There are 2 types of garlic that you can grow – hardneck garlic and softneck garlic. Softneck garlic are better for storing and their flexible stalks allow you to create the classic plaited garlic braids. Softneck garlic produce numerous cloves and have an outer layer of papery skin that makes them store very well.
Hardneck garlic tend to have fewer but larger cloves, which is good for ease of use, but they don’t have the same layering of papery skin as softnecks do and so they are not as good for storing.
Garlic can be planted from October right the way through to February but for garlic to grow really well it needs about a month or so of temperatures less than 10 degrees. This is why most gardeners prefer to plant around October or November. This is also one less job to worry about in the spring.
Garlic grows best in a sunny site in light, well-drained soil. Each bulb needs to be split into cloves and then each individual clove gets planted. One clove grows into one bulb. Not a bad return for one of the most easiest vegetables to grow.
The garlic cloves should be planted in rows that are 30 cm apart. In each row plant the cloves about 10 – 15 cm apart.
Each clove should be gently pushed into the soil to a depth of about 3cm, with the flat basal plate (bottom end) facing downwards and the pointed end facing upwards so that it’s just buried below the soil surface. They need very little after care, just nip off the flower bud when it appears and keep the area weed-free.
Water regularly and add a little general purpose fertilizer in the autumn and a couple of times in the spring. Garlic is resistant to most diseases.
Depending on what time of year you plant it, garlic tends to take between 16 – 36 weeks to reach maturity. The bulbs will stop growing in the summer months and the foliage will turn yellow and die down. This is the sign that your garlic is ready for harvest. To store the bulbs, gently lift from the ground and dry in a warm place for about 2 weeks. You can then plait the tops and hang them up either in your kitchen or a frost free place for use over the impending months.
The varieties that I planted today are as follows:-
Provence Wight – Softneck
Provence Wight is a large white softneck garlic that can produce bulbs that approach Elephant Garlic size. It produces large fat cloves that suit vegetable & fish dishes of the Mediterranean. Sweet and substantial stores and keeps well. Harvest around late May to June.
Solent Wight – Softneck
A variety of garlic that produces large fully flavoured bulbs. Solent Wight produces larger quality bulbs that store for a long time. Ready for harvesting in July if planted early on.
Chesnok Wight – Hardneck
White skinned bulbs with rich black veins on the outside and 6 – 10 purple cloves inside. The strong flavour makes this an ideal choice for garlic bread. Ready to harvest in June.
Early Purple Wight – Softneck
Ready to harvest from May. This variety should be used soon after harvest as it does not store over a long period.
In total I managed to plant 5 rows each with 10 cloves in the row. All being well, if they grow as expected, I will have a great amount for next year. I plan on holding some back to plant for the next year as I have been told that that is the best thing to do.