Good drainage and soil
When you see the words good drainage I hope you sit up and pay attention, it’s not the sexiest of gardening but one of the most essential and will make all the difference the size and quality of your crop. Drainage is a make or break moment for your garlic crop. If you are on typical CHB heavy clay soil plant in pots or make a mound and plant into that. One of the best ways to try and deal to clay is by adding Gypsum (breaks down the small particles chemically) or by digging through generous amounts of compost a week or three before planting (works by physically breaking apart clay) This also adds to the nutritional value of the soil and encouraging lots of beneficial organisms. Blood & bone and sheep pellets are also fantastic soil conditioners. Your soil needs to support a crop for 6 months.
Garlic is hungry, so don’t grow after a heavy feeder. Nor should you grow for three years after any of its antagonistic oniony relations.
At 20cm spacings, and so the tips of the bulbs are level with the top of the soil. Make your rows 20cm apart. Too much space and you’ll get lots of weeds in the gaps. Too close and they’ll be scrawny little garlics, having spent 6 months fighting over scraps of food. Traditionally garlic was planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest day, but with the arrival of garlic rust setting in before the bulbs are ready in summer it is becoming necessary to plant earlier so the bulbs are fully formed before the rust can set in.
Yes I know, its like outside housework, but some crops need weeding and garlic is one such. If left to grow, the weeds will steal all the nutrition you provided for your garlic. They’ll also block light and air causing rot and fungus. Scratch the weeds up when they’re little with a hoe or one of those wonderful long handled wonder weeders, then leave them in situ to melt back into the soil.
Mix up a watering can of seaweed feed once a month and pour it on.
Harvest and Cure
For juicy bulbs with a long life you need to catch your garlic at its prime. When the tops begin to dry off harvest time is near. Dig a bulb up to look see, and continue to check in this way until your bulbs are beautifully formed. (Once the tops are completely dry prime time is past and old age is nigh.) Harvest with care on a dry day. Gently rub the bulk of the dirt off (do this in the garden to avoid a mess), leaving the skin intact. Hang in small bunches in an airy, dry place out of direct sunlight to cure. Once they’re nicely dry lightly trim the roots and either plait or trim the tops. Peel off any dirty or ratty skin if you must, but do remember the better protected the bulbs are, the better they’ll store.