How to Grow Garlic in the City

how to grow garlic

Late autumn or early winter is the perfect time to plant garlic in Melbourne (Australia). These photos are from our container garden last year’s crop. I also planted some garlic in our community veggie patch, a bit later, so if one batch fails, there is a backup. Luckily, both crops succeeded and we still have our garlic.

The photo above was taken in May. This year’s crop is already planted, but it’s not too late to plant your garlic as I read that winter solstice (21st June in the southern hemisphere) is a good time to plant garlic here in Melbourne and expect the harvest on the longest day (summer solstice).

Garlic is a slow maturing crop, but one worthwhile planting. It will take about 5-8 months till maturity however, it doesn’t require a lot of space or care. This pot (about 30cm in diameter) had 18 bulbs of garlic. In the veggie patch, I planted it around the edges so it’s not in the way when the winter crop gives way to summer varieties.

How to grow garlic

  • Garlic can be planted in the garden or in pots in full sun
  • Soil should be well drained, loose and enriched with compost and organic manure (chicken manure is good)
  • For pot planting use premium potting mix with slow release fertiliser
  • Break the bulbs (preferably organic) and plant 5cm deep with the pointy end up
  • Space cloves 10 cm apart
  • Cover the hole and keep it moist but not wet – too much water can cause fungal disease, prolonged dry will produce small bulbs
  • Keep weed-free: garlic doesn’t compete well with the weeds
  • You can eat green garlic when the bulbs aren’t formed yet together with its still tender green leaves

When to harvest garlic

  • Garlic takes up to 6 months to mature
  • When you see the foliage turning yellow and drying, but still have a few green leaves in the middle, dig around one bulb to see if it has formed
  • Stop watering a couple of weeks before harvest
  • Use a small garden shovel to dig the bulbs rather than pulling them
  • Let the bulbs dry in the shade for about 2 weeks
  • Rub off dried dirt from bulbs, trim roots and braid them to hang or
  • Cut off the leaves and store in a cool airy and dry place in a mesh bag (not in the fridge as it causes the garlic to sprout)
  • Leave the best bulbs for next season planting

Organic garlic is much tastier and quite expensive to buy ($40 a kilo) so it’s worthwhile growing. Find out what is the best time to plant garlic in your corner of the world and give it a go.

The garlic we grew in our urban garden is a smaller bulb variety with light purple skin and a superb flavor.  We bought it from a garlic grower at a local farmers market but forgot to ask what variety of garlic it is.

For more ideas and tips on what else you can grow in a small space please check our guide How to Grow Herbs and Vegetables in a Small Space.

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