It's official: learning how to grow garlic is our new favourite beginner-friendly garden activity – not least of all because it means we get a steady supply of delicious garlicky goodness to flavour our meals with!
As luck would have it, garlic – and particularly elephant garlic – is considered to be among the best fruit and vegetables to sow in November and the winter months ahead (they actually need a cold snap to get them going). So, yes, it's the best time possible to get cracking on your crop!
Without any further ado, then...
How to grow garlic
Garlic is grown from (surprise!) cloves, and it's best to plant them before Christmas if you want to harvest yours in time for an Italian Nonna Chic-inspired feast come summertime.
Now, while the when is important, we understand that you're here to learn how to grow garlic. And, thankfully, we've consulted some gardening experts (and pored over Monty Don's advice, of course) to bring you the ultimate how-to guide.
What you will need:
One of our very favourite edimentals, you'll need very little to get started growing your own garlic.
You'll also need, of course, to buy some garlic sets.
- Thompson & Morgan: 'Autumn Lovers' collection of garlic sets
- Crocus: French garlic for autumn planting
- Amazon: A wide variety of garlic bulbs
As mentioned already, it's incredibly easy to learn how to grow garlic.
Here are the steps you need to follow...
1. Prepare the soil
Preparation is key when it comes to learning how to grow garlic like a gardening pro.
'Find a sunny spot with well-draining soil, and weed the area thoroughly,' advises Christopher O'Donoghue of Gardens Revived.
A gardener with over a decade of experience under his belt, Christopher set up Gardens Revived with his brother, Andrew, in 2018 to create a thriving family business. Together, they have worked on residential gardens, listed buildings and gardens, flower shows and large estates with some exceeding 70 acres – many with historical significance.
Make sure that you give your garlic bulbs the very best start in life by boosting the quality of the soil.
Try mixing in a good peat-free compost or plenty of well-rotted organic material, and you can also apply a high potassium general fertiliser, too.
REMEMBER: Garlics don't like to get their feet too soggy, so if the ground is very wet, you're best off starting your bulbs off in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse before planting them out in springtime.
To do this, fill a modular tray with peat-free compost, insert one clove into each module, pop in a cool location, and keep the compost moist but not wet. Then, wait for them to shoot!
2. Space them out
Monty Don is considered to be something of a gardening guru by many, and the horticulturalist has shared some of his own secrets for growing garlic – the most important of which is to give them enough space.
'Plant plump individual cloves (the bigger the clove the bigger the bulb it will generate) 6-9 inches apart, pointed end up and buried a good inch below the surface in well-drained soil,' he advises via his popular gardening blog.
3. Give them some TLC
An important thing to remember when learning how to grow garlic: these are very low maintenance plants, but they still need a little bit of love and care.
'Water them moderately after planting,' says Christopher, 'and cover them with horticultural fleece until they're well-rooted in. Otherwise you may find that the birds in your local area have a suspiciously garlicky breath.'
It's also important to keep the area free of weeds, but just be sure to do your weeding by hand, so you don't damage your precious garlic bulbs.
4. Get picky with it
Patience is a virtue when learning how to grow garlic: Monty Don says shoots won't appear for 6-8 weeks after planting.
It's important to keep your garlic's energy focused on its root system and swelling the bulb, so Christopher advises that you remove any flower stems as soon as they start to form.
'You can pick a few green leaves for salads and garnishes while the plant is still growing,' he adds. 'It's a tasty way to make the most of the entire plant!'
5. Harvest time
'Garlic bulbs are ready to harvest once the leaves have turned yellow and started to wilt,' says Christopher.
Carefully dig the bulbs out with a fork and enjoy them fresh if you like, or dry them out/pickle them if that's your preference. Yum!
What is the best month to plant garlic?
'In the UK, it's best to plant garlic bulbs in the autumn,' says Christopher. 'Ideally, you want to get them in the ground sometime between October and November.'
Monty Don, however, says that he starts 'planting garlic bulbs in September but it can be done at any time before Christmas to have a good harvest next summer'.
This isn't just to time things so you get a good summer harvest: it's also because most garlic varieties need a good cold snap to get them going.
Can you plant supermarket garlic?
It may feel like a clever idea to plant garlic you've bought in a supermarket, but the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) urges against it.
'It may lead to a disappointing crop, as it could be a variety that needs a warmer climate or be infected with a virus,' they caution.
Can you grow garlic in pots?
People with small gardens and balconies, rejoice: garlic can be grown very successfully in pots! Just be sure to use pots with at least 15cm depth to allow adequate freedom for the roots, space your bulbs well, and pop them somewhere sunny.
Now that you've learned how to grow garlic, the next thing to do is come up with a bevy of new recipes that'll help you use up your crop come harvest time.
It's that or, y'know, lean into the world of garlic bread and hard! Either way, the future looks bright and delicious...
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Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.
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