Not only is garlic (Allium sativum) valuable in the kitchen but it is also one of the best companion plants for the garden. When planted around the garden it helps to deter aphids, red spider mite and caterpillars and also prevents black spot. In fact, the sulphur that is secreted from garlic is also supposed to improve the scent of roses which is why many gardeners plant them in and around their rose beds.
Garlic is not grown from seed like other vegetables but from the cloves that form a bulb. However, in WA, there are only two real options available when purchasing garlic for cooking or planting. There’s the locally grown garlic that is occasionally available at markets, local greengrocers and roadside stalls or there is the garlic that is imported from overseas or over east. The problem with any garlic that is grown outside of WA is that Quarantine WA requires it to be treated with a fairly nasty fumigant called methyl bromide before it is allowed into the state. Not only is this chemical not ideal to be eaten, although it is purported to be safe in small doses, but it also prevents the cloves from producing bulbs when planted in the garden.
So, the only option for growing garlic at home in WA is to find locally grown garlic although this isn’t always easy so when you find it, grab it. It is a bit pricey but the good thing is that after the first season, some bulbs can be saved to plant for the next season and the ones after that as well. Better Pets and Gardens usually has locally grown garlic available in late March to early April every year.
Garlic should be planted by the end of March or early April because it needs the cool of winter for the cloves to start sprouting followed by increasing hours of daylight in spring to produce the best bulbs. Garlic grows well in light, sandy soil that has been built up with compost or organic manure and prefers a pH of between 6 and 7.
Before planting, store the garlic bulbs in the refrigerator for a week or two to break dormancy then, just before planting, pull them apart into cloves. Plant the cloves, pointy end up, about 20centimetres apart and about 4centimetres deep. Keep the soil moist, the winter rain will do that, but once the leaves start to yellow and die down, reduce the amount of water that they get. Feed the soil every few weeks with a high nitrogen fertiliser to ensure large, plump bulbs.
Garlic bulbs are ready to harvest once the leaves have withered but whilst there is still a bit of green in the stem, this may take between six and nine months but it can differ depending on where they are planted. Harvest one bulb and check its size before pulling the others up. Young garlic is delicious and the top part of the leaves can be cut off and used as a herb allowing the bulb to still develop.
Once they have been pulled out of the ground, just brush off the dirt but definitely don’t wash them as they need to stay dry. Plait the leaves of several bulbs together and hang them in a dry, airy place until they are completely dry. Remember to save some for planting next autumn.
Garlic can easily be planted in large, deep containers full of premium potting mix and placed out in the sun. In fact, garlic grown like this can sometimes be even more successful than in the garden.
Try this, it’s delicious! Simply take a whole bulb and cut the top off to expose just a little of each clove. Put the bulb in a baking tray or next to the meat in a roasting pan and drizzle olive oil over the top. Bake for around 40 minutes depending on the size of the bulb. Place a few cloves on the plate with the meat and allow guests to squeeze the soft garlic onto their meat or vegetables.
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