Growing Garlic and how to harvest, cure and store it
Garlic is one of the easiest root vegetable to grow as it requires very little care, and can be planted either in Autumn or in Spring. Planting in Autumn will usually produce bulbs with a better flavour.
This little power root is widely used by almost every culture in cooking, but did you know that it was first grown for it’s medicinal properties.
You can grow it in any sunny, well drained site and it doesn’t like acidic soil, anything below a pH of 6.5 is a not recommended.
There are 2 types of cultivars to choose from – hardneck and softneck varieties.
Table of Contents
How To Grow Garlic?
I have broken down this process down into 6 simple steps for you to follow:
- Source some garlic cloves that you want to grow pic any variety you like. Avoid using supermarket bought bulbs as these may contain viruses (harmless towards humans) or may have been chemically treated.
Always look for a variety that is grown near you if possible, that way you know it’s suitable for your growing conditions.
Using bigger cloves when planting will usually give you bigger garlic heads when harvesting.
If the clove that you wish to plant has started to sprout don’t worry about it, as it can still be planted
- Select your spot where you would like to plant your cloves and prepare the soil, you can add some compost and fertiliser to it. This will ensure that it is nutrient rich. Garlic love full sun and should be planted in an area where it will be in full sun.
- Garlic is planted pointy side up and flat side down, plant the cloves cm below the surface and 15cm away from each clove. Garlic can be planted in rows or in a quadrant, if planting in rows allow 30cm between each row.
- Garlic doesn’t need much watering, however newly planted garlic should be kept moist to allow for good root development, water every 14 days during prolonged periods of dry weather, try to avoid overhead watering. Over watering can cause fungal diseases.
- Garlic is vulnerable to being overgrown by weeds, so you will need to do regular weeding to ensure they don’t get smothered by weeds. Some birds may also be tempted to pull your garlic from the ground so consider adding some netting. I haven’t experienced this but I fellow gardeners who have.
- If you’re growing a Hardneck variety then you will have garlic scapes. Scapes are edible and should be removed to stop the plants from flowering. This allows the plant to concentrate on producing a larger bulb instead of its energy going on producing a flowering plant.
Garlic planted in Autumn will be ready from June to August, whilst garlic planted in Spring will be ready around August and September.
So how do you know when it’s time to harvest garlic?
With hardneck varieties when the foliage starts to fade and yellow it’s ready for harvesting.
With softneck varieties when the stem starts to topple over it’s ready for harvesting.
Don’t delay in harvesting as you run the risk of the bulbs shattering into individual cloves whilst in the ground.
The easiest way to harvest garlic is by using a garden fork being careful not to piece the bulbs, and then just brush off any excess soil. However saying that I just grab the stem and pull them out of the ground.
Do not wash garlic as this will prolong the curing process and is also unnecessary.
Garlic must then be cured for storing otherwise it will rot.
On occasions you may get a large solo bulb which is a single large clove that hasn’t divided. Don’t worry about this as you can just replant this the following season and it will divide. To avoid solo bulbs early planting of cloves is recommended.
How to cure garlic?
This is essentially just drying out the garlic that has been harvested. You can either spread it out in a layer or hang it up.
However garlic must be dried in a warm ventilated location. Ideal temperature is 26.7°C (80°F) for a few weeks. Avoid excessive heat as this will ruin the crop, alternatively if mould is detected deploy a fan heater to help with drying out.
You can cut the stems off and just leave the bulbs to dry out in a storage bin. Alternatively you can also either braid or plait a few stems together and then hang them up to dry.
When the skin on the bulb is dry and papery you it’s ready to be used by you in any gastronomic recipe you choose.
How to store garlic?
You can store garlic in a cool dark dry place and just break off individual cloves as and when needed. Ideally it should be stored at a temperature of 5-10°C (41-50°F) I keep them in a mesh bag, but any ventilated container will do, this will inhibit sprouting as well.
How to propagate garlic?
Propagating garlic is extremely simple, you just simply select a few of the largest best looking bulbs from your harvest and just keep them until you’re ready to plant them by splitting the bulbs into cloves and then planting them again. Just remember not to remove the skin off the cloves and don’t break the bulbs apart until you’re ready to plant the individual cloves.
Problems, Pests, and Disease’s with Growing Garlic
Garlic usually suffers from the same problems as onions and leeks do, as they are so closely related.
Plants may produce cloves above ground in the stem itself, this is usually referred to as “top sets”. These top sets can just be used in the normal way. This only usually happens when it has been exposed to adverse or fluctuating weather conditions.
When you have harvested garlic and the bulbs have started splitting then you have left the harvesting to late and next season you should aim to harvest earlier.
Cloves going green? This is caused by one of two things, either the garlic was planted to shallow or the garlic was harvested too late, the garlic can still be used, it just won’t store well.
Even though garlic is very easy to grow it is also prone to several diseases they include:
Basal Rot – Will cause yellowing and eventual dieback of leaves. Sometimes you may be able to see fungal growth at the bulb base, this will lead to pre and post harvesting rotting.
White Rot – Almost identical to Basal Rot, if infected with this, then it is highly advisable not to plant garlic, onions or leek in the same location.
Downy Mildew – A whitish furry growth will be visible on the leaves alongside the yellowing of the leaves with a yellow discoloration.
Botrytis Rot – Water soaked stems and grey fuzzy fungal growth.
Penicillium Decay – Seed clove decay often results in stunted, wilted, and yellowing plants, can also cause reduced growth. May appear appearing as a bluish-green mass on diseased cloves. [source]
Nutritional Values Of Garlic
Health Benefits of Garlic
So what are the health benefits of eating garlic?
Well to begin with you should know that it has been around for thousands of years. However it was its medicinal properties that it was well known for and used for and not for the flavour it adds to culinary dishes.
Its medical uses and properties have been documented by various civilisations over time including “Greeks”, “Romans”, “Egyptions”, “Chinese”, it was even used in WW1 and WW2 to treat wounds and infections.
Studies have shown that it can be used to help reduce fatigue.
Garlic oil has been tested and proven to have beneficial effects on people with heart disease.
Garlic has been shown to help improve your immune system and helps against cold’s and flu, If you are unfortunate to catch a cold it help to reduce the systems and help you to get better quicker.
It can help to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by helping to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension).
It contains antioxidants that may help to prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia, it helps against oxidative damage from one’s natural ageing process.
Garlic has a organosulfur compound called Allicin, which is believed to bring most of the health benefits however if you cook garlic then you lose the allicin, so if you want to maintain the health benefits of then you need to be using if raw.
I hope that this post has helped you in some way, if you think that I should either add or change any information above please let me know and we will change it.