Growing garlic takes time and good soil preparation. The process beings in summer, long before planting. At least one green manure crop is grown in the paddock to enrich the soil before garlic is planted. This green manure crop is turned over several weeks prior to planting allow it to decompose.
In our region, garlic is planted in March – April and harvested in November – December in the same year. During autumn, garlic ‘seed’ (which is actually just cloves) specially saved from the previous year’s harvest is planted. This garlic is either hand planted or planted with a garlic planter machine attachment. Since organic farming methods are practised, several of our farmers will mulch their garlic. The mulch helps to encourage earth worms and soil microbes and reduces weed growth. After planting is finished, growers let Mother Nature take over for the winter whilst they attend to other long overdue farm chores.
Garlic requires a lot of water and irrigation might be needed, depending on how much rain we get over the winter. Some of our farmers do not water their garlic at all, while others do – a lot depends on the local soil type. The growing garlic doesn’t mind getting quite wet. A cold frosty winter is not a problem and helps develop flavour.
The Elephant / Russian garlic plants flower in late spring. Some of these flower spikes are sent to market and restaurants. These spikes are used like spring onions in a range of asian based dishes. Once the plant has flowered, it doesn’t like too much water. Lots of rain in October/November can lead to the bulbs ‘splitting’ open before they are harvested. The bulbs are still edible but can only be sold as cloves, not as bulbs.