Garlic likes a sunny well drained position which can be tricky when growing on a clay soil. For this reason we prefer to start our garlic off in pots in our cold greenhouse. In this way we can avoid having the cloves sit over winter in soggy and sometimes waterlogged soil. Garlic needs a couple of weeks below 4°C to trigger the bulbs into growing cloves and so do not need to be grown in heated condition. In a cold greenhouse this isn’t a problem.
We planted our garlic in pots in a cold greenhouse at the end of October.
Garlic needs a period of cold so the cloves will form but we start the cloves in a cold greenhouse so that they are given some protection against the wet. Our clay soil gets very wet during winter and the cloves would be in danger of rotting
Each clove was then pushed into a pot of compost leaving just the tip of the clove showing. We grew Solent Wight and Purple Wight.
By the end of February the cloves had sprouted and were growing well.
At the beginning of March they were moved into the cold frame.
It was planted out in April into ground sprinkled with blood, fish and bone fertiliser.
It was harvested in mid July. Garlic is ready to lift when the foliage turns yellow and begins to dry. Once lifted the bulbs were spread out to dry. If the weather is very wet then this will need to be done under cover.
Once the bulbs were dry they were plaited and hung up to store.
Growing garlic in tubs
I’ve also grown garlic in tubs – the cloves were planted in a long trough filled with multipurpose compost in September.
By October the cloves had produced shoots and by November the garlic was growing well.
The tubs of garlic were moved outside in February. The bulbs were harvested in June.
In May I planted some lettuces in the tub alongside the garlic.
I used this method for a couple of years and in the first year it worked well and the heads were equal to those planted outside but last year (2009/10) the heads produced in the tubs were far smaller than those grown outside. Garlic needs plenty of moisture while the foliage is actively growing in April and May, and during this period in 2010 we had little rain so the cloves planted in the tubs could have dried out quickly and not had enough moisture as the heads were developing.
If garlic bulbs develop white rot it is important that you avoid using the same ground for any of the onion family for at least six years. White rot spores can apparently survive in the ground for 20 years! If white rot is a problem then growing garlic in a container may be your best option – remember to keep the container moist during April and May.
Once you have grown garlic you could just grow from your own cloves every year but it may be advisable to buy new stock every so often to prevent the build up of a virus strain. In any case only healthy cloves should be planted.