Not only is garlic (Allium sativum) valuable in the kitchen but also as a companion plant it’s indispensable. Grown randomly around the garden it helps to deter aphids, red spider mite and caterpillars and also helps prevent black spot. In fact, the sulphur that is secreted from garlic is also supposed to improve the scent of roses.
Garlic should be planted by the end of March or early April as it needs the cool of winter for the initiation of cloves 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.
Garlic can be purchased from the local greengrocer but it’s best to find those that are grown locally since imported garlic is treated with methyl bromide which will inhibit its’ growth. In WA, locally grown garlic is usually identified but is easy to source from growing regions such as the Swan Valley. Buy a reasonable amount so that in your first year you can grow enough to eat as well as some to save for the next year.
Store the garlic bulbs in the refrigerator for a week or two to break dormancy then break them into cloves just before planting. Plant the cloves, pointy end up, about 20centimetres apart and about 4 centimetres deep. Keep the soil moist but reduce watering once the leaves start to die down. Fertilise every few weeks with a high nitrogen fertiliser to ensure large bulbs.
Garlic bulbs are ready to harvest once the leaves have withered but when there is still a bit of green in the stem – this may take between six and nine months. Plait the leaves of several bulbs together and hang in a dry, airy place until they are completely dry. Remember to save some for planting next autumn.