Planting Tips for Super Big & Super Juicy Garlic

by ecological designer Bena Denton....

I’m not into peeling puny garlic cloves.  I am after big juicy bulbs that are quick to use in the kitchen.  Garlic is wonderful for its infused food flavour and I take the approach that garlic is medicine in my garden.  A daily dose of garlic certainly limits colds!  

 

I find most gardeners have ‘their thing’, for my collegue Kama it's carrots (and my carrots have certainly improved with her advice), for me it's garlic – so I’m going to share my secrets with you, for the best garlic ever! 

Above: Bena and her daughter plaiting the garlic harvest.

 

It doesn’t take much room to grow a year's supply, about 2.5 sqm and at the price you pay in the supermarket (for inferior quality) you certainly get bang for your buck.  Garlic is really easy as to grow and pretty foolproof ....if you follow these tips…
 

  • For our family to have a year-round supply of garlic, I aim for 100 bulbs ie approx 2 juicy bulbs in our cooking per week (you may eat more or less so adjust quantities accordingly).
  • You can plant garlic anytime from May to August in Taranaki.
  • Prepare your soil with as much organic matter as you can get your hands on: compost, blood & bone, lime, ash, vermacast, rotten manure – whatever, as garlic is a hungry feeder.  Dig into the top 10cm.  Water if the soil needs it.  
  • Get yourself the best and biggest garlic bulbs you can find. Try local supplier Dee Turner, also Koanga Institute, Kahikatea Farm, Setha’s Seeds, and Love Plant Life. Don’t buy supermarket seed that is bleached and often infertile anyway.  Local shop Down To Earth also sells "real garlic".
  • Break up the garlic bulb into cloves.  Secret #1: plant only the fattest outside cloves (eat the rest).
  • Soak the cloves overnight first to activate, and ideally add some cow poo to innoculate all the good soil bacteria directly around your plants.
  • Poke into the soil at 10cm spacing (I go for total cover and sometimes plant even closer) in a triangular configuration (like the shape of no.5 on the dice) with the tip up and level with the soil surface.
  • Now here’s secret # 2: cover with 10cm of seaweed.  Seaweed has 11 of the 12 minerals we need in our diet and acts as a slow release fertilizer, feeding the garlic plant over the 5-8 months it's in the ground.
  • Secret # 3 for sucessful garlic is mulch!  Add another 10cm of carbon ie "the brown stuff" such rotten hay (ideal), leaves, straw etc.  The key is to heap it on.  Don’t worry, garlic is a bulb and will push its way up, no worries.  Garlic abhors weed competition and I put on such a thick layer that I simply tuck these babies into bed with their blanket of mulch on and don’t touch until harvest time.  How easy is that?

 

Above: Bena's garlic bed after planting and mulching with seaweed, with the hay mulch still being put on top.

 

Garlic is ready to harvest when the tops are yellowing (anywhere from late spring to mid-summer, depending on when you planted and the variety). Half the leaves should have died off.  Remember store dry and keep the biggest bulbs for your next year's seed.


Happy and healthy eating!

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