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Grow your own garlic

Known for its many medicinal properties as well as its pungent smell, garlic is said to be traditionally planted on the shortest day (21 June) and harvested on the longest (21 December).

Garlic comes as two botanical types – softnecks and hardnecks.

  • Softnecks are the most common variety in our food stores.
  • Hardnecks are grown from a year -old bulb (a 'set') which then takes a further year's growth before being ready to pick.

This onion variety does not like severe frosts, so unless you live in the northern end of New Zealand, garlic is best planted in pots of seed-raising mix in sheltered positions and then transplanted into the vege plot in spring.

  • From a garlic bulb, peel off the fattest, outermost cloves and gently press them into the potted mix so the clove is just covered, with the pointed end facing upwards.
  • Keep the soil moist and don't worry about temperature as garlic prefers cooler soil during early growing. A north-facing windowsill, or sheltered and sunny part of your deck or garden are ideal.
  • Garlic grows slowly over winter and needs little attention apart from light watering.
  • Come spring, plant out the garlic in compost-enriched soil leaving 15cm between each one. Apply a light sprinkling of lime. Keep the bed as weed-free as possible and ensure the soil remains moist. Mulching with wood chips will help retain soil moisture and keep weeds at bay.
  • By mid-December, the flowering stalk will not only have appeared but will start to yellow. Do not water at this stage and wait for the main stem to wilt. Then, lift up the plant to reveal the garlic bulb beneath and leave on top of the soil in the sun for a few days to harden off.
  • Trim off the roots but keep the dried leaves on the garlic bulb. You can then plait them and hang in a cool, dark storeroom where they will keep for up to four months.
First published: Jun 2010



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