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Organic Gardening:

How to grow organic Garlic


An essential ingredient for health


Allium sativum

Family: Liliaceae (Group 6)

Garlic is an essential ingredient in food the world over and it's easy to grow. And as well as its distinctive strong taste (and smell), it's also a very potent health food. To find out more about the health aspect of this pungent member of the onion family, read's article: Garlic for Health.


Garlic does best on light, well-drained soil in an open, sunny position. It should not be grown on freshly manured soil.

On heavy soil, work some sand, ashes or potting compost into the drill before planting or grown on ridges. Lime acid soil. Garlic grows best on soil manured for the previous crop. You can also grow it in containers.


Choose good-sized cloves, removing loose skin before planting about 5cm (2") deep, spacing 18cm each way (7"x7") or 10cm by 30cm (4"x12"). Yields may be improved on light soils by planting up to 10cm (4") deep.

Traditionally, garlic is planted in late autumn, from late October to November, but early spring planting will often produce a good crop, with less risk of losses, particularly in the South. Alternatively, plant in modules in a sheltered place outdoors in winter and transplant.


Lift and dry as soon as leaves start to fade and turn yellow. Handle carefully to avoid bruising. If the weather is warm, garlic may be left outside to dry in the sun on newspaper or on wire trays, otherwise dry them in a shed, making sure there is plenty of airspace round each bulb. Turn the bulbs over a few times while they are drying off. Drying will take 2-3 weeks unless the weather is very hot. Once dry, garlic can be stored by hanging in net bags, such as the ones oranges are sold in, or old washed stockings. If you are skilled enough, you can plait them into garlic strings.

Pests, Diseases and Disorders

The most serious pest is onion fly, particularly on dry soils. However, unless you are growing garlic near to another allium, which is itself infested, it is unlikely to be attacked.
Stem and bulb eelworm can also be serious on infected soils. The best way to deal with this pest is rotation, growing brassicas or lettuces for two or three years. Keep the ground weed-free, as some common weeds harbour these pests.
Downy mildew, neck rot and white rot are the most common diseases. Of these, white rot is the most serious, worst in hot dry summers. Symptoms are yellow, wilting foliage and fluffy white mould on the base of the bulbs, in which round black fruiting bodies appear. Affected plants should be lifted and burnt. No alliums should be grown on infected land for at least 8 years.

If you're interested in healthy food, you may also be interested in our sister site, The Health Site, Your Online Health Channel.

Article ©2004 Frann Leach. All rights reserved.

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