- Growing your own garlic means you get to eat a fresh, organic product.
- Grow it in a sunny, well-drained spot in the garden or in a pot.
- Water your garlic plants regularly and fertilise through the growing season.
- Harvested garlic bulbs can be stored and used over many months.
Autumn means it is time to think about planting bulbs. Sure, think about planting daffodils, bluebells, tulips and all those spectacular spring flowers, but also think about productive bulbs. Top of the list is garlic (Allium sativum).
There are several reasons to plant garlic. First up, it is relatively easy to grow and highly rewarding. Also, growing your own garlic means you get to eat a fresh, organic product and one that hasn’t been imported. Sadly, the local garlic industry is relatively small and imports make up a large percentage of the garlic consumed in Australia.
While importing garlic is a problem for those concerned with food miles (that is, how far food has travelled and the amount of carbon used in the process), it is also a concern for those who want to consume fewer chemicals. Garlic is usually treated with growth retardants and other chemicals when it is brought into Australia.
Crops take many months to grow, so they are not for impatient gardeners. The bulbs are harvested as the foliage dies down in late spring or early summer. Bulbs can be stored and used over many months.
If you are impatient, plant some chives and shallots, which you can enjoy in as little as 12–16 weeks from planting, by harvesting the leaves of chives or the young stems of shallots. For the hit of garlic flavour, try flat-leaved garlic chives.
You may have little choice in the variety you plant, so just grow whatever you can find available. Purple-stripe is commonly available, as is Australian White.
For gardeners who are attracted to the odd and unusual, there’s elephant garlic, also called giant Russian garlic. It lives up to the ‘elephant’ or ‘giant’ side of its name, as it is big. It forms a large bulb up to 5cm across, which can fill the palm of your hand. It has a mild flavour and is a great choice for roasting.
Garlic and friends
You’ll find a good selection of garlic and its relatives at your nursery or by visiting online suppliers including:
As well as garlic, look for onions, shallots, green onions, chives, tree onions and elephant garlic.
To grow your own garlic, buy organic garlic from a nursery, greengrocer or mail-order supplier.
Break the head up into separate cloves and plant them so the pointy tip of the clove is about 1.5–2cm below the ground.
Pop garlic into any sunny, well-drained spot in the garden or in a pot. If you are a serious garlic eater, grow a crop by planting rows, spacing each clove about 15cm apart.
Keep plants free of weeds (they don’t like competition), water regularly and fertilise through their growing season using a complete fertiliser.
A layer of mulch around each plant keeps weeds down and moisture in your soil.
Can you grow garlic indoors?
In a word: yes. However… the garlic you grow indoors won’t be like the stuff you grow outside. Growing garlic indoors will provide you with garlic shoots, which can still be used in cooking, but it won’t give you cloves. To grow indoors, plant a few cloves in a pot of soil and sit in a sunny spot. Water lightly. They’ll start to sprout within a week or so.