Autumn Edibles

Time to grow your own garlic

Rating: 1.0
Apr-Wk-2-Garlic 2

Man’s relationship with garlic pre-dates recorded history. Famously, the slaves who build the Egyptian pyramids were fed garlic to aid their endeavours, and garlic was found preserved in king Tutankhamen’s tomb. Ancient Greeks and Romans recorded medicinal uses of garlic. Garlic bulbs were said to be widely used in China before 2000BC.

In parts of Western Europe, garlic was once regarded as only fit for the working classes. Supposedly the aristocrats, whose social position meant they were free of heavy labour, thought they had less need of garlic’s strengthening properties. But many still made use of garlic as a therapy. It is said to be antibacterial, antifungal, insecticidal and, as far back as 4000 years ago, Chinese records listed it as a cure for dysentery.
As well as these therapeutic uses, garlic tastes wonderful. And there’s no garlic that tastes as good as that which you grow yourself.

Garlic grows from cloves, the familiar bulb-like sections that we split up to eat. You can sometimes start it successfully from shop-bought bulbs, but these are often sterile or treated with undesirable chemicals. It’s far better to buy cloves from garden suppliers or organic food stores. In warm areas, chill the bulbs in the refrigerator for a few weeks before planting. Plant garlic from late autumn to mid winter.

Garlic does best in a sunny spot with good drainage. It won’t survive in heavy, wet soils so, in such areas, it’s best to build a raised bed (at least 20cm above the surrounding ground level), and fill with a sandy mix. Dig some well aged organic matter through the soil, but don’t overdo it as the soil will become too gluggy. Mix in some Dynamic Lifter pellets before planting. Plant the bulbs, pointy end up, into holes that are about 2.5 to 4cm deep.

While the plants are in their early growing stages, feed every couple of weeks with a liquid plant food such as Thrive Soluble All Purpose. This is high in nitrogen, which is important for establishing the plants. Reduce to monthly applications through the cool weather. In spring it can be helpful to apply some extra Sulphate of Potash, or switch to feeding with Thrive Flower & Fruit (which has good potassium levels).

Watch for thrips and aphids on the leaves. If these appear, treat with Yates Nature’s Way Insect & Mite Killer Natrasoap, an insecticidal soap that smothers the pests and leaves no harmful residues.

Garlic is a slow crop – at takes at least five months for the bulbs to grow – so it’s not for impatient gardeners. The bulbs can be harvested after the flowers start to die off and the leaves begin to yellow. Pull out the whole plant and hang it to dry. Some growers recommend that pulling off the flower heads when they first appear will encourage bulb development. These clumps of flower buds can be popped into the pan with a roast, where the heat will release their gentle flavour.

Use garlic to make a spray for pest insects such as aphids by infusing chopped bulbs in water or oil overnight before straining and spraying directly onto the pests.


This area is for general comments from members of the public. Some questions or comments may not receive a reply from Yates. For specific gardening advice visit Ask an expert Alternatively you may wish to contact us.