- Always buy 'seed' garlic to grow, rather than use bulbs from a supermarket, to minimise the risk of disease. Supermarket varieties are often bred for warmer climes than the UK.
- Aim to plant between November and Christmas, as soon as ground is available and not too wet. If you prefer, you can wait until late February.
- Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil, wherever possible.
- Break the bulb into individual cloves and push into the soil – use a trowel to avoid damaging them – so the tip is just covered.
- Space cloves 15cm apart in rows 30cm apart, so it will be easy to hoe off weeds.
Caption: Split the bulb into cloves for planting.
- Harvest any scapes (flower shoots) that appear and use as you would garlic cloves.
- ‘Green’ garlic appears at an even earlierstage, when the tops are green and look like spring onions, and the bulbs haven't started to swell. To get green garlic, plant some of the smaller cloves closer together than normal and pull them from March until May as needed. Try adding the chopped leaves to curries, salad dressings or stir-fries.
- You can lift and use fresh, or 'wet' garlic as soon as the bulbs are large enough.
- If the soil's very dry when the bulbs start to swell, water well.
- When the tops have dried off, lift and dry off the bulbs thoroughly before storing for winter.
- Garlic is susceptible to all the diseases of onions and leeks, particularly rust. Unless the leaves are very
badly affected the bulbs should be OK.
- Include garlic in a crop rotation with related crops to prevent diseases building up in the soil.
How to store garlic
Make sure the tops have dried off before harvesting the bulbs. Use a garden fork to lift each bulb, then leave it on the soil surface to dry completely. In a wet summer, lay them out on a greenhouse bench or a sunny porch to continue drying. Try not to damage the roots or the tops, or you'll let diseases enter. The traditional method is to plait the bulbs and hang them, but storing in single layers in trays works just as well. Keep them in a cool airy place until needed.
Types of garlic
Softneck varieties do not usually produce a flower shoot. They generally produce tighter bulbs, keep for longer and contain more cloves than hardneck types.
Hardneck varieties often produce a flower shoot, or 'scape', during early summer. The flower head is sterile and doesn't produce seed. Cut these scapes off to help the bulb swell. When harvested, the bulbs are generally looser and the cloves are arranged around the woody remains of the stalk. Hardneck varieties are said to have a stronger flavour.
Elephant garlic is not strictly a garlic but is more closely related to leeks. It produces huge bulbs, with a few, very large, mild-tasting cloves.