Garlic is great for the backyard veggie grower because it goes with anything and you can pretty much plant and forget about it. As a general rule you plant it on the shortest day and harvest it on the longest. Garlic prefers a temperate climate and grows well in Western Australia from Geraldton to the South West, however more than 80% of the garlic consumed is imported.
While you can buy it from the supermarket and plant it, it is best to buy it from the nursery as shop grown garlic will often lack flavour. Also be aware that planting Garlic from overseas (where most supermarket Garlic is from) is illegal and fumigated garlic will not grow well. Garlic Farm Sales Victoria, supply small amounts to home gardeners in Western Australia.
Varieties to grow in Perth
Varieties to go for include Australian White Garlic, with a creamy pink colour and mild flavour. Heirloom garlic like Italian Purple has pungent purple cloves that stick together in layers and usually offer up a good sized crop. Monaro Purple has big, pink purple bulbs that look great. Dynamite Purple has pink red cloves with an unexpected chilli taste. Other varieties include California Late and Early and Italian White.
Where to grow
Garlic grows as well in pots as it does in the ground and should be planted in autumn and winter. Garlic likes a lot of sunlight and likes compost. A slightly limey soil will also suit it best and can be grown easily on our light sandy soils. The most suitable ph is 6 – 7. You should allow at least 3 years between successive crops in the Alliaceae family (onions and garlic) to prevent a build up of soil disease.
Planting your Garlic
Before planting, break the garlic bulb into individual cloves, but don’t remove the skin. Do not use cloves that have green shoots. Plant them pointy side up and about 5cm deep and 25cm apart. In about two weeks you should have green shoots. Do not water too much in winter, but water more frequently in spring. Cut the water down again when the leaves start to die down.
Fertilising your Garlic
Feed them during the growing season with fertiliser, but don’t use too much nitrogen as you don’t want too much leaf growth. Ideally you would fertilise with some superphosphate at planting and apply small amounts of nitrogen and muriate of potash at fortnightly intervals when green shoots appear until the start of bulbing. Bulbing starts six to eight weeks before harvesting. After bubing starts, stop applying the nitrogen but continue with two applications of potash.
On alkaline soils (like our coastal sands) applications of extra trace elements will be necessary after planting and before bulbing. Zinc and Manganese is the main trace element needed.
On fertile soils (not ours!), garlic can be grown with much lower amounts of fertiliser.
Harvesting your Garlic
You will know your garlic is ready to be harvested when the foliage starts to yellow and die off. Dig down and check if your bulbs are ready before the foliage has completely dried out. The stems will still be standing. Do not allow them to over – mature as the bulbs will discolour.
Garlic dries easily and stores well. Brush off any dirt and hang bulb down in a dry airy place. You can keep dried garlic for about 4 – 6 months.
Pests and Diseases
Garlic attracts fewer pests and diseases than most other vegetables. The major pest is thrips, which can be found beneath the leaves and between the leaf base and stem. Small, white patches appear on the leaves and the bulbs may shrivel. The most common disease is downy mildew.
Eating your Garlic
Just kidding, I’m sure you all know how to eat garlic!!
Use with silver………….