Most of the garlic available in supermarkets is imported from China (over 5,000 miles!). Garlic is relatively easy to grow (although it can be hard to grow well) and stores extremely well. It’s also incredibly good for you. The garlic requirements of an average family can be easily satisfied by even the smallest of vegetable patches. If you were to take any bulb of garlic, break out the cloves and stick them in to the ground spaced about 4 inches apart, each clove would eventually turn in to a bulb of garlic. That’s the magic of it. However it is recommended not to use supermarket garlic for this purpose as it can bring disease in to your soil (if you are going to do this, sow the garlic in containers).
Most GIYers sow garlic in early winter (Oct-Dec, but before the shortest day of the year – Dec 21st) as the bulbs benefit from a cold snap. Some varieties however can be sown in spring but they won’t grow as big. Pick a sunny site, with good fertile, free-draining soil. Apply an organic fertiliser before sowing. Sow each clove just below the surface, about 4-5 inches apart, in rows 12 inches apart. If soil is very wet, sow in module trays and transplant when sprouted.
As with onions, garlic hates weed competition so keep the bed weed free. Hoe carefully around the bulbs every week or so. Water occasionally in dry weather but don’t over-water.
Harvest when at least half to two-thirds of leaves on each plant are yellow. Autumn sown garlic will be ready in early summer. Do not allow them to go too far as they lose flavour. Lift carefully and dry on racks in sun (or indoors in wet weather) for two weeks. Hang in plaits.
Rust can affect leaves but it shouldn’t affect bulbs. White rot (as per onions) is more serious as it attacks the root. No remedy – do not grow garlic in that soil again for 7 years.