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Garlic Growing Tips From An Expert

Tips to grow garlic

I have grown my own garlic for the last few years and this year I am aiming to plant more than double the previous years. The taste of home grown garlic is sweet and much more subtle than any that I have purchased. My regular supplier of organic garlic bulbs is not supplying any this year. By chance at my last local Farmer’s Market I met Gary Hardman, a local farmer selling his organic bulbs. I stopped for a chat and purchased some of his lovely spray free garlic bulbs to plant this year. He has been kind enough to offer up his expert advice to you here today on growing garlic. Read on for Gary’s contact details. He also grows sauce tomatoes and has some available to you at a great price right now if you get in quick.

I primarily grow my own garlic to avoid the to purchase overseas, sprayed product. The flavor of home grown garlic is also not comparable to that purchased in the stores from overseas when the Australian garlic is out of season. I use garlic in most family meals. As well as enjoying the sweet flavor I am a huge fan of the medicinal properties of garlic. When I add my garlic cloves to a meal I feel like I am adding a little protective shield around my family from all of the nasty bugs and germs that circulate.

Here is what Gary told me abut his experience growing garlic.

1. How large is your property and how long have you been growing garlic?

Our property is in Werribee South and is 15 Acres in size. We are in the process of preparing seed for our third year of growing garlic. We grow 2 acres of garlic per year and this equates to around 100,000 bulbs. As it is very labor intensive crop to grow we find this amount to be manageable without the need for labor hire. At the time garlic is ready to be harvested we find that we have just completed planting out our tomato seedlings.

2. What else do you grow?
We also grow tomatoes. We plant them in the first week of November. We plant Napoli Roma tomatoes used for sauce but find them to be a good all round tomato for salads also.
3. When I selected my cloves to plant you had purple and white available. What are the garlic varieties that you plant?
We grow two types of garlic now but started with 5 different types to see what was best suited to our weather and soil conditions. One is a purple hard neck garlic of Spanish origin and the other is white soft neck variety called California Late. In general the white garlic seems more tolerant to extreme conditions and I have good success with it. 

4. What special care do you give to your garlic crop?

Before planting our garlic our finished tomato plants are rotary hoed into the ground. We then add gypsum to help break up the soil and create the best drainage possible. After planting the seeds, when the shoots break through the surface, it is time to think about insects.

5. What are the main problems that you can experience growing garlic?(eg bugs?) and what solutions do you recommend?

It is my understanding that thrip are about the only insect that can cause problems.  I run a line of chook manure down the center of the beds as the manure contains mites which are predatory to thrip.

6. When do you plant your garlic into the ground?

It is said that garlic should be planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest day but I have found that planting any time between May and June to not make much difference.

7. How do you know when garlic is ready to harvest?

Growing time is about 6 to 7 months but when the plant begins to show signs of yellowing at the bottom of the plant it is time to pull up 1 of your plants and check if the bulb is growing and that the cloves are forming in the bulb. At this point it is important to stop watering. Rather than waiting for the plant to die off completely, allow it to yellow off about half way up the plant,then harvest and complete the drying protected from the chances of unwanted rain.

8. Is there a difference between the garlic that you grow to eat and the cloves that you plant for next years crop?

Seed for the next seasons crop is the same as the cloves you will enjoy in your cooking from your harvest but I suggest keeping the bulbs dirty to protect them as much as possible.

Contact Gary:

Gary has sauce tomatoes for sale – 1o kg box for $11.00 picked up from the farm. Please call him on 0408343725 to order.

He will also have garlic seed available at the next farmers market in Geelong.

Jump in quick to grab your sauce tomatoes before the season ends.

Planting Notes:

The shortest day of the year for 2013 is June 16th. I am going to take Gary’s experience on board and plant mine in the coming weeks. I have my bulbs ready to go and will plant them when the calendar ticks over to May. I will be planting a complete vegetable bed of garlic this year.

Plant your bulbs with the tip pointing up and in a well drained soil.  Plant the seeds 10-15 cm apart. If you like to use companion planting principles it is recommended that garlic is not planted with beans, brassicas, peas or potatoes. Green Harvest recommends regular watering and mulching to ensure that plants are not competing with weeds for soil nutrients.

To store harvest garlic plait the stems in groups of 6-8 and hang in a cool, airy location. I generally hang one string in the kitchen beside the fridge to use and the remainder hang in our garage.

I am looking forward to combining my own garlic from last year with a box of Gary’s tomatoes to make my last batch of sauce for the season. 

Have you sourced your organic garlic to plant yet?




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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Nat March 22, 2013, 8:21 am

    I grew enough last year so that I could enjoy it year round and have enough to plant. That’s about 75 bulbs in total! I thought you were supposed to plant them in the March Equinox so mine went in on Wednesday (this is when I grew mine last year and I had 100% success with large tasty bulbs!)

    • Kyrstie March 22, 2013, 12:33 pm

      Hi Nat, I have experimented with timing also and not found it to make any difference. None of my crops have ever had a fail rate so I do not believe that an exact timing matters too much. They have an amazing flavor don’t they?

  • Miss Piggy March 22, 2013, 11:02 am

    Do you plant one clove as a “seed” or a whole bulb at a time. I’ve heard garlic doesn’t do well in Sydney, but I’d be keen to try it.

    I’m also keen to try onions – have you ever grown them?

    • Kyrstie March 22, 2013, 12:31 pm

      Hi Miss Piggy, yes one individual clove is planted as a seed. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t grow well in Sydney. I planted some in pots last year and they grew well. The bulbs were just not as large as the ones that I grew in the garden. I also grow onions both in pots and the garden at the pretty much the same time of year and they are easy too, just plant and leave.

  • Ros March 22, 2013, 8:26 pm

    We always plant garlic but haven’t had much success the last couple of years. My father in law has huge success so we get him to grow extra for us!

  • Lizzy (Good Things) March 29, 2014, 3:12 pm

    Thanks for this!

  • Bonnie June 4, 2016, 5:50 pm

    I ordered your book recently and wanted to thank you for dropping it off for me and refunding the postage.
    I just googled when to grow garlic and here you were again.
    Thanks again for the book and the above valuable advice,
    Regards, Bonnie.

    • Kyrstie Barcak June 6, 2016, 8:02 pm

      Thanks so much for taking the time to drop by Bonnie. I appreciate it and am pleased that you are finding the info you need here and in my book. Kyrstie

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