June is the perfect time to plant out your garlic bulbs. When you see the amount of imported garlic in the shops, growing your own makes sense. Freshly harvested garlic tastes divine compared to the dried out bleached bulbs that adorn the veggie shelves of supermarkets.
Get your garlic from growers markets or shops that sell local organic garlic. Go for full bulbs that have a bit of weight in them. Its best to use fresh garlic that has not started shooting as these will produce weaker bulbs. Any papery cloves should be discarded.
Prepare the soil with good quality compost and sheep manure at least 2 weeks before planting out. Apply a handful of gypsum and sulphate of potash to a square meter prior to planting. Garlic prefers neutral to slightly alkaline soil and will not set good bulbs if it has an excess of nitrogen.
Pull the cloves apart just before planting into the ground and be careful not to take off any of the skin. They go in base side down, the part that is attached at the bottom of the bulb. The top of the clove should be just below the surface and spaced 15cm apart. Mulch with pea or Lucerne to help suppress weeds.
Cloves will develop a root system first and then a week later green shoots will appear. Water in well and give the soil a drench with a seaweed-based solution. You can apply seaweed and an organic liquid fertiliser once a month, but it shouldn’t need any other fertiliser after planting.
Garlic is a long term crop, taking up to 8 months to mature, so plant it where it won’t be disturbed by other crop rotation. Harvesting usually takes place in summer, late November or early December. It’s important to allow the soil to dry out a few days before harvesting. The bulbs are ready to lift when the base of the neck looks papery and the tips of the foliage dry off at the top.
Pull the garlic up with the leaves attached and brush off the dirt, do not hose the dirt off. You can plait bunches together and leave hanging in a cool dry place. Do not store garlic in the fridge as cold temperatures initiate sprouting.
Check out what varieties are available in your local area and plant out a few different types to see which variety suits your conditions best.