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Reader q&a on garlic problems:

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I am interested in gardening and I have tried growing garlic but haven't been successful. I am wondering if you can give me any tips; one of my many questions... Do I plant the garlic bulb or just the clove? I would appreciate any tips.

The Green Chronicle replies...

I can certainly tell you how I grow garlic. I would guess that you have quite a good summer where you live, and it certainly helps if it is not too wet around the time you want to lift your garlic. Garlic bulbs should be split up into cloves and planted out at around a 7 inch spacing. Relatively weed free ground is best as garlic does not cope too well with competition. Now I'm also guessing that your winters are quite hard so it would be best for you to plant out in the spring, although you could raise the young plants in pots or modules from the autumn (your Fall), and keep them in a greenhouse or similar over the winter for planting out as young plants rather than as mere cloves (also known as corms). I have taken to growing garlic on narrow ridges to give them good drainage, but you will have to decide if you need to do that; in a dry summer it may well be unnecessary. Keep the plants weeded, and they should otherwise look after themselves. Garlic seems to have very few pests. You can use your garlic "green" whenever the bulbs are big enough, and at that stage it is a very nice vegetable, or you can wait until the leaves turn brown and die back and try to store your crop. If the weather turns wet now you will find it hard to get the nice clean white appearance we associate with store-bought garlic, but quite simply pull your bulbs - treat them gently, easing them out of the ground - and leave them to dry in the sun. You can speed this process up by drying the bulbs in a greenhouse or polytunnel. The fundamental principle is to dry them as quickly as you can. A nice touch is to pull the crop whilst there is enough top left to produce a plait for drying, but that is a skill I have not mastered. I love growing garlic Tom. You will have to experiment with storage, and the best techniques for your climate, but as you learn more I am sure you will have better and better garlic year after year.