Choosing your garlic for planting
An excellent garlic crop starts with the best quality garlic seed. Garlic is grown from the cloves of a garlic bulb but not all garlic bulbs are created equal! When choosing your garlic to plant, be aware that consumption garlic from a grocery shop may not be ideal for growing. While you may get some results from a bulb from the supermarkets shelves, you'd be much better off choosing your varieties of seed garlic which has been specifically cultivated for planting. There are many different varieties of garlic you can choose from which we will explain below. You're looking for nice firm cloves with skin intact.
Which garlic type to plant?
The wonderful thing about growing garlic is that there are so many different varieties to choose from, each with their own specific characteristics and properties. Garlic splits into two categories: softneck and hardneck types. Softnecks do not usually produce a flowering spike (scape or rocambole) and so have a soft stem which lends itself to being plaited after being harvested and dried. Very occasionally softneck produce a scape when stressed. Hardneck garlic types produce a hard central flowering spike with a scape or rocambole in early summer. This flower bud can be snapped or snipped off in order to send maximum energy to the bulb. The scape is delicacy of the early summer months and taste sublime simply sauteed in butter. There is much variety amongst these two categories of garlic but generally speaking, hardneck garlics contain the heritage types including some of the hotter and stronger in flavour. Softneck types tend to be of more classic garlic flavour with good keeping quality.
Our recommendation is to try as many different varieties as you can fit in your garden and enjoy the spectrum of flavours and appearance for yourself. You can also then test which varieties tend to work best in the soil type and climate of your garden.
Our range of garlic seed types include:
Softnecks: Mersley, Picardy, Solent, Rhapsody, Provence
Hardnecks: Extra Early, Caulk, Maddock, Lubasha, Prcelain, Kingsland, Carcassonne
Elephant Garlic (see below)
Most of these types are idea for Autumn/Winter planting. Mersley, Picardy and Solent can be planted later, up to March.
Elephant garlic & how it differs
If you're looking for the big wow factor from your garlic growing then Elephant Garlic is one to try. The results from these enormous cloves will surely impress the neighbours at your allotment or at the village fete. Elephant garlic is best planted in autumn and harvested in mid-late June. The large bulbs produce a beautiful purple allium flower which you can keep to enjoy it as an extra attraction in your garden (bees love them) or you can harvest the 'scape' before it flowers to increase the bulb size and enjoy the scapes as a delicacy in its own right (see our blog post on scapes for more ideas on how to use them) Occasionally elephant garlic can produce what is called 'solos' where the bulb fails to form into cloves so produces one large garlic 'round'. This is a novelty which can be caused by a warm winter. The 'solos' can be used in the same way as the bulbs and give you a lovely amount of garlic in one to use in your cooking.
Where to grow garlic
All our garlic types are tested for their suitability to grow in the UK climate and most will do well in any area of the UK. However, hardneck varieties are known to grow well in slightly colder climates. You should choose the sunniest position in your garden where you have space for your garlic to not be competing with other plants. Do not plant in your glasshouse garlic prefers to be outside where it can benefit from the cold which stimulates its growth. Garlic can be grown in raised beds or in large pots. If grown in pots, take extra care they do not dry out especially in spring time when the garlic bulbs are taking on water to increase in size. Garlic likes well-draining soil as it doesn't cope well if water collects around the plant.