I understand that garlic was briefly discussed at Cabinet recently. Cabinet confidentiality precludes me from going into further detail. However, just like any kitchen gardener, I am keen to  meet as much as possible of my own garlic needs from home-grown stocks. With this in mind I am planting a few extra cloves this month myself. I hope to have a few bulbs to spare at harvest time for the Minister for Finance. Whatever else our country is short of during these hard times, at least let us not be short of produce we can grow in ‘Ireland – the Food Island’.

Garlic requires a longer growing season than most vegetables and along with costs  and our damp climate,  this has meant that garlic is not  grown commercially to any extent in Ireland. There is a small amount grown on the Isle of Wight, I understand,  but most of the garlic I see in the shops comes from China. The cloves I sow in the back garden however come through a certified seed merchant. In this way I hope they are more suited to growing in this climate than the Chinese grown shop garlic.

If you have a choice of varieties in a garden centre, then Messidrome or Germidour are suited better to November sowing. Printador is more for early spring sowing. I would expect to be harvesting my own crop in July 2010.

The patch for my new garlic bed is alongside the recently sown Radar onions as garlic, onion, leek, shallots etc are all members of the allium family and have similar growing needs. First the garlic bulbs need to be carefully pulled apart and the individual cloves laid out on the freshly prepared seedbed. I have read that a sprinkling of wood ash raked in to the surface brings up the potash levels, but if anything my potash levels are too high  so I skip that bit of advice.

With cloves spaced about five inches apart, I sow them each about an inch and a half below the surface. A frost kick starts their root development, I am told but they need a good amount of dry weather to avoid rotting and especially the fungus, white rot. This may explain why there has been so little Irish grown garlic, and how the well-travelled Chinese garlic has cornered the market here.

Nonetheless the challenge of growing garlic in Ireland is an interesting one as I love it in pesto with home-grown basil. However while chewing it raw  may be very healthy, I think I’ll stick to chewing an apple a day instead!


9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sonya byrne on November 11, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    looking forward to planting my garlic this weekend. Got an amazing crop this year. The cloves are so juicy compared to the Chinese garlic which is dry and rubbery. The Isle of Wight Garlic farm has some interesting varieties. The seed garlic is a little bit expensive but worth it. I will try some of my own stock this year.
    I got some fab shallots from the garlic farm as well. Each shallot produced about 10-15 shallots so I ended up with around 500! Great yield.
    Allotment addict Cork


  2. It is generally believed that your colleague brian lenihan is coping with his present difficulties by chewing garlic. If you are his supplier you have the nations indebtedness.


  3. Posted by Ray on December 11, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    I’ve always been a fan of the old adage of planting Garlic
    on the shortest day, and harvesting it on the longest day of the year.
    It gives one something to do while waiting for the Solstice suns to rise,
    if nothing else 🙂


  4. Hi Trevor
    Enjoyed looking at your blog. Only realised you had one after reading about it in e Times Health section today. Re:garlic, we put some down last year and it seemed to die away but the last few months, it has been sprouting up everywhere! Does anyone know when we dig it up and what do you with it then!


    • Hi Rozz,
      Good to hear from you. There is a tradition that says plant garlic cloves on the shortest day and harvest them on the longest day. I tried this but the bulbs were still a bit small when I harvested. This year I planted the cloves (Valledo variety) in early November and hope they are now forming roots. I expect to see growth perhaps in February. Come June the growth should start to wither at the tips. This means the garlic underground is maturing. When leaves have fully turned brown, gently dig up to avoid damage. If sunny, lay harvest out in an airy warm place, ideally on a mesh surface. Then plait the brown leaves so the bulbs can hang in a cool shed or kitchen to dry further. The dryer they are, the longer they last in storage. I envy you if garlic is growing around you of its own accord.
      Keep in touch,


  5. Posted by Terri O'Sullivan on June 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I planted garlic in March or April and its growing well . Does it need the cold of the winter to form bulbs? A gardener friend told me it did. I pulled up one and it looks like a leek. No bulb but a lovely garlicky smell. If I leave the rest in will they form bulbs do you think? And if so, when?


  6. Hi Trevor. Hope you are enjoying political retirement and are taking to the garden seriously. I,ve been growing garlic for over 9 years and plan to go commercial in 2014/2015 season. I,ve trialled so many varieties over the years,and found those from the Isle of Wight do not do well in Irish conditions. I have one brilliant variety I now call Granard Red, which has survived outdoors during our famous winter 2 years back.
    I will be offering it on the net in 2013 to Irish growers only, initally. Completely organically grown, but I dont brag about it simply because it,s cheaper to do it tkat way.
    Some seaweed, chicken manure and rockdust is all you need as soil conditioner and fertilizer.I,d be happy to fill you in if you,d like.


    • Posted by Trevor Sargent on November 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      Dear Ed,

      Delighted to hear of your work trialling garlic varieties under Irish growing conditions. I wish you every success in growing garlic commercially. The last such commercial growing operation was in Wexford I understand. Your product will be an important contribution to import substitution as well as increasing organic production overall in Ireland. I hope you do not mind if I give you a mention on my blog!
      Beir bua is beannacht,


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