Garlic, Allium Sativum, a perennial herb is the easiest to grow member of the onion family.
It is grown for the aromatic cloves which make up the garlic bulb which can contain as many as 20 individual cloves of garlic.
Garlic is thought to have originated in Central Asia and then spread to the Mediterranean area and on to the rest of Europe.
True garlic has 2 subspecies - hardneck (ophioscorodon) and softneck (sativum)
Although you can buy garlic for planting from a garden centre or nursery you can easily grow garlic from a bulb bought from a supermarket or greengrocer.
Garlic can be planted in Autumn in warm areas to give it a good start, but if you garden is subject to heavy frosts it is best to wait until early or mid spring.
Prepare the soil a few weeks before planting by digging in some well rooted manure or compost. A week before planting garlic apply bonemeal at a rate of 60g per square yard or metre.
Just before planting rake the soil to produce a fine tilth.
To plant, gently break up the garlic bulbs into separate cloves - but don't remove the papery skins. This is known as ‘cracking’.
Separate the cloves as near to planting time as possible, preferably not more than 24 hours before, so that the root nodules don't dry out - this will enable the garlic to set roots more quickly.
Plant out cloves of garlic 2 inches deep, 6 inches apart and in rows 1 foot apart base down with the tips pointing upwards.
Garlic is virtually maintenance free! Just hoe regularly to remove weeds from around the plants. But do keep a look out for an attack of Onion Fly.
During its early growing stages garlic does best with fairly consistent soil moisture.
If not enough moisture is present during early growth the garlic will not grow a full sized bulb.
During the last few weeks of growth no additional moisture is needed.
Over watering during this period results in garlic that does not keep well and is prone to splitting skins and mould.
When the foliage turns yellow in July or August the garlic is ready for lifting.
Do not pull the garlic from out of the ground - use a small fork to dig out the garlic bulbs then lift them out carefully.
After lifting the bulbs lay them in a sunny place for a few days to dry off - covering at night to protect them from dew.
When the bulbs haved dried tie the garlic into small buches and store by hanging from a nail or beam in a cool airy shed.
Properly stored garlic should keep for at least a year.
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How to grow Garlic - advice and tips on growing a good crop of garlic, when and where to plant, watering guide and how to harvest and store varieties of garlic (Allium Sativum).