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Grow garlic in your backyard

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Why spend a fortune buying garlic when you can grow this nutritious flavour-enhancer in your own backyard or even a pot? Jian Liu has some ideas to help you succeed.

For something that can be so expensive to buy (particularly when organic), garlic is relatively simple to grow provided you pick the right variety for your climate and heed a few golden rules. 

Choosing your variety

Most of us go to the shops to purchase ‘garlic’ and give little thought to the variety that we’re buying. In fact, there are 100 or so different cultivars available in Australia with varying colour, size, intensity of flavour, tolerance for different climates, as well as harvest time and storage life. When deciding what variety of garlic to grow, there are two main types to choose from depending on your climate:

Hardneck: As its name suggests, hardneck garlic produces a scape (a stiff flower stem) in late spring. It tends to have fewer and larger cloves in each bulb compared to softneck, the cloves are easier to peel and it is ideally suited to cooler climates.

Softneck: Generally does not produce scapes, it simply produces leafy garlic greens. It typically has more cloves than hardneck garlic, and is a strong performer in both cool and warm climates. Easier to harvest and suitable for braiding.

While garlic generally prefers milder temperatures, you can still enjoy the flavour of homegrown garlic in tropical and humid areas. You may produce smaller bulbs with lots of leafy tops (also known as ‘garlic greens’), but these are not to be scoffed at – they have the same delicious garlic flavour.

Tips & tricks

Intercropping As garlic is slow to get going, a clever trick to maximise space is to interplant with other shallow-rooted plants, such as lettuce, but choose loose-leaf, non-heading lettuces that won’t take over and ensure you’ve harvested your lettuce about halfway through your garlic’s growing season to avoid competition.

Crop rotation Where possible, plant garlic in a different bed each season to avoid disease build-up. 

Small spaces Garlic does well in pots and grow bags. Ensure the soil is at least 30cm deep.

You can grow garlic in bags. (Jian Liu)

QUICK GUIDE
  • Choose the right variety for your climate.
  • Plant March to the end of May in cool climates.
  • Plant March to early April in warm climates.
  • Provide a sunny position with free-draining soil.
  • Pots and grow bags need to be at least 30cm deep.
  • Keep an eye out for aphids and treat promptly.
  • Avoid planting imported cloves that are fumigated.

You’ll find Jian’s full article with many more tips, including how to pick the best variety for your climate, in our Early Autumn 2024 issue (OG 147). You can get more organic growing and living ideas in the latest issue, which you can purchase here

OG 147 cover