Home-grown garlic is far superior to shop bought; it is more succulent and flavoursome and with a range of varieties to choose from you can experience the subtle differences in flavour.
It isn‘t a difficult crop to grow but it is in the ground a long time so ideally find a sunny corner or edge of a plot to grow it.
Autumn is the best time to plant garlic because it benefits from a period of cold to induce good hearty bulb formation by the summer.
Whole garlic bulbs can be bought in early autumn from garden centres or by mail order from specialist growers.
It is not a good idea to plant garlic bought from a supermarket for culinary use because it has possibly been grown abroad and is a variety that may be less suited to the UK climate.
When ready to plant, split up the bulbs into individual cloves and plant with the pointed end uppermost.
Plant about 2.5cm-5cm (1-2in) deep and about 15cm (6in) apart.
If your soil is very heavy clay and gets waterlogged, then you may want to wait until February to plant or alternatively add some horticultural sand to the trench before planting to give a free draining base to the cloves.
Between May and June, once the foliage is almost completely yellowed and withered, it is time to lift the bulbs.
Choose a time of settled dry weather to do this and leave the bulbs on the surface of the soil to dry for a day.
If rain is forecast, move the lifted bulbs into a greenhouse or cold frame for a couple of days to dry instead.
Growing without a veg plot
Garlic can be grown in large pots and if your soil is very wet or heavy clay then it may be better to grow in containers.
Use John Innes no 3 compost, ideally with some added grit for drainage.
If planted in October/November, the garlic should be showing shoots by January.
In spring, a high nitrogen feed can be beneficial to encourage good growth as can an application of a little sulphur.
Although garlic is thought to be a plant that likes dry soil, it actually prefers plenty of water during its growing period; however, this should tail off from about May when the plant will have finished growing and the foliage will start to die back.
- ‘Solent Wight‘: Very large bulbs about 6cm (21?2in) across. Keeps well
- ‘Purple Wight‘: Has very chunky cloves and a slightly sweet flavour.
- ‘Albigensian Wight‘: A large garlic from southern France.
- Elephant garlic: It isn‘t a member of the garlic family A. sativum but closer related to the leek. Makes a massive bulb and is great for roasting whole cloves as a bit milder than other garlics.