Sharing my harvest with friends and family is one of the many joys I get out of growing my own food. Garlic plaits would have to be one of my favourite things to gift my friends and family out of our garden. The best thing is, if you plant your garlic now they’ll be ready for Christmas.
Garlic is best grown by dividing an existing bulb and planting out the cloves. If you are growing garlic for the first time make sure you purchase your bulbs from a nursery or an organic source as the imported garlic you buy from the supermarket is usually fumigated to stop it sprouting. Garlic is divided into two main types, hard neck and soft neck. The main difference between these two is that hard necks produce a flower stem (called a scape) which can also be eaten, they have fewer but larger cloves which are easy to peel, have a well developed flavour but don’t store as long (usually 4-7 months). Soft necks usually don’t form a flower stem, they have more cloves but are smaller and more difficult to peel, however they store longer (usually between 8-12 months). At home I grow a hard neck variety called ‘Flinders Island Purple’, which is my favourite garlic, similar varieties include ‘Italian Purple’ and ‘Tasmanian Purple’. At work I also grow the soft neck garlic varieties ‘Australian White’ and ‘Italian White’ for their longer storage life.
In Melbourne, April to early May is the best time to plant your garlic cloves. Garlic needs a free draining soil with plenty of organic matter and a pH of between 6 and 7. If you don’t know what soil pH is and how to test it, click here: Testing the pH of your soil
Divide your garlic bulb in to cloves and select the largest ones to plant out. Plant garlic cloves flat side down, a few cm below the soil surface and space them about 15cm apart with 20cm between rows.
When you’ve planted your garlic give your garden bed a light watering then don’t water any more until your cloves have sprouted and you can see the first bits of green sticking up above the soil. Only water your garlic over winter if the soil feels dry. Now comes the waiting time…it will take about 7-8 months for your garlic to be ready for harvesting. In the mean time keep your garlic bed weed free as garlic doesn’t like competition. Good luck with your garlic growing and let me know how you go.
I’ll follow up this blog closer to garlic harvest time (late November) with advice on how to harvest garlic and also show you how to make your own garlic plaits.