Plants & Growing

How To Grow Garlic At Home In The UK

a collection of garlic plants that have been uprooted
Written by Dean Wilson

A native of the onion family, Garlic is a popular plant for amateur gardeners to grow, due to the fact it doesn’t need a lot of nurturing.

It’s pretty hardy against pests and infections, and it provides a great ingredient for many recipes. In fact, it is used for cooking pretty much the world over – and has been for centuries now – especially in the warmer Mediterranean countries, such as Southern Spain, France and Italy.

Garlic cloves are best bought from a gardening centre or nursery, rather than a supermarket. That’s because the supermarket variety may have been grown abroad and therefore unsuitable for a UK climate. Also, you don’t know if the soil in which it grew was infected. Thirdly, the supermarket variety will have been subjected to chemical sprays.

Note that garlic shouldn’t be grown in the same place a garlic crop or carrots/leeks have previously been grown – at least, not for another two years. Also, the spot in which you do choose to grow it should be covered with netting to deter birds getting at the early bulbs.

Garlic Types

  • Elephant Garlic – as its name implies, this type of garlic needs spacing out in the soil for its roots to flourish.
  • Wild Garlic – Bulbs shouldn’t be lifted in the first year in order to allow the plant to spread its seed heads wider and multiply the crop.
  • Rocamboles – A form of hardneck garlic which is terrific for cooking with. Pull off the floral spikes as soon as they appear (softneck varieties of garlic don’t produce a spike and you’ll get more cloves per bulb as a result).

How To Prepare Garlic Bulbs For Planting

Choose a spot in your garden that is guaranteed to receive the most sunshine then mix the soil there with a good compost (do this several weeks before you start the actual planting to give it time to blend well).

The day before you intend to plant your garlic bulbs, break them up. Next day plant them up to four cm deep in the soil, six inches apart and with the root facing downwards.

When To Plant Garlic

The best time your garlic bulbs is in the Autumn (around the third week in November. That’s because the cloves will benefit from the initial cold weather; helping them split and form properly by the beginning of the year. To harvest you’re looking at the first week in August.

Growing Garlic

As the garlic grows it will need water if the soil appears too dry. Otherwise – thanks to the rainy UK climate – it should do well on its own. Do remove weeds though and, at the beginning of the year, add some nutrients in the form of sulphate of potash.

Happily, even if you don’t have a garden it’s still possible to grow this delicious herb. Take six bulbs, for instance, and plant them in a deep, eight-inch garden pot or container. As long as the plants are regularly watered they will do just fine sitting outside on a window ledge.

How To Harvest Garlic

It’s important to get the time of harvesting right. Having said that, it’s not too difficult to get wrong since the garlic plant itself will tell you when it’s ready to be attended to. Certainly, do it too late and you’ll be confronted with a rotten bulb when you start digging up; too early and you’ll have missed the best bit.

garlic plants in rows outside
Garlic is best grown outside in rows at least 12 inches apart.

It’s not only the bulbs you can eat from garlic plants; the leaves can also work in a salad, or use them as a garnish.

Hardneck garlic indicates it is ready to be lifted when the bottom leaves become a yellow or brownish colour. This is usually from May to July.

Softneck varieties of garlic should be lifted when the leaves turn yellow and begin to fall off (here you’re looking at from May to August).

Once you’ve decided it is time to go ahead and dig out the bulbs, always tread carefully, and with a gardening fork. Afterwards, dry them out in an airy shed by laying them on a tray or sheet. When dry store them in a dry place with a temperature of between five to 10 centigrade.

Garlic grown in a small container
Garlic can also be grown in small containers

Diseases That Can Affect Garlic

Onion white rot – this is a fungus which is already in the soil and so attacks the roots and bulb beneath the ground. It is indicated on the surface by the leaves wilting and turning yellow on the surface. Later you’ll spot a white cotton wool-like fungus on the bulb’s base and the small round black dots. The only way to avoid this is to plant in soil where there is no existing onion rot. Be careful though – the disease can be carried on tools, boots and other equipment and spreads very easily.

Leek rust – Another fungus which, this time, shows up on the leaves in the form of bright yellow spots. It’s not as serious as onion rot and if you root out the affected plant the other bulbs should survive fine (provided you keep an eye on them). Over-crowding can make Leek Rust worse because as well as making the disease easier to spread, it also causes humidity – making it more likely in the first place. Spraying every now and again with sulphur compounds or Dithane can help keep your garlic plant healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Deep Should Garlic Bulbs Be Planted?

Garlic cloves should be planted two inches deep into the soil and ideally between two and four inches apart to give the roots enough space to expand. The rows should be spaced every 14 inches. When planting, the pointed end of the clove should point upwards.

How Tall Does Garlic Grow?

You can expect your garlic cloves to grow up to 10 inches tall at their peak.

How Long Does It Take for Garlic to Grow?

Garlic takes around nine months to grow in conditions where, ideally, it is receiving around six hours of sunlight a day.

About the author

Dean Wilson

I'm an avid gardener and home DIY enthusiast from Yorkshire in the North of England. I'm passionate about helping our readers get out into their gardens - by making the most of the outdoors and ensuring they get the best possible deals on their gardening equipment. I also believe strongly in the preservation of our beautiful garden wildlife.

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