Did you know
Australia imports 95% of its garlic from China. Chinese garlic is sprayed with chemicals banned in Australia. It is also gamma irradiated to prevent sprouting and is also sprayed with Maleic Hydrazide to extend shelf life. All imported garlic is fumigated with Methyl Bromide by AQIS on arrival in Australia. src: Australian Garlic.
The good news
Chemical-free garlic is easy to grow and great for your garden’s health. Interplanting garlic with other crops can help repel garden pests as a result of its strong aroma. Also, garlic produces sulfur which can help keep fungal disease away from other plants. And the best news, garlic is delicious and super healthy.
Important note: Only plant certified virus free garlic purchased from garden suppliers. If you must use garlic purchased for consumption, be sure to only use Australian grown garlic thus ensuring you are not introducing foreign diseases into your soil.
Varieties suitable for NSW conditions:
- Australian White: Californian type, large white bulb and cloves, selected in South Australia.
- California Early: Popular for temperate climates. White bulbs, flat base allows easy cleaning.
- California Late: Variety for southern areas, very good storage ability, large bulbs, many small cloves with dark pink skin.
- Cristo: White and large bulbs.
- Deerfield Purple: Recommended by an Australian garlic expert.
- Italian White: Older popular variety for temperate climates. Medium to large bulb with up to 17 cloves per bulb. It is a softneck garlic which does not produce a flower stem. Good storage ability.
- Italian Late: Recommended by an Australian garlic expert.
- Monaro Purple: Hardneck variety which usually produces a flower stem in early summer. It is mainly suitable for cooler areas. It has a sweet, nutty flavour with 6-8 cloves per bulb.
Further information on garlic varieties suitable for Australian conditions (Green Harvest).
WHERE: Garlic is not too fussy. But optimum conditions include a sunny, weed free position. Compost is helpful as is mulching the patch. Remember to rotate your garlic patch from year to year (as you would with any crop) to reduce chance of disease building up in the soil. Do not plant in beds that have grown plants from the Allium family i.e. onions, leeks etc as they are related and susceptible to the same diseases.
WHEN: The saying goes, plant on the shortest day of the year. Harvest on the longest.
In reality though, garlic can be planted any time from March to Mid April (I’m in Sydney and like to plant around the 3rd week of March). Getting the bulbs in the ground early April, helps to produce bigger bulbs. Note though, that timing may need to be adjusted depending on the type of garlic you planted.
Garlic needs about 7-9 months of growing time. Treat it like a winter veg that is harvested early spring to early summer.
HOW: Separate cloves from bulb leaving the papery casing on. Place in the ground tip up, 2cm below soil level.
Space them 10-20cm apart, in rows 20-40cm apart. Water. Within a week, new sprouts will appear. Let them overwinter. Once spring arrives they will really take off.
Tip: If you have grown garlic before, keep the best cloves from the strongest plants for next years crop. Do not separate until planting time.
I usually plant and forget as we get winter rains here in winter in Sydney and spring which provides enough moisture for the developing bulbs. If not, remember to water, never allowing the soil to dry out especially during bulb formation which commences late winter through spring to a week or two before harvest.
Mulch to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.
When 1/3 of the leaves have died down. Stop watering. This will reduce the likelihood of rot and make harvesting easier.
Garlic is ready to be harvested when 70 percent of the leaves have died down. This is usually an indicator that the bulb is plump and cloves well formed. If you want to be completely sure though, you can carefully pull away some of the soil surrounding the bulb and inspect it. If the bulb looks large, the wrappers tight, and the cloves well-formed, it’s ready to be pulled. Do not wait until all the leaves have died down though as the remaining leaves will form the protective barrier on the garlic that is needed to help it store well.
Although garlic can be eaten fresh. you will probably want to store most of it so you can eat in over the next year (and keep a few for planting next year).
After pulling from the ground. Do not wash or remove any of the leaves, roots or papery skins protecting the bulb. Let them dry in a cool dry place to dry any soil on the bulb. You may wish to bring the bulbs together in bunches and braid the stems to keep them tidy. They can then be hung up out of the way.
The bulb continues to draw energy from the leaves and roots until all that moisture evaporates. Keeping the leaves intact also helps to prevent fungi or other lurking garden contaminants from spoiling the garlic before it’s fully cured. After 3 – 4 weeks, the garlic leaves should be completely dried and roots stiff.
Cleaning: To clean up the garlic for storage, trim the leaves to 5-10mm and trim the roots off. More dirt will dislodge and a couple extra layers of bulb wrappers may flake off, giving you a nice and neatly packaged bulb. Remember not to remove too many wrappers in case you expose the cloves.
Store in breathable containers such as paper bags or cardboard boxes and store in a cool dark spot ready to eat when your are.
Temperature: The optimum storage temperature for bulbs to be replanted is 10C with desired limits of 5C and 18C. Storage at 4C for several months causes rapid sprouting and vigorous early growth. However, bulbs stored at low temperatures may sprout side shoots, mature early and produce rough bulbs.
Curing and storing garlic.
Visit Garden Betty for detailed guides and great visuals.
Most of what I know about growing garlic I attribute to the Garden Betty website. It has detailed guides with excellent visuals. Links to each article can be found above.