Plant: Early November
Conditions: Well-drained, rich soil
Garlic for planting is bought in bulbs, just as you’d buy for cooking. There are two categories – softneck and hardneck, and many varieties in each category. Softneck garlic grows a long, grass-like stem (ideal for plaiting garlic together), seems to store better than hardneck garlic and has a stronger flavour. The hardneck varieties grow fewer, larger cloves around a woody stem and have a milder flavour.
Garlic needs good, rich soil so prepare the ground with compost before planting. If you can, create ridges to plant along; garlic hates to sit in water and this will assist with drainage.
When you’re ready to plant, carefully remove the paper from around the bulb but leave it on the individual cloves. Separate the cloves and keep the larger, outer ones for planting. Plant the cloves 1 inch deep, round end down, at least 4 inches apart. Plant each row about 12 inches apart.
Keep the bed weeded and water in dry weather. In February, you can apply some potash and later in the spring, you can give them a liquid feed if you think they need it. Stop watering the garlic when the leaves start to fade and in August, when the leaves have turned yellow, the garlic should be ready for harvesting. However, it is generally agreed to dig one or two bulbs first (don’t pull if you can help it) to gauge the size before harvesting the whole crop. A good tip is to check how many paper layers the bulb has; three layers mean the bulb is ready but four or more mean it needs a bit longer.
The main thing that stops people from growing garlic in containers is that it has a long growing season yet doesn’t look very attractive and when you’re limited for space, it’s nice to be able to enjoy the aesthetic value of your containers. However, you could grow a single garlic bulb in a pot (approx. 4 inches) if you liked, and place multiple small pots in and around your other, prettier plants.
Use ordinary potting compost and plant in November. You can actually plant as late as April if you wanted, but your bulbs will be considerably smaller come harvest time. Water well, then put the pot somewhere sunny where it will be sheltered from direct winds.
It’s a good idea to feed your pots every fortnight in the run up to harvest, beginning about June, but other than that, treat as you would garlic in the ground.
Store garlic in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Allowing some air circulation extends the shelf life, which is why it is traditionally stored braided together – perfect for hanging up somewhere dark and airy. Softneck varieties should keep for at least 6 months with hardneck lasting about half that time. However, in perfect conditions, you can extend the life of both varieties by several months.
GOOD: Apple, Beetroot, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Tomatoes
BAD: Asparagus, Beans