How to Grow Garlic in Australia

Selecting Garlic Varieties

When it comes to selecting the perfect garlic varieties for your home garden, there are a few factors to consider. Garlic is a versatile and flavorful herb that comes in various shapes, sizes, and flavours. From the pungent and spicy to the milder and sweeter, there is a garlic variety to suit every taste bud. In this section, we will explore the differences between softneck and hardneck garlic, as well as highlight some popular garlic varieties for home gardeners.

Softneck vs. Hardneck Garlic

The first decision you'll need to make is whether to grow softneck or hardneck garlic. Softneck garlic, as the name suggests, has a soft stem or neck that allows it to be easily braided. It is the most common type of garlic found in grocery stores and is known for its strong flavour and long shelf life. Softneck garlic thrives in milder climates and is a popular choice for gardeners in warmer regions.

On the other hand, hardneck garlic is characterised by its woody stem, or neck, and the presence of a central stalk called a scape. Hardneck varieties produce fewer cloves but are known for their complex and robust flavours. They are typically favoured by garlic connoisseurs for their unique taste profiles. Hardneck garlic performs well in colder climates and is a great choice for gardeners in northern regions.

Popular Garlic Varieties for Home Gardens

Now that you understand the difference between softneck and hardneck garlic, let's explore some popular garlic varieties that are well-suited for home gardens.

  1. Rocambole: This hardneck variety is loved for its rich and full-bodied flavour. Rocambole garlic has a deep, purple skin and typically produces 6 to 10 cloves per bulb. It is a favourite among chefs and garlic enthusiasts for its complex and spicy taste.
  2. California Early: As the name suggests, this softneck variety is known for its early harvest. California Early garlic has a mild and slightly sweet flavour, making it a versatile choice for a wide range of culinary applications. It produces large bulbs with numerous cloves.
  3. Purple Glazer: If you're looking to add a pop of colour to your garden, Purple Glazer garlic is an excellent choice. This hardneck variety features beautiful purple-striped bulbs and has a rich and robust flavour. It typically produces 8 to 12 cloves per bulb and is a striking addition to any garlic lover's garden.
  4. Inchelium Red: This softneck garlic variety hails from the Pacific Northwest and is known for its mild and sweet taste. Inchelium Red garlic bulbs are large and can contain up to 20 cloves. It is a popular choice for braiding due to its soft stems and long storage life.
  5. Music: Music garlic is a hardneck variety that offers a bold and spicy flavour. It is named after its robust and melodic taste profile and is a favourite among garlic aficionados. Music garlic bulbs are large and typically produce 4 to 5 cloves.

These are just a few examples of the diverse garlic varieties available for home gardeners. Each variety has its own unique characteristics and flavours, allowing you to experiment and find the perfect garlic to suit your culinary preferences. Whether you choose a softneck or hardneck variety, growing garlic in your own garden is a rewarding experience that will elevate your dishes to new heights of flavour.

Now that you have a better understanding of the different garlic varieties, it's time to move on to the next step in our garlic-growing journey: preparing the soil. But before we dig into that topic, let's take a moment to appreciate the importance of selecting the right location for your garlic patch.

Preparing the Soil

Choosing the right location

When it comes to growing garlic, choosing the right location is crucial for its success. Garlic thrives in areas with full sun exposure, ideally getting at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. So, it's essential to find a spot in your garden that receives ample sunlight.

In addition to sunlight, garlic also prefers well-draining soil. Loamy or sandy soil with good drainage is ideal for this crop. Avoid heavy clay soils that retain water, as they can lead to root rot and other issues. If you have heavy clay soil, consider amending it with organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to improve its drainage capabilities.

Soil preparation and amendments

Before planting garlic, it's crucial to prepare the soil properly. Start by removing any weeds or grass from the area where you plan to grow your garlic. Weeds can compete with garlic for nutrients and water, inhibiting its growth.

Next, loosen the soil to a depth of about 8 to 10 inches using a garden fork or tiller. This process helps improve aeration and allows the garlic roots to penetrate the soil easily. Once the soil is loosened, remove any rocks, roots, or other debris that may hinder garlic growth.

To ensure your garlic plants receive optimal nutrition, consider adding organic matter to the soil. Organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, enriches the soil with essential nutrients and improves its overall structure. Spread a layer of organic matter on top of the soil and incorporate it by gently digging or tilling it in. This step will help create a nutrient-rich environment for your garlic plants to thrive.

