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Planting Grocery Garlic

Don’t let that sprouting garlic clove go to waste! Yes, that garlic clove can be grown into a lovely full bulb of garlic and winter is the perfect time to plant it.

Watch the video below to see how to plant your garlic and read below to learn more about how to take care of it, harvest it and store it.

As I mentioned in the video above, there are two types of garlic: hardneck garlic and softneck garlic.  

Hardneck garlic develops a long flowering stem, called a scape and the cloves circle this stem in a neat single row.  They grow well in cold climates and are known to have larger cloves with a tasty mild flavour.  Even though they are delicious, we don’t tend to see this type as often in our local shops because they only keep for about 5 to 6 months.

Softneck garlic, on the other hand, is what we mostly see in our grocery stores due to their longer shelf life – about a year.  They have more than one row of cloves surrounding the centre of the bulb.  These are the kind of garlic bulbs that you might see beautifully plaited together as their ‘necks’ are more flexible.  The cloves are usually quite a bit smaller than the hardneck variety and they tend to have a stronger flavour.

Winter is an ideal time to plant softneck garlic cloves as they need a spell of one to two weeks at 0-4C to trigger proper bulb growth.  So let’s get them in the ground!

One thing before we start, the RHS specifically warns against planting garlic from your grocery store.  This is because there is a possibility they might carry disease.  With this in mind, I suggest planting any store bought cloves in a planter rather than in the ground. This will help prevent disease from contaminating your growing space for any neighbouring or future plants.  If you have purchased certified disease free ‘seed garlic’, these can be put right into the ground.

Site and Ground

Garlic likes a sunny, warm location in rich, well-drained soil. If you have a bit of fresh compost, work it into the soil before you plant.  Also make sure the location you have selected won’t get too wet over the winter.

Planting

Planting garlic cloves is very simple.  First, separate the cloves from each other, but do not peel them.  Generally, you will grow larger bulbs from the largest cloves. If space is at a premium in your garden as it is in mine, I recommend planting just the largest cloves.  Now, make a hole for each of your cloves so the the tip of the clove will be about 2.5cm (1in) deep.  Space these holes about 5cm (2in) apart.  Space them further, 15cm (6in) apart and in rows 30cm (12in) apart if you are planting into the ground instead of a container.  Put one clove in each hole with the pointed (or sprouted) end up and cover with about 2.5cm (1in) of soil.  That’s it!  Like with other plants or seedlings, covering these with horticultural fleece will help prevent birds and foxes from pulling up up your newly planted cloves.

Care

Garlic needs plenty of water during it’s growing season between March and June.  That said, make sure not to overwater as high moisture levels and low light can cause leaf rust.  Ideally you want the soil wet, but not soggy throughout their growing period.  Make sure to keep the garlic planter well weeded because garlic has long, thin, straight leaves that make them vulnerable to being smothered by weeds.  Once the green leaves of the garlic stop growing and start to yellow a bit, stop watering.  This will keep the bulbs from rotting at the neck.

Harvesting

Harvesting full garlic bulbs requires some patience as it can take up to 7 months for your bulbs to reach maturity.  You will know it is time to harvest your garlic when the leaves have turned completely yellow.  This will be sometime in July or August, depending on when you planted your bulbs.  Harvest your garlic when the weather is dry and gently loosen them out of the soil with a garden fork as they bruise very easily.  Shake off the loose soil and leave them out to dry on the surface of the soil for a few hours.  Next you will need to dry out (“cure”) your garlic in a protected airy space for about three weeks.  Whey they are nice and dry, you can trim the tops and roots off and store them.  

You can also harvest garlic shoots while they are still green and enjoy them much like you would chives.  Cut off shoots that are about 4 inches tall and make sure to never take more than 1/3 of the plant at a time.  Doing this will likely make the bulb smaller. You can always plant those smaller garlic cloves and use them in this way rather than harvesting them as a bulb in the summer.

Storage

Store the garlic as whole bulbs as once you remove a clove from a bulb the broken head will only keep for about 3 to 10 days.  Light and moisture can cause mould to grow on the garlic. Make sure to put the bulbs in a basket or open paper bag to allow for air to circulate around them. Put them somewhere dark, but at room temperature, like a cupboard or pantry. If you have 10 or more bulbs, plaiting them and hanging them makes an attractive storage solution.

