Planting Garlic

We are making changes still to the old vegetable plot, once lovingly called 'the field'. The soil once thin and full of stones has become dark and unctuous with compost mulches, manure dreams and a pile after pile of leaf mold. We have put in raised beds and today two of them will receive this soil from the new paths. We have to dig out the paths to help with drainage but also we do not want to waste all the work we did on this soil over the years. The soil is taken out and put into the beds and the bricks we will use to keep the gravel in place are set out ready to be bedded down later in the year.

Planting garlic

We knock the old soil down, notice how many worms move through our hands as we crumble the sods into find tilth. It doesn't take long to fill the beds and decide on which winter crop will go in these first two beds. We will give these new raised beds a run for their money and see if they can give us a crop of garlic

How to plant garlic in raised beds

How to plant garlic in raised beds

As we clear the soil from the paths we come across a crop of forgotten potatoes, we leave them on top of the small chicken coop to dry out. You can still eat these unless they have turned green or show signs of mould.

Can you eat forgotten potatoes left in the soil?

We have chosen Taylors Garlic Marco (£2.99 for three bulbs or 4 for £10 from Gordon Riggs*), we only want to plant out three bulbs worth of garlic, primarily as a trial to see whether raised beds give greater yields. We did consider winter onions again but we have never had a great success with them and they take up far more room. The day is sunny but cool and our tall hedges keep away the worst of the wind on our hillside as we sit down on small stools to plant out the garlic. This is another bonus for raised beds!

Taylors Marco Garlic trial

Taylors Marco Garlic trial - growing instructions

You can follow the instructions above, which is what we did, we first broke up the garlic bulb into cloves. Each one of these will produce a garlic bulb and if we get a cold winter they will create fat cloves. Garlic doesn't split into cloves if the winter is too warm and you end up with one large bulb which can be very annoying.

When garlic doesn't split and why

We use a board to plant against, this gives us correct widths between rows, we plant the bulbs 1" (2.5cm) down and 4" deep (10 cm). We can use our hands to do this in these new beds but the day is cool and we opt for a hand fork. Across the width of the bed we plant 4-5 cloves in a row and then start the next row on the left side of the board below.

The correct planting distance for garlic

The correct planting distance for garlic

Remember, like all seeds, garlic has a top and a bottom. You can see below we have arranged a clove to show this. At the top of the picture is the tip of the garlic, this will produce the stalk and leaves. We advise you watch these for any disease including rust (Puccinia allii), a brown mottling of leaves similar to the look of rust - basically brown and black pustules (think plague because this fungus spreads quickly). In the event of this happening, there's little you can do than remove the leaves and dispose of them in the bin, not the compost heap. Rust won't affect the taste of the garlic but may impact on the storing of it, giving them a shorter shelf life. Rust can occur if you plant too closely together but a mild attack won't bother the garlic or you, it just looks unsightly. If any flowers occur, snip them off and eat them.

Which way round do you plant garlic?

The base of garlic clove produces the roots. Now you know which way is up and down when planting. A question that we often get asked is, 'Can we just use the garlic we buy from the supermarket?' Much of the garlic that comes from supermarkets has been treated to stop it from sprouting - you could plant organic grown garlic but do not rush to plant any garlic that isn't - also, you have to remember if you buy garlic seed grown in your area, that seed has adapted to your climate. Plant something that was grown in China, Spain or France you may struggle to get a crop in a cooler climate. You are also at risk of spreading disease by embracing the supermarket growing ideology as you often introduce crops that have been tested for eating but not growing in our soils. This means you could unwittingly introduce pests and diseases into your soil.

Plant garlic this weekend

Cover over the garlic with soil and as they start to sprout you may have problems with birds pulling them up. If this is the case you can pop them back in and protect the crop with a chicken wire tunnel or a cloche/netting until the garlic is established. Don't forget that even over winter these will need feeding and watering, we will be using blood, fish and bone as a top dressing every four weeks, from April onwards we will switch to a manure tea to encourage bulb growth. Don't forget to label your planting before you go inside or you will forget where they are!

Always label your crops

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*We did not received these bulbs for promotional use. These bulbs were brought by us and are not in anyway endorsed by LOPR.


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