Freshly harvested hard neck garlic 'New Zealand Purple'

Garlic 'New Zealand Purple' is a more cold tolerant variety

Now is the time to plant garlic. Don’ t wait until the shortest day as this is generally too late. Anytime from now until the end of May is fine.
I am planting some early garlic now, and in another month some of my home-grown from last year and a month after that some more. I want to make sure that I have my own fresh garlic available all year round.

Why grow your own?
— We are all used to the idea that tomatoes eaten straight from the garden taste so much better than the supermarket variety. Well the same is true for garlic.
— Garlic is easy to grow and takes up very little space.
— All imported garlic is sprayed with methyl bromide when it comes into Australia, not only does methyl bromide deplete ozone, but it is also harmful to humans. As well as this, much of our imported garlic comes from China where pesticides are routinely used, and only 5% of vegetables imported from China are checked for chemical residue.

Choose a spot that gets plenty of sun and prepare the soil by adding well-rotted manure and some blood and bone and compost. Garlic hates growing in soggy soil, so make sure the soil is well-drained. If the drainage is not good then create a raised mound and plant the cloves into this.

Garlic bulb varieties 'Mammoth Purple', 'Southern Glenn', 'Italian Red', 'Glen Large', 'Purple Monaro' and 'Italian White'

Some of the garlic bulb varieties I am planting

Which garlic?
Most garlic that you find in supermarkets has also been sprayed with sprout inhibitors so that they don’t sprout during storage. This means that they sprout at the wrong time of the year (usually spring) when it is too late to plant them. So buy organic garlic from you local green grocer or buy it from a reputable seed supplier. This year both Diggers and Green Harvest are selling a good range of organic garlic. Garlic does best in the southern states. Like onions, garlic bulbs begin to swell as day length increases, this means that many garlic varieties are not suitable for warmer regions like Northern NSW and Queensland. One day length neutral variety that does well in these regions is Glenn large or Southern Glenn.
Most varieties fall into two groups, hard neck or soft neck. The hard neck varieties have a central stem that produces a flower head. This flower head contains bulbils, not flowers. Hard neck types have larger, but fewer, cloves per head, are easier to peel but don’t keep for as long (about 4 months) as soft neck types. Soft neck types do not produce a flower stem and have smaller but more numerous cloves. Bulbs keep for about seven months.

Making a hole to plant garlic. I have used a dibber.

I use a 'dibber' to make the hole for the garlic clove.

A single garlic clove ready to be planted

Plant the clove pointy end up.

Planting a garlic clove

Plant garlic well below the surface of the soil

Make holes in the soil about 15cm apart. I like to use the dibber that I use to plant bulbs, but your finger or a small trowel will do. Break the bulb into the individual cloves, do not remove the skin from the clove, and plant with the pointy end up so that the top of the clove is the length of the clove under the soil. Cover with dirt and water well, but don’t water again until the cloves have started growing otherwise they may rot in the soil. When the green leaves are well above the soil, mulch with pea straw, lucerne hay or sugar cane mulch.

Now sit back and let them grow, just checking occasionally to make sure they are growing strongly.
I will write again in a few months to tell you about what happens next. If you want to know more about garlic, how to cook with it and it’s fascinating history as well as other Allium plants like onions, shallots and leeks you could purchase my book Garlic and friends from the shop.

The following recipe, one of my favourites, comes from Garlic and friends

Baked Chicken with Forty Garlic Cloves

I large fresh chicken
salt and freshly ground black pepper
small bunch of herbs — lemon thyme, parsley, bay leaf, sage and French tarragon
40 unpeeled cloves of garlic
half a cup of olive oil
I cup of flour mixed to a thick paste with a quarter cup of water
crusty fresh bread

Remove the giblets, neck and any excess fat from the chicken. Rub the salt and pepper on the inside and outside. Place the bunch of herbs and four cloves of garlic inside the chicken. Into a casserole dish just big enough to hold the chicken, pour the oil and spread the rest of the garlic cloves evenly ove the bottom. Gently heat the oil and then put the chicken into the dish, turning it so that it is coated with oil. Put the lid on the casserole dish and seal it to the base with the flour and water mixture.
Place in a pre-heated, moderate oven and cook for one and a half hours. Remove from the oven and open the dish by breaking the crust. Carve the chicken and serve with the juices, the baked cloves of garlic and some crusty bread. The soft, sweet flesh of the garlic cloves is simply eaten by squeezing it out of the skin. It has a delicious nutty flavour.

Serves 4


Hard neck garlics have larger, but fewer, cloves that peel more easily than soft neck cloves

Hard neck garlic 'Mammoth Purple' has large succulent cloves