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A close up of Garlic cloves growing

Tasty tips for growing garlic

Eden horticulturist Shirley Walker shares her top tips for growing garlic and her favourite varieties of this wonderful plant.



Top tips for growing garlic

Garlic is one of my favourite culinary ingredients. I had never tried growing it before I came to Eden but now I’m completely hooked! Growing garlic is becoming increasingly popular, not just for its essential use in the kitchen but also for its health properties.

Did you know?

The sticky juice in garlic cloves is used as adhesive for mending glass/porcelain and a pesticide for controlling cabbage root fly, round worm in turf and red mite in poultry.

Garlic is relatively simple to grow providing your garden isn’t prone to water-logging in winter and if you choose a sunny spot, you will be able to harvest plenty of fat, juicy garlic bulbs next summer.

October to December is the best time to plant if you want to achieve the fullest flavour and the most succulent bulbs. Don’t be tempted to use bulbs from the supermarket – buy from a garden centre or mail order supplier.

For best results when growing garlic

  • Before planting, add a general purpose fertiliser to the soil as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Carefully break up the bulbs and plant individual cloves just below the soil surface, 15cm (6in) apart, in rows about 30cm (12in) apart. I find that each bulb usually gives between 12 and 20 cloves.
  • Plant all the cloves, irrespective of size – they should all produce decent bulbs.
  • You can draw a narrow drill or plant individually with a trowel.
  • If your garden suffers from wet soil conditions in winter, plant individual cloves into 5cm (2in) pots in multi-purpose compost. Place in the greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill and plant out when conditions have improved.
  • To prevent birds from pulling up the cloves, cover the rows with horticultural fleece.
  • Water if necessary during prolonged periods of dry weather but ease off watering at the end of June to allow the bulbs to ripen and cure during the final month.
  • Weed by hand or very carefully using a hoe. Garlic doesn’t compete very well with weeds and stains can develop on the bulbs.

Harvest time

Towards the end of July, when the leaves are beginning to turn yellow, carefully lift the bulbs with a fork or hand fork. Let them dry on the ground for a couple of weeks if the weather is settled, then gather them up and hang to dry in the garden shed, greenhouse or conservatory. When the leaves make a rustling sound you can store them in a well-ventilated container until you are ready to use them.

A set of garlics freshly picked with the roots still on show laid on a table

Garlic history

Garlic has its origins in Central Asia and spread to other parts of the world in ancient times. It was known in ancient Egypt for its culinary properties and therapeutic benefits as early as 3,000BC and has also been mentioned in ancient texts of Greece, India and China. From Egypt garlic found its way around the Mediterranean and was eventually introduced into the New World from Spain, Portugal and France. The plant we know and love today is a domesticated crop that is grown throughout the temperate and tropical world.

Shirley’s choice of garlic varieties