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Planting and Growing Garlic

Planting Garlic - Sowing Garlic Seeds, Seedlings and Cloves of Garlic in Containers and Outdoors

Planting and Growing Garlic - Sowing Garlic Seeds, Growing Garlic Seedlings and Cloves of Garlic in Containers and Outdoors

Allium sativum, known as garlic from William Woodville's Medical Botany of 1793.Allium sativum (longicuspis), commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion family Alliaceae. Its close relatives include the onion, the shallot, the leek and the chive. Garlic has been used throughout recorded history for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It has a characteristic pungent, spicy flavour that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking. A bulb of garlic, the most commonly used part of the plant, is divided into numerous fleshy sections called cloves. The cloves are used as seed, for consumption either raw or cooked, and for medicinal purposes. The leaves, stems - known as scape, flowers or bulbils on the head or spathe are also edible and most often consumed while immature and still tender.

The papery, protective layers of "skin" over various parts of the plant and the roots attached to the bulb are the only parts not considered palatable but can be ground to a powder and used in stews etc.

In Europe evidence of garlic culinary use has been found in caves inhabited more than 10,000 years ago.

Garlic is a half hardy perennial of onion family when grown in the UK grown in well-drained, well-dug fertile soil in full sun; from planting to harvest time is 10 months.

Growing garlic is well-suited to both the first time gardener and the more experienced - given the correct soil and planting time, common garlic is relatively maintenance free, yet some of the more unusual varieties provide a challenge.

Grow your garlic in full sun - garlic needs to grow quickly in order to produce good sized bulbs. Pick a site that is not prone to water-logging, this will ensure the bulbs do not rot over winter. Garlic can be planted in raised beds and they will grow very well.

The best time to plant garlic cloves is in mid October although spring planting is possible in warmer areas, but even then, better sized bulbs will result from an autumn sowing.

Dig the soil well to a full spade's depth before planting, incorporating as much organic matter as possible to aid drainage - garlic is quick to rot in water-logged soil conditions.

Garlic bulbs for planting need not be bought from a nursery, just choose the largest ones possible from your usual supplier, greengrocer or supermarket.

If planting in mid October, choose a hardier variety such as 'White Pearl', these need to bought from your local garden centre. Each bulb will consist of up to 20 individual cloves, and it is these cloves which are to be individually planted. Carefully remove the outer papery skin from the whole bulb but not from the individual cloves. Select the largest cloves for planting out, these are generally on the outside of the garlic bulb.

Plant each of the cloves in an upright position, pointed end uppermost at a depth of about 5cm or 2in below the soil surface. Space each clove from 10cm to 15cm or 4in to 6in apart. If you are planting rows, space each row between 30cm to 45cm or 12in to 18in apart.

Garlic grows well in rich, well fed soil and will appreciate a dressing of liquid fertilizer in late March and again in mid May, feed the soil with general purpose fertiliser such as Growmore. If you can do this once or twice a month, so much the better. Apart from this, their only other requirement is to keep them free of weeds and in dry conditions water them.

Garlic produce green foliage starting around April and is normally ready for harvesting when most of the foliage has turned yellowish-brown around mid August, we like to use the young, fine, chive-like leaves in salad dressings.

A common problem with harvesting garlic is knowing when it is ripe - harvest garlic too early and the bulbs will be small, harvest garlic too late and the bulb will have split making harvest difficult and the cloves of low quality and may have started their growing cycle for following year.

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Planting Garlic - Sowing Garlic Seeds, Seedlings and Cloves of Garlic in Containers and Outdoors

Planting Garlic - Sowing Garlic Seeds, Seedlings and Cloves of Garlic in Containers and Outdoors - Landscaping and Garden Design - By variety in grouping, positioning and plants of interest can be inspected more leisurely - The seasons and the weather will not admit more than casual walks in the garden. We have linked to the best video on YouTube we could find for planting garlic cloves - Even though this clip is from the USA the principles are exactly the same for the UK and Western Europe.

Harvesting garlic, from Tacuinum sanitatis, 15th century (Bibliothèque nationale) - Planting Garlic - Sowing Garlic Seeds, Seedlings and Cloves of Garlic in Containers and OutdoorsProblems growing garlic will occur mainly during wet summers when the leaves may have started to turn yellow indicating it was reaching maturity but if the garlic is left in wet ground at this stage, the bulbs will very quickly start to rot. For this reason a second method is needed to determine what stage they have reached. If the weather is wet in early August, pull up one bulb and see how many thin papery layers are around the bulb that you can peel off the bulb. If there are just three then harvest the bulbs, if there are four or more, wait two weeks or until most of the leaves have turned brown.

When harvesting garlic bulbs, gently ease them out of the ground with the assistance of using a trowel to loosen the surrounding soil, being careful not to bruise them with the tool because if you do the bulbs will not keep for long.

