Garlic Bed Preparation for Great Garlic
It’s time to think about preparing your planting beds to grow great garlic. You’ve ordered your garlic seed bulbs and need to consider where to plant and how to prepare your beds for large healthy roots, vigorous large plants and beautiful large bulbs.
Here’s our guide to help you grow great garlic … and the best news is that we’ve tuned this system, so you can prepare your beds up to the day of planting if needed and still get great results.
Bed Rotation and Orientation
It is best to grow Alliums (garlic, onions, shallots etc) in the same bed only once in every three years. This is for two reasons, the most important is that we need to avoid disease accumulation specific to garlic, and to do this we must rest the bed from plants that share these diseases for two years after each crop. The second reason is to avoid nutrition depletion, so that when you do rotate your crops, remember to replenish them and then use the next in the rotation sequence – root, leaf, fruit types of plants. Example, garlic is a “root” plant – it puts its nutritional investment into a bulb below the soil surface (carrots, potatoes, beetroots etc are other examples of “root” plants. Follow garlic with “leaf” plants – lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, silverbeet, etc and then follow these with “fruit” plants – beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, etc. This root, leaf and fruit rotation allows your crops to draw from different nutrients and stimulate different biology, will keep your soils well balanced and creates biological diversity to assist in minimising disease risk.
Garlic prefers north facing sun, and particularly north-east to get morning sun which dries their leaves quickly and minimises the risk of leaf diseases. Garlic also loves full sunlight, however can tolerate partial shade, so long as they have 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Garlic is a long growing crop, between 6.5 and 8.5 months depending on where you are and which garlics you are growing – the longest growing annual crop there is. It also must survive often cold and wet Winter and Spring periods and remain healthy. With these challenges, it is vital to ensure the garlic has deep, enriched and free draining soils to optimise root mass, plant mass and drive bulb size.
Fork over your beds to create at least 30-40cm of lovely friable soils without compaction or large clumps. It should feel like crumbled chocolate cake – not powdered icing sugar! This will help your fragile garlic roots to penetrate deep and create a large, broad root system to access water and nutrient.
It is not well known, however the garlic plant invests all its energy into the root system during Autumn and Winter and uses this healthy root system to drive growth, optimising plant size and eventually bulb size in Spring and Summer.
So the larger and healthier the root system is … the bigger the bulb.
Natural growth and health fertilisers for garlic are just what they need for Autumn, Winter and early Spring. In Spring, we’ll apply some liquid biostimulants … but these solid fertilisers are essential for slow release, long growth plant and bulb requirements.
Apply the following products in layers on the top of the soil, then fork them in evenly and water them in with Powerfeed and Seasol after.
- 5cm layer of natural cow, sheep or alpaca manures (aged for over 9 months), pulverised and soaked. This depth of manure is vital to create the organic matter and humus that will hold and release the nutrients added and created by your soil biology. Think of it as a living coral reef in your soil, where the roots will thrive, and the soil microorganisms will eat, reproduce and create plant nutrient. Avoid commercial bagged, composted manures sold at hardware stores. There have been too many issues with these products.
- 2mm solid dusting of Blood and Bone with boosted Potassium. Yates Professional Blood and Bone with boosted Potassium is terrific. I have a wonderful old plastic bowl that I use to spread all my granular fertlisers with a back and forth motion to create my even 2mm thick layer.
- 2mm solid dusting of Gypsum. Gypsum has multiple benefits including an amazing calcium source that doesn’t interfere with your soil pH, helps to break up clay and allows it to breath and release excess moisture and in sandy or loam soils, aids in cation exchange. Garlic loves Calcium, for strong leaf growth and photosynthesis and gypsum is a great source with added benefits.
- 1mm solid dusting of Potash, Sulphate of Potash or Organic Potassium Sulphate. I prefer the organic Potassium Sulphate. It has a more neutral pH of 6 and Sulphur that garlic loves. We add potassium in addition to the Blood and Bone boosted potassium as this will build a reserve and slow release system to get us through to Spring.
- 2mm solid dusting of Seamungus by Neutrog. This is one of my favourite soil conditioner and biostimulant. Made from fish, seaweed, humic acid and manures … it contains a well rounded nutrient and biology stimulating range. When growing organically, it is best to add multiple sources and types of the same nutrient that are active at different times of the season, soil temperatures, soil pH and stimulate the broadest range of soil biology for both soil and plant health.
We are creating a soil ecology rich in multiple nutrient sources and microbiological diversity.
At Tasmanian Gourmet Garlic, we also use our BioPro product, Facultative Anaerobic Beneficial and Biocontrol microorganisms to bring our soils to an ultra-premium level – but if you start with this recommended bed preparation … you are well on your way to great garlic.