Some answers to common questions we receive.
How do I start growing garlic?
The following information is a brief guide for those who have little or no prior experience in growing garlic, or horticulture generally. Remember that it is the responsibility of the grower to inform themselves as widely as possible before attempting a commercial crop. Another point to be emphasised is that before planting a commercial crop you will need to work out where you’re going to sell it (see How Do I Buy and Sell My Garlic? below in the FAQ’s).
It is recommended that in your first year, prepare a small block, forming beds well in advance of planting (5 – 50 square metres of planting space will suffice). Soil testing is strongly recommended at this stage, allowing you to correct the mineral balance of the soil before planting.
A trial crop is essential for working out what grows best in your area. It also allows you to learn the nuances of planting and harvesting garlic and where the pressure points are – what equipment you’ll need – costs involved – and basically get a grounding in how garlic grows. If you want to grow more, increase your planting area as resources and space allow – and it is recommended to plant 2 or 3 varieties that harvest at different times … early and mid or late season … which spreads the harvesting pressure but also reduces the risk of full crop failure.
Now it is time to research which garlic cultivars (varieties) will grow in your region. https://www.australiangarlic.net.au/ is a great site for learning more about Australian cultivars. The next challenge is to research a source of your choice of seed stock from a reputable outlet (see our Grower/Seller page for more information). The best time to place an order is from December to March, particularly if you want a cultivar that is in limited supply.
Now to growing your crop: Garlic needs to be kept weed free and moist (but not wet) so mulching is highly recommended. This also means, if you’re growing a larger crop, you will need to have guaranteed access to permanent water. Garlic is a heavy nutrient feeder, it requires manure and/or fertiliser (pelleted form is fine), trace elements (slow release is fine) and a pH between 6 and 7 is best. You do not necessarily need to plant the cloves up the right way – garlic will largely tend to right itself as it puts roots out – and how deeply you plant depends on the weather (extremes will impact a shallow planting).
Depending on the variety of garlic, if well grown, it will yield around 15-25 bulbs per kg and you can expect to harvest 8 to 12 times the quantity of garlic that you planted. A good rule of thumb is to plant the cloves 15 x 15cm apart (45 bulbs per square metre). Generally you will harvest around 60-80% usable garlic with the rest being undersized, damaged etc. The yield per hectare varies depending on how wide apart you plant and how wide your beds are etc.
How do I buy and sell my garlic?
We get a lot of calls from people at harvest time, asking where they can sell their garlic. We can make suggestions – online, markets, wholesale, value add etc – but we are not a merchant facility.
If you are a member, we have a buyer/seller page where you can list your farm details and garlic for sale. These details are available to the public.
Non members can advertise in the members only discussion forum, by contacting us with their details which we will post. Our members can choose to follow up with you directly.
Other options include setting up an online sale website, selling via online sales sites such as Gumtree or Farmhouse Direct. You might also check out the garlic festivals happening around the countryside.
You might also approach your local IGA or fruit/veg shop as a supplier, hold a market stall at your local farmers market and/or contact distributors at the major wholesale markets (ie, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane). This can be a very complex selling exchange and we recommend you do your research first.
As an organisation, we are seeing more and more local growers turn to the value added market for better financial returns. Eg, dehydrating, pickling, mincing or ‘black garlic’.
It is essential that you work out your sales avenues before you invest your time and your money.
Advertising your garlic as locally grown, or promoting it as chemical free if you have grown it as such may appeal to another group of buyers.
The sale price for whole bulbs varies according to demand, quality and location, so do your homework first, establish an outlet and remember that retail is different to wholesale!
Why should I become a member of the AGIA?
The aim of the AGIA is to promote a strong Australian garlic industry with a reputation for clean, quality garlic.
We share information amongst growers from all around Australia.
AGIA conducts seminars and workshops and has an annual conference where Garlic growers come together to learn market trends, get updates from regulatory authorities, food safety and other industry support bodies and learn more about growing methods and different cultivars.
