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Gayton-based gardener Jamie Marsh discusses growing garlic

In his weekly Jamie’s Little Allotment column, gardener Jamie Marsh talks about growing garlic...

If you saw my column last week, you might remember I got a little carried away talking to you about pumpkins and autumn-sown onion sets, which I really enjoy growing and cooking with.

Another amazing vegetable I love to grow, and which is also part of the onion (allium) family, is garlic.

Jamie's hard-neck harvest from last year
Jamie's hard-neck harvest from last year

With onions, as I said last week, you can sow sets in the autumn and seed in the spring, but it’s a bit different with garlic.

Typically if you want to grow garlic, you grow it from a single clove. Yes, that little clove you crush up and add to your spaghetti bolognese is what you plant to grow more garlic,

There are several types of garlic. The main ones I like to grow are:

- Wild garlic, which is the lovely green pointed leaves with the white flowers we often see in the woods or hedgerows;

- Elephant garlic, which, as the name suggests, is quite a bit bigger than the standard size;

- Hard-neck garlic, where the cloves are generally all a similar size and produce a flowering stem, called a scape. These should be removed to encourage a larger bulb to form. Also, the scapes are delicious – a nice mild garlic taste, perfect to toss into a stir fry. As the name implies, the bulb has a long hard neck;

- Soft-neck garlic, which is very similar to the hard-neck visually but with the obvious long soft neck to it, which is perfect to do the very French garlic plat.

I get people asking me all the time ‘can I plant the garlic I buy from the supermarket?’ The answer is yes, and most of the time it will grow a great bulb of garlic, but there will be a much bigger risk of virus infection, so always best to buy proper planting stock which should be virus-free.

So once you’ve decided which garlic you would like to grow, prepare your bed by making sure it’s weed-free, then mix in some compost. Like most vegetables, garlic likes a nice nutrient-rich rich well-draining soil.

Split the cloves from the bulb and clear off any loose papery skin, make a hole two to three inches deep and about six inches apart (eight inches for elephant), plant the individual cloves pointy side up and then just cover them over.

Garlic needs regular watering and a few applications of good seaweed fertiliser throughout its growing season.

It also requires a good cold period to split the newly formed bulb into its recognisable separate cloves.

I will be planting all my garlic over the next few weeks, so it has time to get some good roots down to keep it strong and ready for the winter,

Garlic needs to be in the ground for quite a long time to get those big juicy cloves,

The lovely bulging bulbs of garlic should be ready to harvest in late summer, the green spring onion-like leaves will all die back and fold over onto the soil.

Once you’ve pulled the bulbs, lay them out in a warm sunny position. When the soil has dried, brush it off, and then you can store them in a cool dry shed or pantry.

Garlic is a high-cost vegetable and stores fantastically, so definitely one of the greats to grow on the plot.

Next week I’ll share with you what else I’m sowing to keep the plot going over the winter

If you’ve got any questions, email me at Jamieslittleallotment@gmail.co.uk

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