I haven’t covered growing garlic before, so I thought it would be a good subject to discuss in this post. I’m definitely no expert, having failed miserably over the past couple of years. In the early days when I first started gardening, I had a lot of luck. I’m not sure what happened. Sometimes the less you know about gardening, the better! It was like that for me with kumara, too.
This year, I’m growing the following varieties: Elephant, Printanor, Kakanui, Takahue and Aja Rojo. I sourced the Elephant garlic and some Printanor from Newton Seeds in Auckland (who sell the most amazing Morton Smith-Dawe seed potatoes that you can buy by the kilo like Kwan in Kerikeri), while the Printanor, Kakanui, Takahue and Aja Rojo came from Catos, a family run garlic business located in the Waikato. I sourced this garlic from Trade Me, but I believe they also sell it at farmers markets.
I’m probably not the best person to advise on growing garlic given my bad track record, but here are some tips:
· Only use high quality organic seed garlic for planting
· Farmers markets are a good place to source seed garlic. I purchased some great garlic from the Matakana Farmer’s Market years ago but unfortunately lost the stock due to a bad season, so I couldn’t continue the strain
· You don’t necessarily have to buy fancy varieties or even source garlic in garden centres. Some of the best garlic growing in our garden came from a pack of organic garlic bulbs I purchased on special at Countdown for $5.
· Don’t plant imported garlic. It will have been sprayed, which will prevent it from growing
· Choose a sunny spot
· Ensure that the drainage is good
· Garlic is gross feeder. Work lots of compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser into the soil prior to planting
· The rule of thumb is to plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day, but you can plant garlic earlier, in April and May. The NZ Gardener magazine recommends leaving garlic in the ground for two weeks after the longest day prior to harvesting but I wouldn’t advise leaving it any longer than this
· If it’s still warm at time of planting, you might want to give the cloves a cold spell in fridge beforehand
· Separate the garlic bulbs into cloves. Don’t plant the whole bulb and don’t peel the cloves!
· Plant the outer, bigger cloves. Don’t bother with the small inner cloves as they won’t amount to much
· Space cloves at least 10cm apart, maybe a bit more for elephant garlic
· Plant cloves about 5 cm below the surface to ensure they don’t get scratched up by birds and cats
· Keep the weeds down as garlic won’t do well if it is competing with them for nutrients
· Mulch garlic to conserve moisture, add nutrients to the soil and help keep weeds down. I like using pea straw around my plants
· Liquid feed plants weekly for healthy growth. So far, I have been using Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed liquid fertiliser on my plants. I recently purchased some Yates Thrive Easy Pods on special at Bunnings for $1 each (see photo), so I will use some of that on my plants, too.
· Garlic is prone to rust. I didn’t spray my plants and I did spot rust on some of my garlic. In hindsight, I wish I had used Yates Natures Way Fungus Spray to help control it. I have used this product on my celery which had rust last summer, with good results
· If some of your garlic starts going to seed (this sometimes happens with Elephant garlic), remove the head so the plant puts its energy into the bulb rather than forming flowers
· When harvesting garlic, dig up the bulbs, don’t pull the tops
· Wipe the garlic clean and hang in the sun to dry. I do this for a few days after harvesting it. If you wash garlic, it doesn’t store as well
· Afterwards, I like to let it hang in the garage for awhile to help it cure
· I like to store our garlic in netting bags to allow air to circulate and then hang them inside our pantry
· Save some of your best cloves for replanting next season