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Plant garlic this weekend for a year of flavour

Planting garlic cloves 
Planting garlic cloves  Credit: GAP Photos

Gardening expert and no-dig allotmenteer Jack Wallington provides weekly advice on how to grow food yourself

Garlic is easy to grow – even in small spaces. Now is the perfect time to plant it in a sunny spot, burying each clove pointy end up, 3cm deep, 15cm apart.

There are two garlic types, soft neck and hard neck; I find they have subtle differences in flavour. Soft necks are the choice for general cooking and they store for up to a year. Garlic connoisseurs (do they exist?) will love hard neck garlic with its stronger spiciness, although it will only store for typically 3-4 months.

The crop is generally problem-free except for one catastrophic disease that has now reached my allotment. Last year, for the first time, I found onion white rot on my garlic. It destroyed half the crop but worse, it means I can no longer grow onions, garlic or shallots in that spot.

Purple garlic Credit: Martin Poole / Getty 

Onion white rot is a soil-borne fungus and its tiny spores can survive for up to 20 years in the ground with no means of killing them. This is game over for alliums. So, what to do? I could give up… but I’m not a defeatist. First contain the problem; remove, bag and burn affected plant material. Then wash and sterilise tools and soles of shoes using a disinfectant. I can then try growing in another area and leave the infected spot allium-free for 20 years.

Or, avoid soil altogether: 10 plants grow well in a 30cm pot of peat-free compost, which makes garlic possible on balconies and patios. Onion white rot is usually introduced on infected cloves, seed onions and ornamental alliums so only buy from a reputable source, e.g. thegarlicfarm.co.uk.