By: Penny Woodward | March 28, 2016
Garlic is an essential pantry staple and growing your own is truly rewarding. Here are some tips for planting to ensure a succesful harvest.
First you need to prepare a garden bed where your soil is well-drained, you get full sun, and the soil pH is between 6 and 7. Garlic loves to have organic matter in the soil so dig in green manure, compost and well rotted manure a few weeks before planting. Sprinkle over some rock dust and some complete certified organic fertiliser a week before planting. Look for a pelletised certified organic fertiliser with the complete profile of nutrients, both major and minor, and with added humic acid as well. This will help with early root growth.
When to plant
When you plant can depend on the cultivar you are growing. All garlics can be planted from late March, and right though April and into May. But if you are growing different cultivars from different Groups then you can stagger the planting from the beginning of April to the end of May and even into June.
I would suggest growing several cultivars with different planting times, different flavours and different storage times. There are over 120 cultivars in Australia from 11 different Groups. Some of the most of commonly available from 3 different Groups are described below.
How to plant
Separate the bulbs into individual cloves and plant the cloves 2-5cm below the surface 15-20cm apart. Label the different cultivars. Water well with dilute seaweed solution. Mulch with a light, open mulch to a depth of up to 5-10cm. Keep weed-free and well watered if it doesn’t rain. From spring onwards apply blood and bone over the surface once. Then every fortnight water with dilute seaweed extract and dilute fish emulsion. About 10 weeks before harvest apply potash to encourage bulbing.
To find out how to harvest and cure garlic go to my article written at harvest time last year.
Turban Group garlics
Early garlics in the Turban Group (eg Monaro Purple, Glamour, Tasmanian Purple, Flinders Island Purple and Ontos Purple) are planted in early April. Once harvested they will store for 4-5 months. Turban garlics when raw have simple, crisp savoury flavours, initially mild to hot but the heat fades quickly. The best are very strong with a rich sometimes fruity garlic flavour. They sauté well when crisply tanned giving a lovely nutty flavour. When roasted they are sweet, nutty and caramelised.
Artichoke Group garlics
These garlics are mid-season and are generally planted in the mid April. Examples of Artichoke Group garlics are Italian Late, Australian White, Italian White, Germidour and Tochliavri. These garlics generally store for 6-8 months. These garlics are the workhorse of Australian garlics with simple, direct flavours, mild to hot. The best are complex with longer lasting flavours. Mild garlic flavour when crisply fried, and when roasted they have a mild sweet earthy flavour.Just to be confusing this Group also contains the day-length neutral cultivars that grow well in Queensland, Northern NSW and northern WA, and these are usually planted earlier, in late March. Some cultivars in this sub-group are Southern Glen, Glenlarge and Italian Pink.
Creole Group garlics
These garlics are also mid-season so can be planted mid to late april. Examples of Creole Group garlics are Dynamite Purple, Rojo de Castro, Spanish Roja and Festival. Properly cured these garlics will store for 12 months or longer. The flavour of these garlics when raw ranges from a mild flavour with excessive heat, to strong rich flavour with only mild heat. They have a rich, complex true, sweet garlic flavour that lasts for a long time. Soft or crisply sautéed the flavour is strong and nutty, roasted the flavour is mellow, caramel but with little heat.
Other garlic groups such as Silverskin, Rocambole, Standard Purple Stripe and Marbled Purple Stripe have different planting, storage and flavour profiles.
For more information on Groups and Cultivars go to this Garlic website