In addition to organic matter, you may also need to amend the soil with fertilisers to provide the necessary nutrients for garlic growth. Conduct a soil test to determine the nutrient levels and pH of your soil. Based on the results, you can add fertilisers that are specifically formulated for garlic or adjust the pH level if needed. Balanced fertilisers with a ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are commonly used for garlic cultivation.

Remember, proper soil preparation sets the foundation for healthy garlic plants and a successful harvest. Take the time to choose the right location, remove weeds, loosen the soil, and amend it with organic matter and fertilisers. By giving your garlic plants the ideal growing conditions, you'll be well on your way to a bountiful harvest of flavorful garlic bulbs.

Now that you have prepared the soil, it's time to move on to the next step: Planting Garlic.

Planting Garlic

Once you have selected the perfect garlic bulbs for your home garden, it's time to delve into the exciting world of planting garlic. This step is crucial in ensuring a successful harvest of flavorful, aromatic garlic bulbs that will elevate your culinary creations to new heights. In this section, we will explore the key aspects of planting garlic, including buying quality garlic bulbs, planting time and spacing, and proper planting techniques.

Buying Quality Garlic Bulbs

When it comes to planting garlic, choosing high-quality bulbs is paramount. Look for bulbs that are firm, plump, and free from any signs of disease or damage. Inspect the cloves carefully, as they should be large and well-formed. Smaller cloves may produce smaller bulbs, so opt for the ones that show promise in size.

It's also worth considering the variety of garlic you wish to grow. Different varieties offer distinct flavours and characteristics, so explore a variety of options to find the perfect fit for your culinary preferences. Whether you prefer the robust and pungent flavour of hardneck garlic or the milder, longer-lasting softneck variety, there is a garlic variety out there to suit every palate.

Planting Time and Spacing

Garlic is a cool-season crop that thrives when planted in the fall, allowing it ample time to establish roots before winter sets in. The exact planting time may vary depending on your location, but generally, aim to plant garlic about four to six weeks before the ground freezes. This timing ensures that the garlic cloves have enough time to develop a strong root system before winter dormancy.

When it comes to spacing, garlic appreciates some breathing room. Plant each clove about 4 to 6 inches apart and space the rows approximately 12 to 18 inches apart. This generous spacing allows each garlic plant to receive enough nutrients, sunlight, and airflow, promoting healthy growth and minimising the risk of disease.

Proper Planting Techniques

To ensure the best possible start for your garlic plants, follow these proper planting techniques:

  1. Prepare the soil: Before planting, ensure that your soil is well-draining and rich in organic matter. Incorporate compost or well-rotted manure into the soil to provide essential nutrients for the garlic plants.
  2. Break apart the garlic bulbs: Gently separate the individual cloves from the garlic bulb, being careful not to damage them. Each clove will grow into a new garlic plant.
  3. Plant the cloves: Dig a small hole or furrow, approximately 2 inches deep. Place each clove with the pointed end facing up and the flat end down. Cover the cloves with soil, gently firming it around them.
  4. Mulch the planting area: To protect the garlic cloves from extreme temperature fluctuations and suppress weed growth, apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves, around the planted area.

By following these proper planting techniques, you set the stage for a successful garlic harvest. With a little patience and care, you will soon be rewarded with vibrant green garlic shoots emerging from the soil, signalling the beginning of a bountiful journey towards flavorful, homegrown garlic.

In the next section, we will delve into the essential aspects of caring for growing garlic, including watering and irrigation, mulching and weed control, and fertilising garlic plants. So stay tuned for more expert tips and tricks to help you master the art of growing garlic in your own backyard.

Caring for Growing Garlic

Once you have planted your garlic bulbs and they have started to sprout, it's time to provide them with the care they need to thrive. In this section, we will explore the essential tasks of watering and irrigation, mulching and weed control, and fertilising garlic plants.

Watering and Irrigation

Garlic plants require consistent moisture to develop healthy bulbs. Watering is especially crucial during the bulb formation stage, which typically occurs during the spring and early summer. However, it is important to strike a balance and avoid overwatering, as garlic bulbs can rot in excessively wet soil.

To determine the optimal watering schedule, monitor the moisture level of the soil. Garlic prefers evenly moist soil, so aim to keep the soil consistently damp but not waterlogged. A general guideline is to provide about 1 inch of water per week, either through rainfall or irrigation.

Mulching and Weed Control

Mulching is an effective technique to suppress weeds and conserve moisture in the soil. Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or dried leaves, around the base of the garlic plants. This will help prevent weed growth and maintain soil moisture levels.

