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Garlic - Guidelines for Cultivation

Compiled by D N Antill, Stockbridge House EHS, September 1988


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.

Garlic Grower's Handbook

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 autumn planting.

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.

Planting 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 reduce yield.
  • 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.

Continued >>


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