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Growing Garlic in the Subtropics

Growing Garlic in South East Queensland

If you watch certain garden shows, they will tell you that you shouldn't even try growing garlic in our climate. 'Stick to garlic chives they say', but seriously it's not the same thing at all. Well I am the kind of person that if you tell me I can't do something, I will be determined to prove you wrong.

For a long time growing garlic in Brisbane has been a huge fail for me. Admittedly I never actually did my research and would just head to local organic markets buy some bulbs and chuck the cloves in the ground. Or if cloves sprouted in my fridge I would throw them in the garden. I don't recommend this technique at all.

This year I decided to do my research and figure out if there actually was a garlic we could grow. Some things we need to consider.

  • It doesn't really get too cold
  • the cool season is very short

So with that in mind I found two varieties that I am planting this year.

Varieties of Garlic for Warm Climates

The two I've chosen are Glenlarge and Italian pink and I got these from Green Harvest at Maleny (not affiliated).

Aside from being quicker to grow, the main difference between these varieties and other traditional types is that they are short day. This day type indicates that the amount of sunlight they require to develop a bulb and as they will predominately be growing over winter they need to be shorter day length.

When to plant

I planted mine on the Autumn Equinox (first full moon in March) but you'd be right to plant them right up until the end of April. Any later than that you may find they don't form before it gets too hot and the rains start.

Planting your garlic

You want to focus on the outer edge of cloves as your best guys. The inner cloves won't produce a great bulb in the first year (but I planted these anyway in random places around the garden). Break off your cloves and soak in some Seaweed solution (Many people choose to soak their cloves overnight but I wasn't organised so they got an hour tops of soaking).

Plant them with the flat side down, pointy end up and just below the surface of your soil. Space around 15 cm apart in rows of 40cm (check the planting instructions for your variety)

Water in and wait.

My Glenlarge appeared a week after planting and the italian pink is slowly rolling out after two weeks.

Be aware of space invaders

I had some issues with a tree sucking the life out of our garden bed and the garlic did not like it one bit. Make sure your bed is free from nutrient thieves to ensure a bumper crop.

Harvest

Because all the information online indicates that you should be harvesting your garlic in November, it's easy to miss the boat. Which I did particularly with the Glen Large. I left some in a little too long that the cloves started separating. They are fine, we ate those bulbs straight away but if this has happened to your entire crop you may struggle to store them for a long time.

I found optimal harvest for us was mid September - almost bang on 6 months. I harvested as soon as the leaves started to go slightly brown and droop. Any that had fallen over were too far gone. I did a bit of bandicooting on a few to check that the bulb had formed and they all we're pretty good by this stage.

All up we got around 30 bulbs from the original 4 bulbs that we planted. Albeit they all weren't as huge as the ones we originally planted they should definitely last us a good percentage of the year.

Curing & storage

Another big issue with garlic in the humid climates is storing it and making sure it's fully dry and doesn't go mouldy. I initially had my garlic outside in the sun to dry it, but then I read you could then get sunburnt bulbs! So I bought it under cover and hung them up in a spot that gets a pretty good breeze but protected from rain (which we weren't getting anyway). I did this until the stems were completely dry, then attempted to plait them and failed miserably.

Saving for next year

Much to hubby's disgust, I pulled out 3 bulbs of each variety that were the biggest and the best. These I am keeping in anticipation for planting out next year. I hope the second year crop will be more adapted to our specific climate and we get an even better crop next year. I am storing them in my dungeon of an office which is cool and dry.

I am hoping they keep really well until next March when we'll try it all again! I am sure I will have new lessons and learnings to share with you guys.

Our 2020 Crop so far

From last year I managed to save around 75 cloves of garlic that I planted in the garden in my front yard. I think I planted a little too closely but it's doing well so far. The Glen large are the stand out winners in progress, but time will tell come harvest time in September.

Are you growing garlic this year? Any tips you'd like to share?

17 thoughts on “Growing Garlic in South East Queensland”

    1. Hi Maureen,
      I think they call them scrapes. You can grow them but timing may be off. Otherwise have a google of garlic scrape recipes, apparently makes a great pesto.

  1. Thank you so much for this info, I have just visited Green Harvest and bought my Glenlarge, amongst other awesome seeds. I didn’t have much idea and thought of just buying a bulb and throwing in the ground, like you did first, glad I found you so I have a better chance now!

  2. Hey Thanks heaps for the information. I live near Lamington National Park, Sarabah. The weather here is way cooler than Brissy. So i’m thinking about planting garlic in mid February so can you please give your opinion?

    1. I’d probably still wait for end of March as I suspect you’re also getting as much rain as we do in Feb/March? That’s the issue in our climate the rain timing and when the humidity/heat starts in spring. Maybe try a few varieties but definitely try the glenlarge.

  3. Hi Nicki, thanks for your info. I’ve missed the boat for this year but would like to know for next how much sunlight do they need and also how much water over the 6 months?

    1. They are thirsty, I am not sure exactly how much, I can’t say our water bill was more than normal though. They are one that needs the sun, ours get from around 9-4.

  4. Located northern Gold Coast we planted Glen large right on the equinox. Plants died out in August which I thought was too early but to my surprise they are a small sized but successful crop. So I have saved 11 of the biggest heads for next year. Keeping them hung in our cupboard under the stars. Did you have success with planting previous crop or did you buy fresh cloves? Any advice to add on this? Many thanks for your advice that got me to this point in my dream of growing garlic in SE QLD!

    1. Hi Brendan, this years crop is from last year (see the Instagram posts at the end of this one) I think they are close to harvest now, I’ll update this post once they have been harvested with a video too. I’d recommend an airy spot to dry them first before putting away in a dark spot. I had some hanging from our carport that gets a breeze and they lasted right up to replanting and ones I hung up against the wall didn’t quite make it and rotted.

  5. Hi there, I’ve planted my garlic cloves about two weeks ago and I mulched the garden bed with pea straw. Pea shoots have started to emerge and I’m wondering if this is good for the garlic. I’m thinking not because of the over production of nitrogen which to develop garlic bulbs/roots isn’t helpful. I’d be interested in your opinion. Thanks, Claron

    1. Garlic are actually really heavy feeders – so lots of nitrogen early on is good for good bulb development later on. The only thing is they don’t like competition, I wouldn’t let them grow but just chop and drop them down.

  6. Claron Driscoll

    Thank you for your reply. I actually decided to pull the pea shoots out this morning. I’ve transplanted them to another pot and hopefully they might grow.

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