Compiled by D N
Antill, Stockbridge House EHS, September
Over the past decade the demand for garlic
has steadily risen. Imports in 1987 were
4,600 t representing £4m. This compares
with 2500 t worth £2.5m in the early
80’s. The major supplies arrive from
Spain, Italy, France, Argentina and Iran.
Production in this country also continues
to rise – albeit on a comparatively
small scale. Estimates of area are difficult
because much of it is produced on small
areas of often < 0.2 ha. It is a favourite
crop of organic, PYO and herb producers,
as well as intensive market gardens. It
is considered that the national area is
approaching 100 ha producing 700 t. Production
is concentrated in the south of the country,
particularly on the Isle of Wight where
an annual garlic festival is held.
The whole operation of lifting,
drying, dressing, grading and packaging for
market has to be undertaken with care to avoid
damage. The slightest bruising or mechanical
damage allows entry of disease. This causes
the main limitation on the expansion of garlic
growing, because any form of mechanical handling
during harvesting or dressing causes unacceptable
levels of damage. Much hand labour is therefore
required to market the crop.
The crop will grow very successfully in this
country as far north as Yorkshire, but the
best yields can be expected in more southern
areas. The only major field trials have been
carried out at Efford EHS between 1981 and
1988. These concentrated on evaluating clones
and varieties, spacing, time of planting,
nitrogen requirement and various feasibility
studies regarding handling and husbandry.
The trials showed that yields up to 15 t/ha
marketable bulbs were possible with attention
to detail on a field scale. Many growers’
yields are as low as 5 t/ha, often due to
a combination of poor stock, incorrect planting
time and bad handling. It was also established
that the crop quite happily survived a wide
range of climate conditions over winter from
Growing the crop is not difficult and it will
thrive on a wide range of soils, providing
they are easily worked and are free draining.
Maximum growth occurs around 16°C during
April and May, before bulbing commences in
June. Warm sites at this period are therefore
an advantage. For good yields during the maximum
growth period it is important for the crop
not to be short of water.
Time - Trials at Efford
EHS indicate that good yields can be achieved
from anytime between mid October and early
March. The main criterion is to plant when
soil conditions are good.
The cloves require a period of 0 - 10°C
for 1 – 2 months in order for the
plants to bulb properly.
Planting after early March tended to
At Efford, planting in February (providing
soil conditions were good) gave similar
yields to planting in autumn.
Early varieties are best planted in
the autumn. This is because it is more
difficult to keep the cloves. In trials,
physiologically, providing cloves were
sound, February planting of early varieties
gave good results.