Additionally, mulch acts as a natural insulator, protecting the garlic bulbs from extreme temperature fluctuations. It keeps the soil cooler during hot summer months and provides insulation during the winter.

Regularly inspect the mulch layer and remove any weeds that manage to sprout through. Weeds compete with garlic plants for nutrients and water, so it's important to keep them under control.

Fertilising Garlic Plants

To ensure robust growth and healthy bulb development, garlic plants benefit from proper fertilisation. Before planting, incorporate compost or well-rotted manure into the soil to provide a nutrient-rich foundation.

During the growing season, you can further support your garlic plants with a balanced fertiliser. Look for a fertiliser with equal amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Apply the fertiliser according to the manufacturer's instructions, typically in early spring and again after the bulbs have formed.

Avoid excessive fertiliser application, as this can lead to lush foliage growth at the expense of bulb development. Strike a balance and provide the necessary nutrients without overfeeding the plants.

By following these practices of watering and irrigation, mulching and weed control, and fertilising garlic plants, you will be well on your way to growing healthy and flavorful garlic bulbs in your home garden.

Companion Plants for Garlic

  • Tomatoes: Garlic can deter pests that commonly affect tomatoes, like aphids and spider mites, while tomatoes can benefit from the insect-repelling properties of garlic.
  • Carrots: Carrots and garlic are compatible companions, and planting them together can help deter carrot fly and other pests that affect carrots.
  • Beets: Garlic can improve the health and flavour of beets, while beets can act as a natural weed suppressor, benefiting the garlic plants.
  • Cabbage family (Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower): Garlic's pungent aroma helps repel cabbage moths, which are notorious for damaging cabbage family plants.
  • Lettuce: Garlic can help deter slugs and snails, which are common pests that feed on lettuce leaves.
  • Peppers: Garlic can help protect pepper plants from aphids and other harmful insects, promoting better growth.
  • Peas: Garlic can benefit peas by deterring pests like aphids and protecting them from diseases.
  • Spinach: Planting garlic near spinach can help repel leafminers, which are known to be problematic for spinach crops.

Harvesting and Storing Garlic

Signs of Garlic Readiness for Harvest

After months of nurturing your garlic plants, the time has finally come to reap the rewards of your hard work. But how do you know when your garlic is ready to be harvested? Well, there are a few telltale signs to look out for.

First and foremost, observe the leaves of your garlic plants. As the garlic bulbs mature, the leaves will start to turn yellow and begin to die back. This is a clear indication that your garlic is nearing harvest time. However, it's important to note that not all yellowing leaves mean the garlic is ready. You should wait until at least half of the leaves have turned yellow before proceeding with the harvest.

Another way to determine garlic readiness is by examining the bulbs themselves. Gently dig around the base of the plant to expose the bulb. Take a close look at the cloves inside. If they are plump, well-formed, and have developed a protective papery skin, then you can be confident that your garlic is ready to be harvested.

Harvesting Techniques

Now that you've identified the signs of garlic readiness, it's time to get your hands dirty and harvest those beautiful bulbs. Here are a few harvesting techniques to ensure a successful harvest:

Timing is crucial when it comes to harvesting garlic. You want to strike a balance between allowing the bulbs to fully mature and preventing them from splitting or rotting in the ground. The best time to harvest garlic is when the majority of the leaves have turned yellow, but before they have completely withered. This typically happens in late spring or early summer, depending on when you planted your garlic.

To extract the garlic bulbs from the ground, use a garden fork or a small shovel to gently loosen the soil around each plant. Be careful not to damage the bulbs in the process. Once the bulbs are free from the soil, shake off any excess dirt and trim the roots to about an inch in length. Leave the stems intact for now, as they will play a crucial role in the next step.

Curing and Storing Garlic Bulbs

Curing is an essential step in the garlic harvesting process that allows the bulbs to fully develop their flavours and textures while extending their shelf life. Here's how to do it:

Gather your harvested garlic, making sure to handle the bulbs with care to prevent bruising or damage. Do not wash the bulbs at this stage, as moisture can promote rotting during the curing process. Instead, lay the garlic plants in a single layer in a well-ventilated area, such as a covered porch or a well-ventilated shed. Make sure to keep them out of direct sunlight.

Allow the garlic bulbs to cure for two to three weeks. During this time, the stems will continue to dry out, and the outer layers of the bulbs will become papery. This curing process not only enhances the flavour and aroma of the garlic but also extends its shelf life.

