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Growing garlic in a clay soil


by Pippa Greenwood

I'm passionate about growing garlic. I successfully grow lots of garlic at home, despite the fact that I garden on a very heavy, clay soil.


Garlic ridgesI'm passionate about growing garlic. I successfully grow lots of garlic at home, despite the fact that I garden on a very heavy, clay soil.

Garlic thrives in a well-balanced soil that is fairly loose, so the bulbs can expand properly. It does less well in clay soils, which, after heavy rain, can pack tightly around the cloves and prevent them from reaching their full size.

This winter has been phenomenally wet with most of my vegetable garden looking like a paddy field. Every time I check the garlic crop (and I cannot help myself at the moment due to the wet weather), I have to confess to feeling rather pleased with myself.

Despite the clay soil and the sky-high water levels it is in pretty good shape. The foliage is starting to yellow slightly (a symptom of waterlogged soil), but this shouldn't inhibit the bulb growth. The reason for my success is simple - I plant the cloves on a ridge, and I'd suggest that anyone growing garlic in similar conditions do the same.

The ridge height varies from year to year; it is not an exact science, but it is 15cm or so tall and about 20cm or more wide at the base. The result of that tiny bit of extra effort in autumn is an early crop of gorgeously succulent garlic, with bulbs that have shown little if any decrease in size because of the wet clay.

As well as autumn planting, I sometimes plant garlic in spring (which usually results in a lower yield of smaller bulbs later in the season). I don't normally need to use a ridge for spring planting, but if the weather carries on like this, I may well have to!



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Gardeners' World Web User 24/01/2008 at 17:21

Is it too late to plant garlic cloves now? I have very heavy clay soil as well. Thanks

Gardeners' World Web User 25/01/2008 at 12:40

It is not too late to plant garlic - you tend to get a heavier crop from autumn plantings but I usually plant more cloves in the spring, I intend to buy some more this weekend... if I get time!

As for what to plant, just last year I gave a couple of bulbs of garlic to a dear, dear friend of mine, omitting to tell her more than that it wanted a good, sunny spot... then in the summer I was summoned round to look at two green crested outbursts in the border... they do need to be separated in to cloves, not planted as whole bulbs!! It is an easy enough mistake, especially when your friends are not even sensible enough to tell you!!

Gardeners' World Web User 25/01/2008 at 17:33

Plant garlic bulbs in single cloves for good results. I grow mine in an old bread tray every year and have had great success, although I am worried about the effect the rainfall will have this year.

Gardeners' World Web User 25/01/2008 at 17:38

Forgot to mention. You can plant garlic up until February although the earlier the better as going through a cold snap is actually good for it. Hope this is of some help to first time garlic growers.

Gardeners' World Web User 26/01/2008 at 18:37

Hi staceyF, Garlic is planted in single cloves, with the pointy bit at the top. Hope that helps.

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