Planting Garlic started off in pots

I never seem to be ready for planting my garlic directly in the plot in Oct / Nov each year so I start them in pots. Then when they have sprouted and started growing and the plot is ready I then plant them out (weather permitting). It is probably best to sow directly so you don’t disturb when planting out but if one’s plot is not ready there is no choice but to start them off in pots.

Pics showing my tiny new bulbils with two normal cloves, last year bulbils and cloves ready for planting into pots in October.


I always keep some of the biggest cloves for planting out before I make garlic oil or freeze the rest. I also buy or scrounge named varieties on occasions. People say they also plant supermarket garlic – this is ok if its English grown but not if it’s from Spain, Israel etc. as the plant is not adapted to our conditions. When I see a nice big tasty garlic that other people have I have asked for some cloves and now got a stock going from them. I have also collected the tiny “Bulbils” to grow on from some good strong plants of selected varieties. These bulbils are the seeds from the seed heads or Scapes. This takes about three years to get a good sized bulb with individual cloves. First two years they grow into a single round bulb then eventually in the third year they split into individual cloves as per normal. Sometimes if the weather is bad (like this year) the normal garlic will only grow a single bulb as well. These are actually a great easy garlic to peal and cut up as the whole thing can be used

In October I get 3″ pots and also 6 section seed tray modules filled with compost and a plant a single clove in each. These are left in the cold Greenhouse till ready to plant out. They don’t need any molly-coddling or heat to get going. They may sprout straight away and show their green tip within a couple of weeks but usually they build a good load of roots first then send out their green stalk. I found this especially in the Elephant Garlic.

See also  Olympic runners in the vegetable garden

To prepare the bed I add a layer of manure and or compost and a bit of general fertilizer. I do a four year rotation so I follow Squashes/Sweetcorn. See article on rotations here. This is all dug in and leveled off. I like to plant the different types in blocks instead of long lines so I don’t get mixed up what is where so I divide the bed up with planks. I also use scaffold planks to stand on to not compact the soil and also as pathways between the sections of garlic, leeks and onions etc..


Plant spacing is 20cm x 15cm. I find it works well but I do plant closer than normally suggested because I seem to plant too many and have to squeeze them in!! I’m a bit of a nerd and like nice straight rows so I have planks with the spacings marked off placed around my planting area so they end up nice and straight. This spacing also helps with hoeing and weeding tools. I hoe between the 20cm rows and hand weed the rest in betweens. When I do long rows I use a string tied to two bamboos and placed in the position of the row so I get the row straight that I’m planting out.

When planting, I always remove the plant and root-ball intact and then tease the root-ball out a bit to get it loose and ready to send themselves into their new surrounds quickly. See the pictures below which shows my plants set out in their positions to be planted, my home made large kneeler pad made from a construction hole cover with rubber wired on, the root-ball teased out and intact and the finished job. Also note my measured planks for setting out the row and plant spacings.


Garlic needs a few weeks of good hard cold, frosty, snowy weather to bulb and grow properly so you must get them sowed into pots or directly into the plot  in October / November and then as early as possible planted out in the plot if you have them in pots. However the fact that they are in the cold greenhouse over autumn and maybe the winter they are still going to be in their favoured conditions.
Once planted I always add my name labels and also draw them into my master plan of the growing season.. I would water them in if the ground is dry but these days it seems we are so wet and is not required. They will be fed a bit mid season with a general fertilizer or BFB –  Blood Fish Bone.  I get mine from the pound shops which is the best deal around.
See a Growing Guide article on growing garlic here.


Gavin Conway
Moved to the UK from Zimbabwe in 2001. We had a 12 acre plot with a 2 acre normal garden, loads of Koi ponds, a 2 acre veg garden, 3 orchid sheds with over 400 plants, bonsai shed, granny cottage and workshop area.. Comming to the UK and into a 3 bed semi was a shock!! But we knew what to expect and just got on with our lives. I love growing veg and started to grow on my flat garage roof for a few years then moved on to a couple of garden shares then onto a full sized allotment at the end of 2011. I have done loads of work with it and got it looking good. see my blog site at Hope I can help others with info on growing and getting ground and allotments to their liking. Self employed with Kleeneze Gavins grafix doing vinyl signs and a personal courier with Yodel..

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