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When & how to plant garlic in South Africa

Lately garlic has topped out late summer searches and has become a home grown vegetable crop that everyone seems to want to try, but there still seems to be a lot of uncertainty about how to grow garlic. This is because a lot of garlic growing guides are not local to South Africa, which makes timing, soil conditions and garlic treament slightly different. 

To help you wade through the heaps of information on YouTube and the internet I have created a detailed video on when to plant garlic in South Africa as well as a detailed guide on planting conditions garlic needs to thrive.

When to plant garlic in South Africa

When it comes to planting garlic in South Africa there is a very specific window of opportunity to get your garlic in the ground. In South Africa, garlic needs to be planted between late February and early April with the beginning of March being the sweet spot to get your garlic in the ground. When you plant garlic in South Africa, it is important to understand your local climate, as well as your local microclimate to make sure your garlic is being planted under the best possible conditions. Planting garlic outside of this planting window will more than likley result in the garlic growing greenery, but not the plump, potent and tasty bulbs they are actually grown for. 

How to plant garlic in South Africa

Planting garlic is a really simple process that requires very little effort and maintenance. There are a couple of steps you need to take and items you need to have ready and prepared before you can get your garlic in the ground.

 

1. You need to have garlic cloves as seed to plant

You need to make sure that you have garlic that has been stored and saved from your previous years’ harvest to use as seed, or you need to purchase some garlic from local South African seed companies. There are many different varieties you can grow, but in my view, grow what you know best and what is going to give you the biggest return for the space they take

 

2. You need to identify the correct spot to plant your garlic

Garlic requires a very specific set of environmental and soil conditions to thrive and give you a great harvest. The area you want to grow your garlic needs to be in full sun and receive enough heat as the spring temperates rise to stimulate the bulbing process. Personally, I like to plant my garlic on the Northern side of plants, trees or buildings to maximise the amount of heat and sunlight my garlic is exposed to. Part of understanding the correct position includes understanding the sun’s arc during summer and winter and allowing for those changes to light to allow garlic to continuously grow.

 

3. You need to have soil amendments ready

Soil amendments are necessary to give newly planted and sprouted garlic the nutritional resources it needs to get as much growth as quick as possible before the winter cold sets in, after which the garlic starts to slow down or completely stop growing, depending on the level of cold you experience.

When planting your garlic make sure you don’t overload it with fertilisers. I prefer to use worm castings as it is a balanced soil amendment that has a relatively high nitrogen count, but promotes a significant amount of soil live by introducing lots of living soil organisms into the root base of the garlic. This helps with the absorption of nutrients from the soil. Once the garlic has pushed through the soil level then you can start fertilising with a heavy nutrigen fertiliser, but not before.

 

4. You need to have enough mulch to cover your garlic

 Garlic requires quite specific environmental conditions to deliver the best results and that is achieved through mulching. Garlic does not like dry soil, overly or consistently wet soil, or big fluctuations in temperatures. These are all things that mulch helps to control. The best mulch to use is leaf mulch straight from the garden. It is all natural, build soil quality and is free from any possible contaminates such as herbicides or growth inhibitors. 

 

Then, once your garlic start growing and leaves emerge it is time to keep a close eye one watering. When it comes to watering your garlic, there are some things that you need to be aware of, which include over or under watering and watering the base of the plants rather than overhead. There is a great video hyperlinked above on how to water garlic in the best way possible. 

Garlic is a very easy crop to grow. Give it a go, fail, success and try again, it will be worth it in the end. 

 

4 Comments

  1. adolf ITEN

    Hi good morning I have got 1 question. I read that you have to cut leaves back (which is above ground) by a certain time..is that true and if so when? Thanks for your information… kind regards ITEN ADOLF CIOA

    Reply
    • CaJohnston

      Hey Adolf, thanks for your comment and that is a really interesting question. To be honest, I have never heard of cutting garlic leaves. Logically this will mean that the garlic will not reach full maturity as it does not have the leaf surface to build resources and also remember that each leaf is linked to a clove so you will more than likely have under developed garlic bulbs.

      Reply
  2. David

    I have plamted some garlic around December 2021 as some of my stored garlic started to sprout. The plants grew well with plenty leaves but now the leaves are dying back. My first crop was planted in March 2020 and also grew well for about three months and then died back during winter and started to grow again in spring. Will this be the same for the current crop as well?

    Reply
    • CaJohnston

      Hey David, thanks for the comment and question. I am not sure where you are based, but if you are in South Africa, or the Southern Hemisphere, then Dec is the wrong time to plant them out. If in the Northern Hemisphere then it’s the right time, so, let’s try get you an answer.

      Southern Hemisphere: this is the wrong time to plant and you would get lots of green growth, but once the intense summer heat kicks in the plant will more than likely die back and you will not get any garlic bulbs to form. They need a cold spell and then the gradual warming of the soil for the garlic cloves and bulbs to form.

      Northern Hemisphere: this is the correct time to plant them out and your experience is exactly why it is so important to plant them out in Autumn. The initial bit of growth you get is what get’s the roots established. In winter the garlic plant slows down its growth significantly and sometimes dies back if the weather is incredibly cold. Then, with the strong root base it created, once the spring temps warm up the garlic will shoot out, put on lots of growth and then in the summer months create lovely garlic bulbs.

      I hope this helps answer your question?

      Reply

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