Home-grown garlic takes up little space and requires hardly any effort to get a good crop. It’s a good crop to grow with children, as garlic is easy to grow, and the cloves are the perfect size to be planted by small hands.
There are two types of garlic to grow: softneck garlic and hardneck garlic. Softneck garlic is easier to grow and stores well but hardneck garlic, while less hardy and not as long-lasting as softneck garlic, is said to have the best flavour. There’s also elephant garlic, which bears giant, mild-flavoured bulbs, which you can grow for a lighter garlic
How to grow garlic at home
Grow garlic in a warm, sunny spot, in fertile, well-drained soil that doesn’t get too wet in winter. Plant garlic cloves in autumn or early spring, planting individual cloves 18cm apart at twice their own depth. Keep the area weed free, water when dry and harvest from July onwards.
More on growing garlic:
How to plant garlic
How to grow garlic – planting garlic cloves
You can buy garlic for both spring and autumn planting. However it’s best to plant garlic in autumn, as the cloves need a period of cold weather to develop into bulbs.
To plant garlic, split the bulbs into individual cloves and plant them with the pointed end upwards. Take care not to damage the cloves when separating them. Space them about 18cm apart and plant at twice their own depth.
Here, Monty Don demonstrates how to plant garlic, with advice on planting depth and varieties to grow:
If you have heavy clay soil, it can be better to plant garlic in spring. This type of soil tends to hold a lot of water, especially over winter, which can cause the garlic cloves to rot. Alternatively, you can start garlic off by planting cloves singly in module trays in autumn. You can then plant these out in spring, when the soil has dried out a little. You could also try growing garlic in mounds 15cm tall and 20cm wide at the base. Plant the garlic cloves into these mounds, 15-20cm apart and 7-10cm deep. Because the soil is slightly raised, it doesn’t get as wet, so the garlic is less likely to rot.
Watch Monty plant garlic in a container, with advice on drainage and feeding:
How to care for garlic
Garlic needs little care. Water regularly and weed between plants to reduce the competition for water and nutrients. Remove any flowers, or ‘scapes’ the plants produce – you can eat these in stir-fries.
How to harvest garlic
How to grow garlic – harvesting garlic
Harvest garlic in summer when the leaves turn yellow. Gently lift out bulbs with a fork or trowel, taking care not to damage the bulbs. Leave the garlic to dry out for a couple of days, by laying it out on a table or tray, in full sun.
Watch Monty Don’s video guide to harvesting garlic:
How to store garlic
How to grow garlic – plaiting garlic
Once dry, you can either store your garlic bulbs loose or plait their foliage to make a traditional string of bulbs. Take care not to bruise the bulbs, as any damage can make them deteriorate in storage. bear in mind that softneck garlic varieties store better than hardneck garlic, so eat the hardneck varieties first.
How to prepare and use garlic
Crush, slice or finely chop, or roast cloves whole, to add flavour to many dishes. Hardneck varieties tend to have more flavour than softnecks, so work well when roasted whole.
Watch this 20-second video demonstration from our friends at olive magazine on how to chop and crush garlic.
Growing garlic: problem solving
Garlic is generally pest free. Garlic can be affected by leek rust, a fungal infection that is more common in wet weather. The garlic bulbs are perfectly safe to eat but it’s a good idea to harvest affected plants immediately, to prevent the disease spreading.
Watch Monty Don’s video guide to dealing with rust on garlic:
Can you plant supermarket garlic?
It is possible to grow garlic from supermarket bulbs, but it’s not recommended as there’s a risk of virus infection. If you buy from proper planting stock, it should be virus free. And you can also choose a variety that has been bred especially for our climate.
Great garlic varieties to grow
How to grow garlic – garlic varieties to grow