much better than shop-bought garlic, which is generally imported and irradiated. Garlic planting time is from mid-February to the end of March, but extends into April for giant garlic. For best results use organically grown garlic, obtainable from farmer’s markets or heirloom seed suppliers. It is risky to use treated garlic from supermarkets because it may not sprout.
When most of the leaves turn yellow-brown it is time to harvest. Gently dig out the bulbs. Pulling them out could break the stalk from the bulb and lead to rotting.
Storing and curing
Tie the garlic in bundles or plait the stems and hang them up in a cool, dry, well-aerated room for about 4-6 weeks to cure. Once the garlic is dry, trim the roots and stalks (about 5 cm above the bulb) and store in a garlic crock or in mesh bags that allow the air to circulate.
Good for you
Garlic’s healing properties are legendary. It acts as an antibiotic, is a remedy for all kinds of chest infections, it lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and prevents strokes by keeping the blood thin. Best of all, it makes everything so tasty to eat – even if the morning after is not pleasant for your colleagues!