All of these plants are sent out in April and May and form part of our perennials collection. Some such as shallots and garlic are usually grown as annuals, however naturally they remain in the ground and grow as perennials. Others such as chives and bunching onions remain in the ground and are only dug occasionally to split the clumps.
Conventional wisdom is to plant on the Winter Solstice and harvest at Summer Solstice. It is now clear though that the best time for planting varies between varieties and from region to region. The best time for planting will be between April and August and its best to check with experienced gardeners in your region.
Garlic does best in light soils with good drainage and need a sunny position. Enrich soil with well rotted manure, compost, and lime prior to planting.
We plant our garlic on diagonal spacings. Kay plants at 10cm spacings which gives her 100 plants per metre in a metre wide bed. I (Gail) space my garlic slightly wider at approximately 12.5cm spacings which seems to work better in my garden.
Elephant and Ahipara Garlics (which are not ‘true’ garlics but have the same basic requirements need a larger planting spacing of around 15cm. Both Elephant and Ahipara Garlics produce bulbils (Elephant garlic around the base of the bulb and Ahipara both around the base of the bulb and also top set bulbils which form at the end of a long stem rising up from the bulb. Planting conditions required are the same as the cloves but they can be planted closer together.
Keep beds free from weeds. Garlic is able to push through quite thick mulch so this would help with weed control and protect the bulbs from extreme weather conditions. In wet areas watch that the mulch is not allowing the ground to become too sodden – should this happen pull mulch away from plants. Our experience is that this can particularly be an issue if a thick hay mulch is used but does not occur with a partially composted ramial wood chip mulch. Foliar feed with fish and seaweed during Winter and early Spring but stop once bulbs start to enlarge or the flower stalks start to emerge. Don’t plant your garlic in the same bed every year, it needs to be on a 3 year cycle to prevent build up of fungal spores and other pests. Full sun and regular water during the months when the bulbs are developing is essential – stop watering when the tops begin to turn brown as the bulbs are now almost mature and watering can cause rotting at this point.
Elephant garlic flower heads should be removed while young before they open to encourage good clove size and are excellent to eat.
Other top setting garlic such as Rocombole, Dalmation and NZ Purple will produce a flower head in early Summer that will contain bulbils which can be planted. You can also remove these early for bigger bulbs and to eat as scapes, or leave to use as a seed bulbils. Planted as seed bulbils they will take two years growth to produce eating garlic. Planting conditions required are the same as the garlic cloves but they can be planted closer together.
Harvest garlic when the leaves to start to turn brown. Don’t leave it till the leaves have completely died back as your bulbs will have started to split. Dig out with a fork and set to cure under cover away from rain and sun but plenty of air movement – keep tops attached to bulbs for curing and storing.
Tree Onions, Flowering Shallots, Potato Onions
Like garlic, onions do best in light, well drained but fertile soil. Prepare the beds as for garlic. These onions can be planted any time from May through to August with the best planting time varying from region to region. Most commonly May or June would be the best months to plant.
We plant all of these onions on a diagonal spacing, Tree Onions and Flowering Shallots at approximately 20cms and Brown Potato Onions closer at around 12.5 cms (5 inches). Plant the entire bulb just below the surface of the soil. These onions also need to be kept weed free and again a thick layer of mulch can be beneficial.
Harvest when the clumps of bulbs are well formed and the leaves are starting to dry at the ends. Cure them under cover and out of full sun in a place with plenty of air movement. To store they can either be strung up in bunches or put in onion sacks. Tree onions often form bulbils and these can be saved for planting as can the actual bulbs.
Society garlic, Multiplying leeks, Multiplying spring onions (giant chives), Mike’s multiplying onions, Welsh bunching onions
These do best in light, well drained, but heavily composted soil. Upon receipt plant out into their permanent position and, if dry, water until established. Clumps will increase in size and can be divided each year to provide new clumps. When divided they all benefit from an addition of new compost when replanting.