After the curing period, it's time to prepare your garlic for long-term storage. Trim the stems to about an inch above the bulb. This will help prevent moisture from accumulating and reduce the risk of mould or rot. Brush off any remaining dirt from the bulbs and inspect them for any signs of damage or disease. Discard any bulbs that appear soft, mouldy, or discoloured.

Now that your garlic bulbs are clean and trimmed, you can choose from a variety of storage methods. Some gardeners prefer to braid the garlic stems and hang them in a cool, dry place. Others place the bulbs in mesh bags or ventilated containers. The key is to store them in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

By following these harvesting and storing techniques, you can enjoy the fruits of your labour for months to come. Whether you use your homegrown garlic in soups, sauces, or roasted dishes, the intense flavour and aroma will surely elevate your culinary creations. So go ahead, savour the satisfaction of a successful garlic harvest and indulge in the savoury delights that await you in your kitchen.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Gardening can be a delightfully rewarding activity, but it is not without its challenges. As a home gardener, you may encounter a few common issues when growing garlic. However, with the right knowledge and tools, you can overcome these obstacles and ensure a successful harvest. In this section, we will explore the common problems that may arise while growing garlic and provide practical solutions to tackle them.

Pest and Disease Management

Just like any other plant, garlic is susceptible to pest infestations and diseases. It's essential to keep a close eye on your garlic plants and take proactive measures to prevent or control these issues.

Pests such as aphids, onion maggots, and nematodes can wreak havoc on your garlic crop. These tiny intruders feed on the leaves, stems, and bulbs of your plants, causing damage and stunting growth. To combat pests, consider implementing natural pest control methods such as introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs or using organic insecticides. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of infestation, such as chewed leaves or discoloured bulbs, and take immediate action to address the problem.

Diseases like white rot, downy mildew, and fusarium can also pose a threat to your garlic crop. These diseases can spread quickly, causing wilting, yellowing leaves, and rotting bulbs. To prevent disease, practise good crop rotation, ensuring that garlic is not planted in the same area for consecutive years. Additionally, provide adequate airflow and spacing between plants to reduce moisture and humidity, which can contribute to disease development. If you notice any signs of disease, promptly remove and destroy affected plants to prevent further spread.

Dealing with Garlic Bolting

Garlic bolting refers to the premature flowering of garlic plants. While garlic flowers can be visually appealing, they are not desirable for those seeking a bountiful harvest of garlic bulbs. Bolting typically occurs when the garlic plant is exposed to extended periods of cold temperatures or when environmental conditions are not optimal.

To prevent garlic bolting, choose suitable garlic varieties that are known for their bolt-resistant characteristics. Hardneck garlic varieties are generally more prone to bolting compared to softneck varieties. Additionally, ensure that you plant your garlic cloves at the appropriate time of year and provide them with optimal growing conditions. Adequate sunlight, well-drained soil, and consistent moisture can help minimise the risk of bolting.

If you notice that your garlic plants have started to bolt, don't panic. While you may not be able to prevent the flowering process, you can still harvest the garlic bulbs. Simply harvest the bulbs as soon as they reach maturity, before the flower stalk fully develops. These bulbs may be smaller in size but can still be used in cooking and will impart the distinct garlic flavour you love.

Preventing Garlic Rot

Garlic rot is a common problem that can affect the quality and longevity of your garlic bulbs. This condition is typically caused by fungal pathogens, which thrive in damp and poorly ventilated environments. Rotting garlic bulbs can become soft, discoloured, and emit a foul odour, rendering them unusable.

To prevent garlic rot, it's crucial to provide optimal growing conditions for your garlic plants. Choose a well-drained location and avoid overwatering, as excess moisture can create the perfect breeding ground for fungal pathogens. Proper spacing between plants promotes airflow and reduces humidity, minimising the risk of rot. Additionally, remove any infected or damaged bulbs immediately to prevent the spread of the disease.

If you encounter garlic rot in your garden, take immediate action to prevent further damage. Consider using organic fungicides or treatments recommended for garlic rot, following the instructions carefully. It's also advisable to adjust your watering practices to ensure that the soil is consistently moist but not overly saturated.

By being vigilant and proactive in managing pests, preventing bolting, and addressing garlic rot, you can maximise your chances of a successful garlic harvest. With these troubleshooting tips in your arsenal, you'll be well-equipped to overcome any challenges that come your way and enjoy the satisfaction of growing your own flavourful garlic.

Previous article How To Grow Lettuce in Australia