Planting your Winter Veg

We have been busy delivering winter seedlings to our members who are growing with us this winter. We sent them spring cabbage, mizuna, spinach, and spring onions

For all of you growing with us this winter, we have put together this video and the following instructions on how to plant your seedlings.

Planting Instructions

1. Pre-Water:

Before you plant your seedlings, give them a very good watering.

2. Prepare the soil:

If you are planting your seedlings in the ground, dig planting holes in the garden bed with a trowel. Make each hole the same depth as the seedling’s container and space the holes according to the type of seedling:

Spring Cabbage: 30 – 40 cm apart
Spinach: 20 cm
Spring onions: 15 to 20cm
Mizuna: 15cm

You can plant them a little closer, but most will grow bigger with more space.

All of these veg will do well in containers (though will grow a bit smaller).  As with planting in the garden, dig planting holes with a trowel to the same depth as the seedling’s container.  For the cabbages, I recommend growing one cabbage per 40cm diameter by 40cm height pot as they need quite a bit of room.  If the cabbage is grown closer it may not make a cabbage head, but you can still harvest and eat the leaves.  You can also make a rather attractive edible container by mixing some of the seedlings together (I have done this with my veg as you can see in the instruction video).

These plants will do well in all-purpose potting soil and there is no need to mulch or fertilise them now as they will not require food until spring.

3. Plant:

For the Mizuna, carefully ease the seedlings out of the tray they were growing in and gently tease them apart. For all the other seedlings, carefully hold onto the seed leaves of your seedling and use a pencil or chopstick to ease the plant out of the compost, retaining as much root as possible. Always lift your seedlings one at a time and never hold by the stem or roots, as you can easily damage the plant.  Carefully slide the seedling into the hole you dug and then gently but firmly push the soil in around it until the seedling is well supported.  Do not be tempted to bury the stem to provide more support for these plants as you would with something like a tomato, as that can cause the stem to rot.

4. Water:

Gently water the freshly planted seedlings.  Our family likes to use a little watering can we make ourselves out of used milk bottles.  We poke several holes with something fine, like at pin, into the lid which makes for a soft spray of water that is gentle on your little plants.  

These seedlings will grow slowly over the winter and will be mature, ready for harvest in the spring.

Special notes:

The seedlings would be best positioned in an area protected from wind and the harshest of the winter weather.

Pigeons and foxes love fresh dirt and seedlings!  If your seedlings are in an area where birds or foxes might be able to access them, please try and protect the seedlings by covering them with mesh or garden fleece. 

An example from one of our members:

You won’t need to worry too much about light needs for the seedlings at the moment, but make sure that in the early spring they will be in a location that will get as much of the spring sunshine as possible.

Good luck to all our growers with their seedlings! We look forward to updating you and our growing community with their progress.


‘Growing our Communities’ is funded by the London Community Foundation

Name that winter veg!

For our winter growing this year we provided four different types of vegetables:

Winter Veg Seedlings 2020

Here is a little information about each including the variety (where there is one), growing habits, and a bit about what they might taste like.

Spring Cabbage (Caraflex F1):
Spring cabbages grow slowly over the winter and are harvested from late February through to the beginning of June. They form mild, tender, small heads which are usually conical in shape and loose leafed. They are often also called spring greens or collards.

Spring onions (White Lisbon):
Spring onions, also known as scallions or green onions, are harvested when they are very young, before the bulb has had a chance to swell. They are much milder than other onions and the entire onion, both the bulb and the long green tops, is edible. They are very tasty raw or cooked.

Spinach (Giant Winter):
Considered to be a superfood by many, spinach is a dark green, leafy vegetable loaded with vitamins and nutrients. It can be grown to produce a crop all year round. Just harvest a few leaves at a time once they are large enough to pick.

Mizuna:
Mizuna is a Japanese green leafy vegetable with a distinctive peppery flavour. It grows in bunches from a centre stalk with long stems. The beautiful leaves have lots of sections to them and look slightly feathery or fringed. Mizuna is often used fresh in salads or cooked for stir-fries and the young flowering stems can be cooked like broccoli.

Now you know a bit about these seedlings, continue on to find out how to plant them.


‘Growing our Communities’ is funded by the London Community Foundation