18 October 2010

Planting Garlic (Allium sativum) Cloves in the Autumn

A garlic bulb separated into cloves
Garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow and takes just a few simple steps.

As with onions, it prefers a sunny site in soil that has not been freshly manured.

I always plant a few cloves at the end of my onion bed as it moves around the beds using the same crop rotation.
Garlic Arno bulb saved from summer crop

Garlic doesn't like heavy or badly drained soil or it may rot. If you've got heavy soil you could try planting cloves into individual modules now, that can be transplanted into the soil in the Spring.  Alternatively plant in large containers.

17 cloves split from 1 bulb should give us 17 new bulbs
 Garlic takes a long time to grow and most types need cool temperatures of about 0-10oC (32oF-50oF) for a month or so to fully mature. If you plant it now you can expect to harvest it around mid summer. (You'll know it's ready when the leaves turn yellow).

It's important to buy bulbs from reputable suppliers as they're likely to have been certified disease free.  If you do this you can pretty much guarantee they will grow well for you and you can plant next crops from saved bulbs. 

The bottom is flatter, the top more pointed
 I bought a pack of three bulbs, the variety 'Arno', about three years ago and have been re-using cloves from these each season since.  They have lovely fat, juicy, strong tasting cloves as some of the workshop participants can testify!  If you haven't grown garlic before, bulbs are available now from Garden Centres or online for between €3 to €4, depending upon your supplier.

Using a dibber
 The individual cloves are planted a bit deeper than onions - up to to 10cm (4in) deep in sandy soils, or 2.5in (1in) in heavier. They can be spaced around 18cm (7in) apart each way and it's important they're planted the correct way up.  As with the onion sets, I lay them all out on the top of the soil before planting them (so I know where they all are & to give me a second chance of getting them the right way up!).  If your soil is in anyway heavy use a dibber to make the hole rather than pushing the clove in - it's easy to damage if roughly treated.

Garlic grown with onions & shallots (the Allium rotation)
 Once in the ground garlic doesn't need much looking after other than weeding.  When the leaves have turned colour, use a fork to loosen and dig up the bulbs and leave them to dry for a couple of weeks, preferably outside if it's sunny, or inside in an airy place if not.  Once the bulbs are fully dry they can be plaited or stored in a frost free, dry place.  Depending upon the variety grown, they will keep for up to a year.


  1. Good info, & I LOVE the new look!!!! Tasty:) I'm so inspired & looking forward to a day off, wasting too much time playing with new templates.

  2. Giving me great ideas for the patch I'm in the process of clearing in the garden. I made a half-hearted effort back at the start of the summer but am determined by next summer to grow garlic, onions, peppers and some chili. Next belt of reasonable weather and I'm out with the shovel to finish it off.

    Is there a stage where it gets too late to plant garlic?

  3. Thanks Susan, I know what you mean!

    Ken I'm delighted you're thinking about growing your own - if you're a foodie you can't beat it for flavour, freshness and the satisfaction of cooking your own veg! If you don't have time to get to the patch now just cover it with black plastic until you're ready to stop any more weeds growing.

    Garlic takes a long time to grow so generally the earlier it's planted the better. It's usually recommend to plant early to late autumn (Sept to Nov). Garlic that's sold for winter planting usually needs cold temperatures for the bulbs to form fully too. If you don't have time now, I've always had success with planting in spring time as soon as the soil is workable (ie not frozen or sticky), around early March.

    Hope that helps!

  4. Helps indeed! Here's hoping the weather is good at the weekend. Have plenty of garlic in the press so will keep a few bits spare to work from.

  5. An interesting post and a so lovely blog I love to follow !
    Keep on !



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