The culture of garlic, Allium Sativum.
Garlic is a fairly simple crop to grow. Planting is easy, and garlic itself requires very little maintenance. In soil that retains a minimum of water and is alive, you won’t have to do much: plant in the fall or spring, and harvest in the summer. The heads keep well,and are easy to store. It is therefore very easy to become self-sufficient in garlic.
Nevertheless, it happens that the cultivation of garlic fails on some soils, for various reasons. So, I decided to write you a complete article about garlic growing.
Enjoy your reading!
About Allium Sativum
Garlic, Allium Sativum, has been consumed for thousands of years. Already 3000 years before our era, it was used by the Chinese to season their dishes. The Egyptians gave it to their slaves and it is thanks to the Romans that garlic spread throughout Europe.
In France, garlic was cultivated from the Middle Ages.
Although garlic has always been criticized for its strong smell, it has been defended over the centuries for its health benefits. Called “stinking rose” by the Greeks, it has many medicinal properties! Stimulating blood circulation, garlic is also a good natural antibiotic. The action of garlic on the cardiovascular system is now highlighted by many studies.
The different varieties of garlic
Before growing garlic, you will have to choose a variety! There are 3 types of garlic: white garlic, pink garlic and purple garlic.
- White garlic: Messidor, Messidrome, Thermidrome, Therador, Vigor, Supreme, Sabadrome, Coral, Jolimont. The Corail variety is the most rustic of all.
- Pink garlic: Goulurose, Iberose, Enderose, Jardirose. Pink garlic has a deep dormancy: it takes longer to wake up in spring. For this reason, it is harvested late.
- Purple garlic: Germidour, Paradour, Primor, Sprint. The Germidour variety has a tendency to droop (the leaves bend and break in the wind), so it is best to change varieties if you have already tried it at home and encountered the problem.
Our tip for garlic: buy heads in an organic store, regardless of variety, and plant them! This method is much less expensive than in a garden center. The first year, you can save bulbs to replant the following year. We generally use only the bulbs around the head: the biggest ones. Those in the center can be replanted for the cultivation of carnations for example.
There is also perennial garlic! But the harvest is much smaller.
Garlic cultivation calendar
Generally, white and purple garlic are planted in the fall, and pink garlic in the spring.
You must be careful not to plant garlic too early or too late in the fall. The advantage of planting it in September for garlic is that you will have axillary starts (the bulb cloves start to grow). If your soil is waterlogged in winter, plant garlic in February/March and not in the fall to avoid root rot.
The climate of garlic
Garlic is very hardy, it can withstand temperatures as low as -18 degrees. Dormancy is lifted at cool temperatures: below 7 degrees for 1 to 2 weeks on average (depending on the variety). The zero of vegetation is located at 0 degrees, below which the garlic does not grow anymore.
Thus, garlic can be grown in most climates.
On which soil to grow garlic?
Garlic can be grown in any kind of soil. However, its root system is fragile and it does not tolerate soils with too much water in winter. Too much water stagnation can lead to root rot, which is why we recommend
- to plant your garlic from the end of February until March if you have this type of soil.
- and/or to plant your garlic on small mounds of earth that you will have shaped.
If your soil hardens when the weather is hot (often clayey, loamy soils), it will be absolutely necessary to mulch your garlic, in order to preserve a flexible ground. Otherwise, the bulb’s growth can be hindered.
Garlic: favorable or unfavorable precedent, rotation.
If you have diseases, garlic and alliums (onion, leek, shallot, spring onion…) should not be grown on the same plot of land before 4/5 years. If you do not have any disease and if you feed your plants, you will be able to grow them.
Garlic: favorable or unfavorable precedent, rotation.
If you have diseases, garlic and alliums (onion, leek, shallot, spring onion…) should not come back on the same plot before 4/5 years. If you have no diseases and if you feed your soil properly, you don’t have to rotate your crops perfectly.
Garlic can be grown after a legume or potato crop. It can be a good precedent for a leafy vegetable crop (winter lettuce, lamb’s lettuce, etc.).
Garlic planting tutorial
Planting garlic is done by hand. Plant the bulblets at a minimum of 4/5cm to prevent them from falling out of the ground as they grow. The tip can be placed preferably upwards, to favour the emergence. The optimal spacing on the row is about 15 cm according to the size of the bulbs and the fertility of your soil. If you are prone to fungal diseases such as rust, space your bulbs at least 20 cm apart to promote air circulation.
The distance between rows is about 20cm or even 30cm if your soil is not very fertile.
The different situations:
-If your soil is mulched, start by raking the mulch to have a bare and clean soil. Weed out any perennials that are still present.
(By the way, (re)discover the article on mulch production! Reserved for large gardens…)
Use a claw if the soil is compact. If the soil is loose, avoid the claw which will make weed seeds germinate. It is preferable to never touch the soil, that said the great cause of failure in vegetable crops is often the deficiencies induced by a too compacted soil. Try to never walk on your growing areas and have plants constantly growing on them.
-If your soil is weedy, you will have to start by weeding. The easiest, but not the least tiring, will be to hoe it all out, deep, to get all the perennial roots. Once the area is cleaned, the bulbs can be planted easily. It is possible to crumble a little compost on the surface (a small handful for 2/3bulbs) if your soil is not fertile. Then cover with a 10cm mulch (hay, straw, shredded plants…). This will allow you to weed very little and especially very easily.
-If the previous crop is a green manure, start by crushing the green manure, if possible 2 weeks before planting.
In any case, once your soil is ready to receive the bulbs, all you have to do is plant them.
The garlic will come out progressively over the days, count on a good week to see its nose, but do not worry if it takes longer.