We think that the best garlic by far is fresh from the ground, known as 'wet' garlic, this garlic is sweeter, less pungent and probably more digestible than stored garlic. Make sure you use some garlic cloves as soon as possible. The majority though should be be gently washed off, dried and placed in a sunny, warm dry place in the garden or greenhouse to dry out. . Don't forget to bring indoors if rain threatens, these bulbs should keep in good condition for 3 months or more.

Why Grow from Bought Garlic Seed or Seedlings?

Quite simply the answer is quality. Growing garlic from randomly selected shop bought cloves is a bit of a lottery. You can of course increase your chances of success by using the best cloves from the best bulbs but even then there is always a chance of disappointing results.

Garlic grown from cloves requires no pollination, a bulb of garlic is effectively a clone of the head from which the seed garlic was taken.

This means that if the original garlic bulb was prone to weaknesses then the seed garlic will also be prone to these weaknesses and so on through the generations. Commercial seed garlic is selected to avoid weak garlic wherever possible.

Another problems are transferred diseases. As it is almost impossible to keep your home garden clear from all possible diseases, fungi, etc that can affect your crops. This means that, especially after a few years of cultivation, there is an increased chance are that your garlic has at least some minor infection or other. If you start growing garlic with an infected clove then the odds are stacked against you. Buying fresh, commercial seed garlic avoids this problem almost completely.

The best reason is in our opinion that by buying in garlic seeds it gives you the perfect opportunity to grow different varieties of garlic. Most garden shops will stock only one or two varieties.

We agree it is definitely possible to grow some great garlic at home without spending money on commercial garlic seeded. However if you have been disappointed with your results then perhaps a small investment in some garlic known to be healthy and without disease would be a good way to kick-start your gardening.

We plant garlic seeds in trays  but another way is to buy in garlic plants as seedlings from commercial nurseries.

Elephant garlic

Elephant garlic Allium ampeloprasum is a variety of leek that looks like garlic with very large cloves and a tender, mild, slightly sweet flavour. Some consumers enjoy elephant garlic because it can be eaten raw and used in cooking for a hint of garlic flavour without being overwhelming. Others turn their noses up at elephant garlic, claiming that it is too weak to be considered a true garlic. Elephant garlic has been bred to producer larger edible cloves underground, with less of a focus on the green stalks of the plant. When allowed to fully mature, elephant garlic can develop cloves which are as big as bulbs of regular garlic. Many grocers stock elephant garlic when it is in season, and it is also very easy to grow at home.

Wild Garlic or Ramsons - A number of different plant species of the genus Allium are known as Wild Garlic: Allium ursinum (also known as Ramsons), Allium vineale (also known as Crow Garlic), Allium drummondii or Drummond's onion, Allium canadense the Wild onion and Allium triquetrum or Three-cornered leek.A number of different plant species of the genus Allium are known as Wild Garlic:
Allium ursinum  is also known as Ramsons,
Allium vineale also known as Crow Garlic,
Allium drummondii or Drummond's onion,
Allium canadense the Wild onion and
Allium triquetrum or Three-cornered leek.

Grow Your Own Onions and Garlic

The aroma that you get from onions and garlic is that bit more enticing knowing that you've grown them yourself. Not only is it fun, but it's easy and cheap too.

When to plant Garlic: January - March
When to plant Onion: February - April

When to harvest Garlic: July - September
When to harvest Onions: August - October

Where to plant: Well-drained soil beds or large containers in a sunny position.

Tools for the job: 1. Liquid fertiliser - 2. Garlic and onion bulbs - 3. Compost - 4. Gardening gloves - 5. Garden fork - 6. Gravel

1. Firstly, you need to make sure your soil is well drained by adding 1/3 compost and gravel mix to 1/3 soil. This can be done using a garden fork, turning the three together, (fig.1).

2. Plant the cloves/bulbs roughly 5cm deep and 10cm apart in rows that are about 20cm apart. Make sure that they have plenty to drink. (fig.2).

3. Keep on top of weeds by pulling them out, using a trowel to loosen up any large weeds.

4. Water your plants once a week if the weather is dry, and occasionally feed with a general liquid fertiliser that's been mixed with water.

5. Your onions and garlic will be ready to pick when you notice the leaves turn yellow and die back. You can do this by gntly lifting with a garden fork. (fig.3).

6. Lay the bulbs with their leaves left on in a warm dry place so that they dry out. Onions with thick necks should be used first, as they don't keep well.

7. Make sure that leaves are completely dry before storing in a dark, cool and dry place. They're best used within 6 months.

Top tip: Weeding around your plants regularly is essential, as weeds can swamp and cause damagte to their growth.


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