Growing your own full flavoured, tasty garlic at home is very easy and relatively problem free.
Garlic should be grown in a sunny position, as it needs plenty of warmth to ripen the bulbs and to produce good growth and large, well-flavoured cloves.
Garlic does not like to grow in overly wet or waterlogged soil, so prepare the soil well before planting, adding lots of well-rotted organic matter, and then add a sprinkling of a granular general plant feed.
When digging over the soil, remove any perennial weeds, to prevent them growing and competing with the garlic, which doesn't produce large leaves.
Garlic is grown from cloves, which can either be planted in autumn (October/November) or in February/March. However, always choose a variety that is suited to either of these planting times. Garlic planted in autumn usually produces better and bigger yields.
It's not worth buying cloves from the supermarket and planting these – they have probably come from the Mediterranean and the variety isn't suited to the UK climate and won't grow well. Instead buy a UK-suitable variety from a garden centre or mail-order supplier.
Begin by splitting the bulb carefully into individual clove segments, and then gently push each clove into the soil, so the tip is just below the soil surface, with the clove facing end up with the flatter basal plate facing down. Allow a gap of 15cm (6in) between each clove and 20-30cm (8-12in) between each row of cloves.
Birds may be a problem lifting the newly planted cloves, so carefully remove any loose skin at the top of the clove before planting.
If you live in a region with very low temperatures, or very heavy clay soil, then you can plant in module trays during the winter. Place the tray in a cold, sheltered indoor area and move outside in the spring when the cloves have sprouted and started to grow.
After planting, garlic needs 1 to 2 months of cool temperatures of 0-10C (32-50F) to encourage growth of strong bulbs. Planting in late autumn or early spring ensures this necessary chilling time.
Garlic is a low-maintenance vegetable to grow.
Check the cloves regularly for a few weeks after planting to make sure they haven’t been disturbed by birds; cover with netting if birds are a problem.
You only need to water during consistent dry spells, approximately every 14 days. Stop watering when the foliage starts to turn yellow, which indicates the bulb is maturing. Watering when the bulbs are developing can encourage rots and will reduce the storage ability.
Keep weeds under control throughout the growing period as they can seriously affect the crops growth.
Garlic planted in autumn will be ready for harvest in June and July, that planted in spring will be ready slight later.
A tell-tale sign is to wait until you see the foliage fading to yellow. Loosen the garlic bulbs from the soil with a fork. Be careful and make sure that you do not accidently cut into the garlic bulbs themselves as this may damage them and reduce their storage time. Additionally, do not leave your garlic bulbs in the soil for a long period of time after the foliage has turned yellow and dropped, as the garlic bulbs may potentially sprout again and go on to rot in storage.
The final stage of growing your own garlic is to lay the bulbs out in a warm space to dry before you store them. You can simply wipe off the soil dried onto the garlic bulbs and you have fresh garlic to store at home for up to 3 months.