How to grow garlic successfully
Garlic is an undemanding crop overall. Vegetative development occurs in early spring when temperatures are still fairly cool. As temperatures are cool, the mineralization of organic nitrogen in the soil is low, so if you want to increase your yield, you will have to fertilize with products containing mineral nitrogen ready to be consumed by the garlic: urine, poultry droppings. To make a manure tea: we mix manure (200 grams per 10L watering can for 4m² for example), and we water our garlic with this mixture. This should be done early in the season, for example at the beginning of February. Late applications of nitrogen are counterproductive: too much nitrogen during bulbification can cause problems with garlic storage.
If you want to fertilize your garlic during bulbification (if your soil is not very fertile, for example), use comfrey or ash (one handful per 2 linear meters). Start these applications at the end of March.
Garlic can be quite demanding of water. It does not tolerate water stress, so you will have to mulch it well and water regularly (if your soil does not retain water) to avoid this problem.
If you don’t irrigate your garden much, focus on the essentials: garlic needs water at the time of emergence, and during the development of the bulb: generally from the 8-leaf stage to the 12-leaf stage. Watering at planting time is also welcome if the soil is dry, but this is rarely the case at this time. To make it simple: if the year is not particularly dry, water at planting, and a few times in May/June.
Remember to water in the morning, so that the leaves are dry in the evening.
Towards the end of the crop, 2 to 3 weeks before harvesting, do not water your garlic to promote its preservation.
For your garlic, fresh bulbs are harvested in March/April/May. For dry garlic, harvesting should take place shortly after the lower leaves have begun to wilt: when about two-thirds of the foliage is dry.
If you want a measured harvest before the end of the season, you can harvest the bulbs in March/April/May.
For your carnation, the bulbs are harvested fresh, in March/April/May. For dry garlic, harvesting should take place shortly after the lower leaves have begun to wilt: when about two-thirds of the foliage is dry.
If you want an accurately measured harvest, it is possible to make the ratio of bulb weight to leaf weight. Take a sample, say 20 plants, and average the weight. The ratio should be 1.6, 1.7. The bulbs must therefore be 1.6 times heavier than the total weight of the leaves. The formula is: total weight of bulbs / (divided by) total weight of leaves.
Interested in this article? Come and discover our digital magazine by downloading a free extract!
To preserve garlic once harvested, it should be dried for 1 month in a ventilated area away from humidity. Garlic is ready when it has lost 20 to 30% of its weight. You can tell by weighing a sample at the beginning and testing it several times. For example, you take 10 heads of garlic and weigh them. Assuming the ten heads are 1kg, the garlic will be ready when it reaches about 750grams. Multiply the fresh weight by 0.75 to get the correct dry weight.
The heads should be stored at a temperature above 15 degrees, ideally 18/20 degrees. Choose a dry and ventilated environment: the kitchen is perfect if it is not too hot in winter! If this is the case, choose the cellar, the garage, or an unheated room.
Garlic diseases and possible preventive measures
The main diseases of garlic are :
-white rot (Sclerotium cepivorum)
-the Botrytis fungus
-the onion fly
These diseases are also found in onions and leeks.
However, garlic has specific pests and diseases:
In general, garlic is not very attacked and the culture is quite simple to succeed. Nevertheless, if you are prone to diseases, there are some general tips to follow to avoid them.
First, as is often the case, crop rotation has a lot to do with recurrent diseases. Garlic and alliaceous crops in general (garlic, leek, onion, shallot, spring onion…) should, if possible, come back at least every 4/5 years on the same plot. Nevertheless, in practice, on a healthy soil, it is possible to do without.
When handling the pods, avoid shocks on them. Also, avoid injuries when removing the pods.
When planting, close the ground well once the bulb is planted. Make sure that your plantation comes out of the ground quickly: for a plantation in October, the soil is favourable and you will only have to water your garlic properly the first weeks if your soil is dry.
Space your cloves further apart, as we advised earlier. This will reduce fungus attacks.
Finally, avoid late watering before harvest. In any case, it is advisable to stop watering garlic a few weeks before harvesting, so that it keeps better. Also avoid watering in the evening.
Garlic has antibiotic, insecticide and nematicide properties, and can be used to fight cryptogamic diseases of certain fruit trees. Thus, it is very useful in the vegetable garden and in the orchard and can be grown with other vegetables.
-You can associate your garlic with most vegetables in the garden! Since it doesn’t take up much space and has small fertility needs, it will make a good companion, as long as you give it enough room to express itself.
-The association of garlic with all fruit trees is recommended, do not hesitate to put some at the foot of your fruit trees. You can harvest garlic and leave some bulbs in the ground: it’s a good way to grow garlic! Their sulphurous compounds would help the trees to fight against certain diseases.
A space-saving combination that works wonderfully is that of garlic with lamb’s lettuce.
This combination requires almost no labor if you have let your lamb’s lettuce go to seed in previous years. In fact, all you have to do is to go and get some plants that have come up spontaneously and transplant them at the same time as you plant the garlic.
This saves time by doing two tasks in one.
Plant the garlic 15 cm apart in all directions, and the same for the lamb’s lettuce. You will have about one plant every 7.5 cm in staggered rows. This allows you to have two harvests instead of one on the same bed, which is interesting because the garlic crop takes up a lot of the garden’s soil.
Practical for small vegetable gardens!
Practical for small vegetable gardens!
Lamb’s lettuce occupies and covers the soil during the winter, and as soon as it is finished harvesting, you can either wait a little and harvest all the garlic in fresh bulb, then install winter vegetables that can be sown early like parsnips (or summer vegetables), or simply add a little mulch and wait for the harvest of the garlic at a more advanced stage.
You can then sow vegetables such as winter radishes, Chinese cabbage, etc., after the harvest.
Have a good harvest!