Love it or hate it, Garlic has been used medicinally since 15BC and is now an indispensable ingredient in many cuisines. The planting time for garlic is quite short (mid-March to end of April) so make sure you get your bulbs as soon as they hit the shelves here at Lifestyle Home Garden.
Garlic, or Allium sativum, is an annual bulb and a member of the onion family. As mentioned, the perfect time for planting garlic bulbs is March and April for harvesting in November and December. Planting fresh garlic from your grocer is not recommended as it may have been treated with growth retardants and other chemicals. Growing your own garlic from approved suppliers ensure a healthy, organic crop and cuts down on food miles.
Garlic prefers a full sun position, i.e. at least 6 hours of sun per day.
Apply a thick layer of compost to the proposed garlic beds and dig it in to loosen the soil and remove any rocks and clumps. Add a generous amount of organic 2:3:2 fertiliser, bone meal or vermicast to the soil. Garlic needs well-drained soil to avoid the bulbs from getting waterlogged and rotting. Clay soil would not be suitable. If your soil is on the clay side, rather plant the garlic bulbs in raised beds or deep wooden planters (±60cm long and 30cm deep).
The garlic bulb is made up of numerous small segments or cloves, sometimes confusingly called garlic seed. Separate the cloves (some suppliers sell the cloves loose), keeping the papery husk around each clove intact. Plant the cloves with the pointed end upwards about 6cm deep and 10cm apart. Cover with soil and water well. The distance between rows of garlic should be about 20cm. The garlic should start germinating about 2 weeks after planting. Apply a layer of mulch around the young plants.
Garlic has a very long growing season, but it is worth the wait. Keep bulbs moist, but not waterlogged. Garlic has a shallow root system and will stress if allowed to dry out. Watering in the morning is preferable to afternoon watering. Slow down watering when the leaves start yellowing.
Three months after planting, do another application of organic 2:3:2 fertiliser or vermicast.
Apply a layer of dolomitic lime in August according to instructions and water in well.
In September more compost can be added as mulch around the plants. Fertilise every two weeks throughout spring with a nitrogen-rich, organic fertilizer. Although garlic has a beautiful flower, some flower heads should preferably be cut off in spring as they can affect the size of the bulb. Keep a few to help determine when to harvest.
Weed the beds regularly to eliminate competition for food.
Garlic can be harvested when the flower heads topple over and leaves start yellowing, but before they dry out completely. Carefully dig up one bulb to check if they’re ready for harvesting – the outside hull of the bulb should be thick and papery. If ready gently dig up (don’t pull) all the bulbs and store or hang them up in a cool, dark place with good air circulation.
After about 2 weeks the ‘wrappers’ should be dry and papery. Remove dry roots and leaves, but keep the hulls intact. Store your garlic in a cool, dry place; not the fridge, and your crop should last until the next harvest.
Garlic has excellent repelling properties and most plants will benefit from having rows or circles of garlic planted around them. They will repel insects and form a barrier against borers and caterpillars and contribute to the general health of the plants. Plant them freely amongst beetroot, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, roses and tomatoes and in circles around citrus trees. Do a generous planting of parsley and sage to counter that garlicky breath.
Avoid planting garlic with or near beans, peas and members of the cabbage family.
The Health Benefits of Garlic:
It’s a proven natural anti-biotic and antiseptic
It has incredible anti-fungal properties
When garlic is chopped or crushed, Allicin is released, which helps to relax blood vessels and bring about a drop in blood pressure. This in turn is of benefit to the heart and vascular system.
Allicin is also believed to reduce “bad” cholesterol.
It is a general tonic and booster to the whole system; so much so that the Egyptian Pharaohs made it part of their pyramid builders’ daily diet.
It is an excellent mosquito repellent and has been known to repel the odd pesky vampire too!