Home-grown garlic is a real treat for cooks who like to add an extra kick to their seasoning, and October is the best month to plant garlic straight into the ground ready to be harvested next summer.
In October and November the soil is still relatively warm and the bulbs will establish good root systems before the winter sets in, so the earlier you get garlic into the ground the better the results will be, although you can carry on planting garlic right up until February.
Of course, during winter you should protect the garlic with a cloche or horticultural fleece, and if you live north of the Midlands it’s probably best to plant the bulbs into pots and keep them in a cold frame or sheltered spot until early spring, when you can plant out the seedlings.
That is also the best thing to do if your vegetable plot gets waterlogged over winter.
Tempting as it is to just use garlic bought with your weekly groceries, you’ll have more success with specially-prepared virus-free bulbs from your local garden centres.
Split up the garlic cloves and plant them in well-draining soil so they won’t rot away, in a row about 4ins (10cm) apart, and in a spot that will be sunny enough for them to ripen in time for harvesting next June or July.
Use the same method as you would for planting onion or shallot sets: make sure the tips of the bulbs are just visible.
If you are planting them in modules, or preferably small pots to give the roots plenty of room, fill the containers with multi-purpose compost then push in a garlic clove so that all but the tip is covered.
Don’t let the soil or compost around your garlic dry out, particularly between now and December when the roots are growing and from next spring when the new garlic head will begin to plump out – or the garlic you harvest won’t be much bigger than the ones you planted.
They should be ready to dig up from next June, although you can leave them in until August so that they will hopefully get even bigger.
Choose a dry day to dig them up and, if you can, leave them out in the sun for a few days to get them super-dry.
It’s best to do this on a wire tray, so there is plenty of airflow around them – and so you can take them inside if the weather changes.
And if you do find you have supermarket-bought garlic that grows a green shoot, there’s no harm in planting it out to see what happens!