AGIA members are licensed to use APVMA chemical permits which have been approved for use by (financial) members of the AGIA.
AGIA members have access to resources such as the Garlic Group Charts which have details for Planting, Harvesting and Storage for each of the early, mid and late season groups – by state.
Our AGIA members “cleaned up” at the last Australian Food Awards (AFA) and won 10 gold, 12 silver and 2 bronze awards, taking out the top prize for garlic.
When is garlic ready to harvest?
Members have access to Grower Charts which provide valuable information about when to plant, harvest and store, by state. Refer to Member Publications.
There is no set date for harvesting, and the timing will vary according to your location, climate and when you planted but generally harvesting occurs (in southern states) from early November to early January, depending on the variety of garlic grown. The simplest and most reliable way to determine when to harvest is when the plant has have 4.5 green leaves remaining.
NOTE – it is the number of remaining green leaves that are the key indicator … not number of dead leaves, nor the bulb size.
Each green leaf is a bulb wrapper and for great presentation and long, quality storage you need a minimum of 3 bulb skins. Many varieties of garlic also have an internal bulb dividing leaf – so 3 +1 makes 4 … but the outside wrapper will come off when the bulb is cured and this is the 0.5 that the last leaf dying back – so a total of 4.5 green leaves.
If you have really dry soil – you might get away with 4 or even 3 green leaves – but in general, the best bulb presentation and storage quality is achieved with 4.5 green leaves.
How do I grow Russian (Elephant) garlic?
Russian Garlic, also known as Elephant Garlic or Giant Garlic is actually a leek that throws to garlic.
It is a hardy plant that is relatively easy to grow – and turns out a nice black garlic.
Information about Russian or elephant garlic can be found on our website here. https://garlicaustralia.asn.au/article/elephant-garlic (old website link)
One of our members asked why their Russian Garlic bulbs didn’t divide but instead it grew into an onion shape with two little round yellow rounds each side.
The link above explains that elephant garlic tends to alternate between the production of cloves and the production of rounds, and to go to seed only every second year.
What garlic is in Australian stores?
Fresh garlic sold in Australia is a mixture of Australian grown and imported garlic from places such as China, Mexico and Spain. Whilst Australian grown garlic production is increasing as a result of increasing awareness and demand for local and wholesome product there are times throughout the year when imported garlic is required to meet seasonal needs. Fresh imported garlic is often treated to extend shelf life and it is always treated with methyl bromide as an Australian biosecurity requirement.
A substantial amount of garlic imported into Australia also ends up in further manufacturing such as sauces, coatings and re-hydrated minces.
Labelling laws in retail outlets require the seller to state the country of origin and of course the AGIA asks consumers to choose Australian grown where ever possible.
How do I mail garlic within Australia?
The movement of garlic for planting purposes between states and territories is regulated by government quarantine authorities.
Regulations do vary between states. From SA, for example, you can post garlic for planting (not food), to anywhere but Tasmania and Western Australia.
To see the definitive regulations for all states and territories, visit https://www.interstatequarantine.org.au/producers/committees/quarantine-regulators/
Should I grow organic, chemical free or conventional garlic?
In the first instance this will largely be a personal choice, however if you are intending to be a commercial grower, it may also be a business decision.
Being a Certified Organic grower comes with many obligations to the certification process, defined in a National Organic Standard, approved by the Federal Department of Agriculture, and administered by a number of certifying bodies.
Many growers are reluctant to undertake the additional requirement of certification and choose to grow “chemically free”. In many cases growers would comply with many aspects of the National Standard without the recording, auditing obligations and cost of being a certified grower. Growing “chemically free” will suit many people who can communicate directly with their customers and can articulate how they grow their garlic. “Chemical Free” growers will not have access to the organic market that complies with the National Organic Standard.
Conventional growers supply the bulk of Australian grown garlic and are free to use approved chemicals for which they have a permit to use. State obligations will vary and growers must read the Label and comply with the Directions of Use. Growing “conventionally” tends to place the grower in the commodity market hence larger quantities are grown.