How to: Grow Garlic with Food2Soil

Growing garlic is a simple and fun crop to grow at home with the whole family. Here in the South East of Australia, the best months to plant out garlic cloves are March and April, when the maximum temperate is consistently below a max of 30℃.

Some traditionalists say to plant garlic cloves on the Winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) and harvest them on the Summer solstice (the longest day of the year). When starting out, it’s best to ask an experienced local gardener, as they’ll likely know the best time to plant for your area.

You don’t need lots of space to grow garlic – you can grow in pots, small raised beds or a row in the veggie patch. Know that the space you have is enough to grow at least some garlic.

Tips for preparing great garlic-growing soil:

  • Select a sunny position that will get enough light, even on the shortest day of the year.
  • Turn in green manures, aged animal manure or compost several weeks before planting to encourage loose, well-drained, nutrient-packed soil.

          Need help with your home compost? Try Food2Soil compostBOOST.

Homemade compost with Food2Soil compostBOOST added is Annabel’s favourite soil amendment

Pre-soaking Garlic with Food2Soil

Local garlic farmer Dennis recommends pre-soaking garlic cloves in a 50:50 dilute of Food2Soil to water, for up to an hour before planting.

In his many years as a garlic grower, Dennis advises this high dilution rate will help out-compete any fungal disease that arises in garlic crops and give germination a head start.

Garlic pre-soaking in 50:50 (water to F2S) dilution

Time to get planting

Planting garlic is easy – and especially fun for the kids.

    • Separate bulbs into individual cloves, prioritising the biggest (keep the smaller cloves aside for cooking). Important: Never peel garlic before planting, the skins serve as a protective barrier against pathogens and support root formation.
    • Take each clove, with the pointy end facing up, and plant them around 3-4 cm deep and 10-15 cm apart in your prepared soil, giving each clove plenty of space to grow into a bulb.
    • Generously water the cloves in with a 1:100 dilute of Food2Soil with Seaweed.

      Never peel garlic cloves before planting, the skins serve as a protective barrier in the soil.

      Give your garlic love

      • After planting and watering, apply a light mulch to help retain moisture.
      • For the first 2 months, apply a 1:100 dilute of Food2Soil every 2 weeks to encourage nutrient uptake and plant growth before dormancy.
      • Keep well watered when the weather is dry, especially if growing in pots.
      • Weed regularly.
      • Tip – Hardneck garlic varieties grow flower stems called scapes that should be removed to increase the size of your bulb (otherwise the plant will put its energy into producing a flower rather than the bulb). The removed scapes are edible and add a delicious soft garlic flavour to salads and stir-fries.
      Young hard-neck garlic variety (Monaro Purple) in a raised bed made from recycled materials in Annabel’s garden, NSW
      Progress a few months later!


      Harvesting the abundance

      Knowing when to harvest garlic can be one of the biggest challenges new growers face.

      Softneck garlic varieties are ready for harvest when the leaves have started to turn brown and/or the stems soften and fall over. This will happen sometime in Spring. You don’t want to leave them until all the leaves die back as the bulbs will have started to split by this time.

      If you’re growing a hard-neck garlic variety, the stems will not soften or fall so just look out for browning leaves between September- December.

      1. Choose a dry day to harvest.
      2. Take a trowel or small fork and carefully lift out each plant.
      3. Shake off the soil, and be careful not to bang or bruise the bulbs, and don’t wash or get the bulbs wet.
      4. Keep the leaves and roots on the plant for curing.

      Labour of love, Purple garlic from Annabel’s garden

      Cure with Care

      To cure, lay or hang your harvested garlic plants in a dry, shady spot where they will get some airflow (like a garden shed) and leave them to cure for 3-8 weeks, it’s important to not leave in a space that gets super hot or is too sunny. When garlic is left for too long in a sunny spot it goes green and is not great for cooking, you can still try planting this garlic but not all of it will be successful.

      Once the stems and roots have dried, you can either cut them off or plait them to store in bundles. Try a garlic braid with the family (google search for a demo video) for a beautiful finish to your 6 months of love and labour!

      Now your garlic is ready for storing, eating and replanting if you want to save some for another crop next year, just make sure to plant them in a new different garden bed or pot.

      Hot tip- If you haven’t made your way through all your garlic stores and it is starting to shoot but you don’t want to plant it all, make it into a garlic puree!

      Recipe: Garlic Puree

      Peel garlic and place in a deep pot, cover with olive oil, slowly bring up to heat and deep fry the whole cloves till there is some colour and they have lost some moisture, add salt as this will help preserve it, say about 1 teaspoon for 500 grams of garlic.

      Once the garlic has reached heat and there is some colour, turn off the heat and let it cool, it will continue to cook some more from the residual heat!

      Use a hand blender to blitz and… voila! The most beautiful long lasting garlic puree you have ever tasted for cooking or making garlic toasties! With no nasty preservatives! Store in glass jars in the fridge or freezer. If freezing, leave a 2 cm headspace for expansion.

      Another hot tip! Be careful to always use a fresh utensil when digging into the garlic paste as this stops cross-contamination- it really makes a huge difference as to how it long lasts.