Common name: Garlic
Specific epithet: sativum
Description: Garlic is a bulbous herb 60cm in height, with four to twelve leaves attached to an underground stem. Flowers are contained in an inflorescence called a spike and are greenish-white. Amazingly seeds are not usually produced in the wild but have been produced in the lab (www.kew.org, 2018).
Origin and brief history: Central Asia is considered to be the original area where garlic grew and it's said by some to have been bought to China (which is where Westerners discovered it) by the Mongolians from the Asian steppes (Salvestrin, 1984). Other historians claim that garlic did in fact originate from China itself (Petrovska and Cekovska, 2010). Ancient Egyptians used it in their cooking and fed it to their slaves and ancient Egyptian crypts contain the oldest visible inscriptions of garlic (Petrovska and Cekovska, 2010). It is mentioned in England before 1958 by Peter Martyr in his writings about the new world where he says it was used in Mexico (Salvestrin, 1984).
Growing your own garlic;Locally grown organic garlic is superior in flavour to the commonly imported Chinese garlic you find in supermarkets however it is also significantly more expensive. As luck would have it though, garlic is dead easy to grow in Melbourne and most parts of Victoria so why not give it a go yourself?
How to source bulbsBasically you can use any garlic bulbs you would find at a farmers market or you can buy bulbs online through various suppliers. You want to plant out a variety that has a flavour you appreciate and source bulbs that are large as I'm guessing they probably have more energy reserves that can be utilised to produce a larger end product. This year I bought Italian purple garlic from Hopkins River Herbs which I found through farmhouse direct https://www.farmhousedirect.com.au/hopkinsriverherbs. The garlic I received tastes fantastic and was large in size so it's just what I wanted.
SoilWell drained clay loam with a PH between 6.5 and 7 is said to be the best soil in Victoria from growing garlic (Towers, 1984). However I know lots of people that grow it in various soils. So long as it's not in extreme clay or sand and the PH is reasonable I think it will be ok.
TimingPeople have all sorts of crazy ideas in regard to timing. I've heard lots of different stories such as 'plant out on mothers day and harvest on fathers day'. Another tip lots of people have given me personally is to plant out in autumn before the weather starts to cool down. The idea behind this I'm told is that the change in weather somehow assists germination and the early growth stages. Whether this is true I don't know but all the crops I've planted have turned out well using this timing.
IrrigationMy basic irrigation strategy for garlic is simply to give it some water when there hasn't been much rain. Pretty simple but it seems to work fine.
Planting methodAfter you've sourced your bulbs you want to break them into cloves but you don't want to plant out the cloves that in the centre of the bulb. Smaller cloves have less vigour and are better eaten than planted out. Place them in the soil tip up and base down and try to cover them with around 5cm of soil (although this is a rough measurement sometimes I've done it with less or a little more). I then water them in out of habit and that's the whole process.
HarvestingI will cover harvesting in a later post in detail.
That's what 1kg of Italian purple garlic from Hopkins River Herbs looks like
Over exposed pic of the separation in progress
You want to avoid those smaller cloves in the centre. They wont grow into decent bulbs
All ready to go
Make sure you plant them pointy end up
Petrovska, B. B. and Cekovska, S. (2010) ‘Extracts from the history and medical properties of garlic.’, Pharmacognosy reviews. Wolters Kluwer -- Medknow Publications, 4(7), pp. 106–10. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.65321.
Salvestrin, J. (1984) ‘Review of garlic overseas and in Australia’, in Sutherland, J. (ed.) Growing Garlic The Unforgiving Crop. 1st edn. Melbourne: Department of Agriculture NSW, p. 1.
Towers, B. (1984) ‘Growing garlic in southern Victoria’, in Growing Garlic The Unforgiving Crop. Department of Agriculture NSW, p. 83.
www.kew.org (2018) Allium sativum L. | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science, Kewscience. Available at: http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:528796-1 (Accessed: 8 May 2018).