Extending Your Harvest: Garlic

Garlic Planting Time

It’s autumn in the southern hemisphere, and not too late to plant your garlic. I still have two bulbs to plant myself. And if you haven’t already bought your garlic there is still time.  Choosing which varieties to plant is really important.

Not Convinced About Garlic?

My three followers will know I have an enduring love affair with garlic. It was the first thing I grew myself in my rental house garden that really excited me. It is so useful, so delicious, so beautiful, and so easy to grow (well in my cool temperate climate it is). You can harvest and eat the scapes, you can eat the leaves, you can eat the garlic bulbs fresh (green) or dried. You can pickle it or dry and store it. You can grow next year’s crop from this year’s. It is very economical and much cheaper than buying Australian garlic at the shops (I calculate it costs a half to a fifth of the price). For me so far (I have been growing it for five years) it has been the most reliable and successful home crop. It also makes a great present, so even if you (oh the horror!) don’t like it much yourself, it’s great for food loving friends and family.

Couldnt be without my dibbler at garlic planting time.

Notes on Extending the Harvest

I haven’t yet achieved year-round garlic from my garden but I am hoping to with this year’s crop. If you want a year’s supply of garlic you need to chose your varieties carefully,  pay attention to harvest timing and method, and store you garlic properly. It’s not really enough to simply buy as many bulbs as will produce your needs for the year (I budget for one entire bulb each week). You also need to:

  • Buy early varieties
  • Buy some hardneck varieties
  • Buy long-storing varieties (including some which store for 12 months)

Buy Early Varieties

The earlier you can harvest the earlier you can start using your new garlic. In my climate some years garlic has been ready by October – particularly in warm-hot springs. Overall I’ve had fairly varied harvest times but it’s usually November or December. This year I’ve planted two bulbs of Early Purple which I hope will live up to its name.

Buy Varieties That Suit Your Climate

When choosing varieties, make sure they suit your climate. I have steered away from cream varieties because I haven’t had much luck with producing large bulbs. I don’t know if that is a climate issue, or something to do with how I cared for them. However, it seems like a lot of the cream varieties are longer-storing, so I need to look into this more. If you have a variety that grows beautiful big bulbs in your garden, keep a couple of those bulbs aside and replant these next autumn. Or keep choosing the biggest two bulbs from a crop and replanting those ad infinitum.


Buy Long-Storing Varieties

You also need to consider which varieties store for 12 months or more to give yourself the greatest chance of year-round garlic. In the past most of my varieties have stored for less than a year, so I end up going three or four months buying from the shops, which tends to come from Mexico and Argentina. This  year I’ve bought mostly long storing varieties – 8 – 12 months, and planted more of the 12 month storing variety (dynamite purple). I’ve clearly marked which varieties I have planted where, so I can keep them separated when I harvest and store accordingly (and know which varieties to use first and which will store longer and so use later). Read up on how to store garlic here. Read up on the excellent website Australiangarlic.net.au  for which varieties to grow in your climate and which store for a long time.


Buy Bolting or Hardneck Varieties

These varieties grow a fat flower stem in spring, which often twirls around in 360 degree circles. You can harvest these flower stems or garlic scapes in spring before you harvest the bulbs, extending your harvest. They make the most delicious scapes pesto and I’m sure there are many other uses. The flavour is firm but gentle.

My Garlic Plan

This year I have planted 12 bulbs: 4 x Dynamite Purple (which stores for 12 months), and 2 each of Early Purple,  Melbourne Market, Monaro Purple and Italian Red. This will be more than enough for a whole year, if I store them correctly and use them in the right order.

Variety Storage Scapes? Harvest/Care after Scape Appears
Early Purple 3-4 months Weakly bolting (yes) Harvest either after leaves brown or a week after umbel emerges on scape
Monaro Purple 6 months Weakly bolting (yes) Harvest either after leaves brown or a week after umbel emerges on scape
Italian Red Up to 12 months May form scapes in cold or dry weather Harvest as leaves brown or a week after plant flops over.
Melbourne Market 6-9 months May form scapes in cold climates Harvest as leaves brown or a week after plant flops over.
Dynamite Purple 12 months Weakly bolting (yes) Remove scapes for bigger bulbs








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