Garlic .... Good for You and Good for your Garden
Growing and eating your own garlic is truly one of life's great joys. Home grown garlic tastes divine .... sweet and crisp, and is nothing like the garlic you buy off the shelf at the supermarket. Best of all, growing your own garlic is super easy, and takes up very little space in your garden.
You sometimes hear the mantra to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year and harvest it on the longest .... but really, it is best to plant according to the seasonal conditions each year of your region. I find in my own garden, that I plant garlic anytime between February and May, and harvest somewhere between December and the following February, depending on the season. Garlic is not a plant for those who feel the urge to pick and harvest within a few weeks of planting .....if it has a drawback, it's that it is a long lead time from planting to harvesting
Long lead times aside, garlic is very easy to grow. Quality, disease free and South Australian grown cloves are available now in the garden centre. Plant each clove, pointy end up, (with about 4-8 cm of soil covering the top of the clove) in a sunny, well drained position in the garden. Cloves can be spaced about 10-15cm apart. Water in well, and then, under normal conditions, you can leave your garlic bed to be, letting nature supply water during the winter months. Your only maintenance is to ensure your garlic bed is kept free of weeds, and to do a top up watering if the winter and spring are on the dry side.
As the leaves begin to brown off, reduce watering completely, and then gently lift the whole bulb, allowing it to dry for a few hours in the sunshine (this makes it easier to brush off any soil from the clove). Leave to dry in a cool, dark, well ventilated room .... discard any spoiled or diseased cloves, and if you are creative, this is the time to plait into a rope or tie into bunches.
Garlic, of course, is great for your own health, but also good for the health of your garden. Growing garlic near roses is said to deter aphids, and if you let a garlic or two go to seed, you will find it is an excellent plant for attracting bees and beneficial insects to the veggie patch.