If you want the best garlic harvest, there are a few key factors you need to consider.
Choose the Right Garlic Varieties
Begin your garlic-growing journey by selecting the most suitable garlic varieties for your region. Two main types of garlic are commonly grown in British gardens: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck varieties, such as ‘Lautrec Wight’ and ‘Purple Stripe’, are well-suited for cooler climates and typically produce larger bulbs. On the other hand, softneck varieties, like ‘Early Purple Wight’ and ‘Solent Wight’, are more versatile and better adapted to milder British weather conditions. Research the best garlic varieties for your specific location to maximize your chances of success.
Timing Is Crucial
The timing of garlic planting is vital for achieving sizable bulbs. In most parts of the UK, it’s recommended to plant garlic in the autumn. This timing allows the garlic cloves to establish strong roots before winter sets in. Aim to plant your garlic around mid-October to early November. Planting too early may result in smaller bulbs, so check your local climate and frost dates to determine the ideal planting window in your area.
Prepare the Soil
Garlic thrives in well-drained, fertile soil with a pH level of around 6.5. Start by preparing your garlic bed by digging the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches. Incorporate plenty of organic matter, such as well-rotted compost or aged manure, to enrich the soil and provide essential nutrients. Avoid using fresh manure, as it can “burn” the garlic plants. Proper soil preparation ensures that garlic roots can penetrate easily and access the nutrients they need for healthy bulb development.
Allow your garlic plants sufficient space to grow and develop into robust bulbs. Plant individual cloves approximately 6 inches apart in rows spaced 12-15 inches apart. Adequate spacing ensures that each garlic plant has room to expand and prevents overcrowding, which can lead to smaller bulbs and increased susceptibility to disease. Neatly spaced garlic also allows for better airflow, reducing the risk of fungal issues.
Mulch and Weed Control
Mulching plays a crucial role in garlic cultivation. After planting, apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch, such as straw or leaf mould. Mulch helps retain moisture, regulates soil temperature, and suppresses weed growth. It also adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down. Regularly check for and remove any weeds that may emerge among your garlic plants, as weeds compete with garlic for nutrients and water. Mulching and diligent weed control are essential for ensuring your garlic’s optimal growth and bulb development.
Consistent moisture is vital for successful garlic cultivation. Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during dry spells in the spring and early summer when garlic is actively growing and forming bulbs. However, avoid overwatering, as garlic bulbs can rot in waterlogged soil. Water deeply and infrequently, allowing the soil to dry slightly between watering sessions.
Garlic needs a lot of nutrition, so make sure you amend your soil with lots of homemade compost prior to planting meaning you’ll have a good even balance of nutrients.