Get your garlic in before Christmas

Garlic can be planted in the garden right up to Christmas as long as the ground isn’t actually frozen. It’s simple to grow and needs little attention. Although you can plant garlic in spring, in fact it benefits from cold weather. Garlic needs at least 2 months of cold to promote it forming cloves. Plant your garlic too late and if the weather is mild and it won’t form cloves and you’ll end up with a bulb like an onion. It’s worth buying garlic from a seed merchant or garden centre rather than just using super market garlic. Although this might grow there is more chance of introducing disease and some garlic has been treated to prevent it sprouting. There are over 600 varieties of garlic, so choose to suit your preference in strength of taste, size and storage properties. There are 2 distinct types of garlic: hard necked and soft necked. The difference is that the hard necked type put up a stem from the bulb which hardens as it matures and these garlic will also produce a ‘scape’ the long flower stem (which is edible and popular for use in salads, added to roasted vegetables, stir fry, or mashed potato). Hard neck varieties are generally more robust in cold climates, have strong flavour and form lots of small cloves, but don’t store as well as soft necked types. The soft necked garlic doesn’t produce the central stem, tends to have larger milder flavoured bulbs with fewer cloves, but stores well. Both types will grow well in Warwickshire in a fertile sunny spot, so maybe try both types. Some garlic varieties have been specifically bred to cope with the British climate, mostly developed on the Isle of Wight, so any garlic with ‘Wight’ in it’s name (e.g. Solent Wight) is a good bet. Planting is simple, prepare the bed by weeding and adding a little all purpose fertiliser, divide up the bulb into cloves and plant each clove, pointed end upwards, just below the surface, about 6″ (15cm) apart, leaving 12″ (30cm) between rows. After that just keep an eye out for birds pulling out the cloves then keep your bed weed free. The garlic should be ready to harvest when the leaves start to die back in July.