Garlic – varieties to plant in AutumnPosted By: rocket veg Category: Plant Care, Seasonal Tips
‘Plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest on the longest’…so the gardeners’ saying goes. Although late autumn is reckoned to be the best time to plant garlic so that the plants have a long time to develop, don’t leave it too late or the ground will be too wet and cold and the one thing that garlic bulbs won’t tolerate is waterlogged soil. Most varieties of garlic can also be sown in spring but may not develop bulbs which are large as these sown the previous autumn.
If you’ve never tried growing garlic, why not give it a go as it’s pretty straightforward as long as you follow a few basic rules:
Choose a sunny spot where the soil drains freely.
Don’t plant garlic in soil where any members of the allium family were grown the previous season.
Before planting, dig in plenty of rich, organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost.
As the plants develop, be sure to keep them free of weeds as these will gobble up vital nutrients from the surrounding soil, as well as stifling growth.
How to plant garlic
Take a garlic bulb and carefully separate it into the individual cloves. Garlic is spaced the same as onion sets: 10cm (4”) between the cloves, in rows which are 30cm (12in) apart. Once you’ve marked out the rows with a string line, cane or other ‘straight edge’, create a shallow hole in the soil (I use a blunt ended dibber) and sit a clove of garlic in with its pointed end upwards, then settle the soil around the clove so that the tip is about 2.5cm (1in) below the surface. Don’t be tempted to simply push the cloves into the soil, even if it soft and crumbly, as this is likely to damage the fragile root system on the base of the clove. Take note: some birds seem intent on pulling up garlic cloves when they are first planted, so protect your crop with fleece or mesh.
Varieties of garlic
Tempting though it is to plant garlic which you’ve bought from your local greengrocer or a supermarket, it won’t have been heat treated against disease and may not do well in our climate. There are two main types of garlic, referred to as ‘hardneck’ and ‘softneck’. As well as producing bulbs which are best used fresh, hardneck varieties also grow a stem which is edible and can be chopped up and added to salads and stir fries.
Hardneck varieties to try: ‘Carcassonne’ – pink cloves and strong flavour; 'Elephant Garlic' – noted for its mild flavour, and as the name indicates, produces large bulbs which are ideal for roasting.
Although softneck varieties don’t produce a stem, their bulbs can be stored for longer than hardneck varieties. Try these softneck varieties: ‘Early Purple Wight’, 'Solent Wight' or 'Picardy Wight’
Caring for your garlic crop
Given a bit of late autumn sun, you’ll be surprised how quickly shoots will appear. If all goes well, the bulbs will continue to swell over the winter before putting on a growth spurt when spring arrives. Then is the time to keep weeds in check with regular hoeing (tip: use a short handled ‘onion hoe’ which will enable you to weed close to the plants without damaging the bulb). Give garlic plants a good soaking during long dry spells to ensure that the bulbs continue to swell and give you a good crop when you harvest in June or July.