In project 6 of the GIY Nation getting families growing project, this month we take a look at growing your own garlic:
- Autumn variety of Garlic Bulbs – Recommend Early Purple white or Iberian White (garden centres or online)
- A container for each member of the family to plant in, at least 15cm deep (garden centres, hardware stores)
- John Innes No 2 Compost (garden centres)
- Tap Water
- Liquid Seaweed Fertiliser
Note: You can carry out this project very cheaply using different containers, multipurpose compost mixed with homemade compost, broken crockery or stones collected from the garden & bargain seeds or of course sowing directly into garden soil. If you do buy all the materials however, you will have spare compost/gravel/seeds for further projects. It’s important that compost used is fresh and not left over from last year as your seedlings may pick up a disease known as ‘damping off’. Fresh compost will have been sterilised.
How to do it?
- Ensure your container has been scrubbed clean. Most containers come with ready-made drainage holes in the bottom (if using a plastic container you may need to push them out) but if there aren’t any you will have to make a few holes, approx. 0.5mm wide (use an electric drill, scissors, heated metal skewer, but adult supervision required).
Tip the washed stones into the container so that they cover the holes without blocking them. This will allow water to drain out.
- Fill the containers with the compost until it’s approximately 5cm from the rim. Firm the soil gently with the back of your hand to level it (making sure it’s not packed down too tightly).
Taking a bulb of garlic (see Figure 1), carefully break it open exposing the individual cloves (Figure 2). Each of these will grow to produce a whole new bulb with hopefully up to ten new cloves.
Remove any particularly loose papery skin from the cloves, but leave the rest on. Plant into the middle of your container with the tip upright and the flat bottom down, 2cm deep. Cover with soil and water until it drips out of the drainage holes.
- If you have any remaining bulbs you could plant them directly into your garden (garlic likes a free draining soil in full sun) 20 – 25cm apart, into more containers or eat them!
Place your container in a sunny part of the garden and water whenever it shows signs of looking dry (pop your finger in the pot to check).
Make a note in your diary or calendar to start feeding your plants the following June, every two weeks.
Diluted liquid seaweed fertiliser is ideal for container grown vegetables as it can be watered onto the soil (follow the manufacturer’s instructions). Avoid using strong, concentrated feeds.
Your garlic should be ready to harvest once the leaves turn a yellowy-brown around August to September time. Before they start to wilt, ease the bulb out with a small fork or trowel, lifting the whole plant out of the soil.
You can start to eat the bulbs straight away, but if you want to store them, dry them in the sun or an airy cool place until they have fully dried out, leaving the foliage on them.
Things handy to know
There are autumn and spring varieties of garlic so ensure you plant the correct bulbs for the correct season, though you will be harvesting them at around the same time.
Garlic usually needs a cold spell of temperatures below 10oC to form a decent sized bulb, which is why we plant it late September to April. If it doesn’t get that cold snap, it’s unlikely to form a decent bulb.
And for the Kids
Garlic has a pungent smell, see if your kids can identify it.
Line up some naturally perfumed items, e.g. lemon, coffee, onions, herbs.
Then blindfold your child and see if they can guess which it is.
With thanks to GIY Ireland. More gardening projects available on www.giyireland.com
Have you grown garlic before or any other easy GIY crops? Tell us all about it in the comments below