Finally here in South East Qld we have started to receive a bit of cooler weather, which means if you’ve been holding off planting your winter vegetables you have a limited amount of time to get them planted before it’s too late and that includes garlic.
Garlic takes around 5-6 months to mature, so if planting now it will mean your harvest time will be Oct/Nov. You can imagine what would happen to garlic maturing during our hottest summer months – ROTTING, that’s what.
Garlic Culture: Timing, timing, timing!
In a warm climate there are few special tips to consider when aiming to reap a successful harvest of this edible bulb. Most people in warmer climates grow garlic as just an annual crop and that the best time of year to grow garlic in the subtropics and tropics is throughout the cooler months of late autumn and winter. From late April to July is ideally the best time to put your cloves in.
Planting of garlic at other times of the year in warm to hot climates will result in poor quality bulbs, cloves and crop size due the combination of humidity, high rainfall and high temperatures which, will encourage the possible onset of fungal root rots.
It is recommended when preparing the soil before planting to add dolomite or garden lime, this is to ensure that the soil is slightly alkaline as most plants in this family prefer a sweet soil. Your soil pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5 and have reasonable levels of organic matter in the forms of well-rotted manures and compost.
Cloves should be planted point up just below the surface of the soil about 5cm deep.
Be patient as garlic is not the quickest of edible crops, six months is the average time it takes for the plant to produce harvestable bulbs. Once the plants have grown and flowered, the strappy blue green foliage will start to die down, this now an indicator that the bulbs are nearly ready to be harvested. It is important to stop watering your garlic plants as soon as the yellowing of the foliage occurs. Allow plants to dry out at least a week before harvesting to ensure that there are no problems with post-harvest rots.
This is an important part of the equation, choosing climatically suited varieties will determine your success. Some of the better-suited varieties for subtropical conditions that have been developed and researched by the Department of Primary Industries in Queensland are, Glenlarge and Southern Glen.
These two varieties have very large bulbs with a white to slightly purple tinge to the outside casing. Other varieties successfully grown are some of the smaller bulb forming varieties of Mexican and Asian types, they are generally are a darker purple in colour.
A Garlic Unlike the Others!
Elephant Garlic performs well in subtropical climates and its gigantic cloves are fantastic as a vegetable thinly sliced, eaten fresh or cooked as well as being used as a spice as you would true garlic.
Elephant Garlic is not really true garlic but more closely related to the leek. The bulbs are huge and have a more subtle garlic flavour compared with other true garlic varieties. Elephant garlic grows from temperate to tropical climate zones, which makes it an ideal choice for those warm to hot humid climate zones that struggle to grow garlic successfully.
The flower stalk can reach some 2m high. On the end of the stalk is an ornamental ball like lavender to purple flower head, which will appear in spring or early summer. Elephant garlic bulbs should be harvested as the flower head dries at around three months or so.
In the medicine cabinet garlic is most commonly known for its antiseptic qualities and its ability to help ward off colds, but there is scientific research pointing towards the possibility of garlic having far more medicinal qualities than previously thought, everything from asthma to controlling blood sugar levels are being investigated. Containing vitamins, A, B1, B2 and C, garlic is a powerhouse of minerals. Other trace elements of importance that garlic posses are selenium, germanium and sulphur compounds such as allicin, which is what gives garlic its garlic flavour!
* Quick facts. How does your garlic grow?
1) Well-drained friable, organic rich soil.
2) Full sun
3) Regular watering during bulb formation
4) pH of 7.5 slightly alkaline pref.
So what are you waiting for? Go get your garlic in for a home grown organic harvest at the end of spring.