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Garlic in your garden

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Homegrown garlic tastes dramatically better than any you can buy in your local supermarket, so why not grow it yourself! 

Many people think that garlic, is just garlic. In fact, there are more than 300 different cultivars grown in Australia, which are sorted into different Groups that share a range of characteristics such as size, skin colour, flavours, storage times and more. And when it comes to growing this kitchen staple there’s a few tips that will help ensure success. 

Choosing garlic

To grow garlic you plant garlic cloves. When starting your garlic adventure, it’s best to try different cultivars from different Groups for a few years, and stick with those that do best in your soil and climate. Buy only healthy bulbs from a reliable source. If possible, source locally grown garlic from farmer’s markets or online; it will already be adapted to your local climate. 

Bulbs that have been grown in a climate or soil very different to yours may take several years to adapt and do well. Don’t grow from supermarket or greengrocer bulbs as they are often treated with sprout inhibitors, such as maleic hydrazide, to stop them sprouting during storage. Also, don’t plant imported bulbs as they’re all sprayed with the toxic biocide, methyl bromide, and may carry viruses not found in Australia. The mantra to remember is ‘plant the best cloves from the best bulbs and eat the rest’.

When and how to plant

Plant cloves from late March to June, but exact timing depends on where you are and what cultivars you’re growing. For example, in Queensland’s garlic region, optimum planting times are late March to early May. In mild, temperate regions, where the winter is not too cold and the summer not too hot, the best time to plant is April and May. In warmer regions, refrigerate garlic at close to 10°C for 2 or 3 weeks before planting. This encourages sprouting and helps with bulb and clove formation. This isn’t necessary in colder regions. 

Separate bulbs into cloves just before planting. This is known as ‘cracking’. Some growers soak cloves in seaweed solution (1 teaspoon seaweed extract in 1L water) overnight before planting to encourage quick root growth. If there’s any suspicion of fungal problems, add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to kill spores.

Plant cloves pointy end up, 15cm apart, in rows 15 to 30cm apart with the top about 2cm below the soil’s surface. Firm soil down and water immediately. Garlic takes between 6 and 8 months to reach maturity, the warmer the region, the shorter the time needed.

Penny’s article was first printed in our Autumn 2021 issue (OG 124). Head here to purchase back issues of the magazine plus subscribe to get OG delilvered to your door! 


Penny has also written a number of articles that are available on our website:

Tips for preserving garlic

Judging garlic

Harvesting garlic