The scientific name for garlic is Allium sativum. Garlic takes about 9 months to reach maturity. However, it is commonplace to find lots of varieties maturing after roughly 5 months. The global titan of garlic farming is China. The top 3 global export markets for garlic are USA, France, and Brazil.

Importance Of Garlic

The importance of garlic is mainly in its nutritional and medicinal value. Garlic is one of the most important spices when it comes to cooking. It is also quite useful in human health due to its antibiotic value. Garlic has also been found to optimize the function of the human heart.

Production Considerations

Land Preparation

Ploughing and harrowing are central to achieving the best soil profile. Ploughing to depths of 20 centimetres will help produce the best soil profile. After harrowing then comes levelling, which enhances soil drainage.

Favourable Climate

Climate-wise, garlic can grow well in a wide range of climates. Wet conditions are best for growing garlic thus growing it during the rainy season is ideal. However, there should not be too much wetness – there must be a balance with sunlight also. 6 hours of sunlight per day is highly recommended for optimum growth to occur. It must also be noted that the growth of garlic is heavily compromised if the weather is too hot. In essence, weather extremities i.e. very cold and very hot, are not good for garlic farming. Growth phase needs an optimum temperature range of 25 to 30 degrees Celsius. In general, ideal temperatures can range from as low as 13 degrees Celsius.

Soil Requirements

Garlic requires lots of moisture throughout its growth. This means it requires soil that is good at retaining moisture. The soil should have good drainage and must be endowed with considerable fertility – incorporation of organic material into the soil might be necessary. Take note that organic material must be well decomposed. Organic material that is still slightly or not yet decomposed can be detrimental to the crop. This is because such organic material can enhance the incidence and propagation of diseases. Roughly 15 tonnes of organic material should be added to 1 hectare. The best soil for garlic ranges from sandy soils to loam soils (particularly clay loams). The optimum soil pH is 6.5 to 7.

Sowing And Planting

In Zimbabwe, planting is best done from February to May. Planting typically starts with sourcing garlic bulbs. You have to be sure the bulbs are healthy. Do not take that lightly because poor seed culminates in poor yields. Some recommend that the size of the bulbs should be considered if good yields are to be realized. Before you plant you have to take the bulbs apart into standalone cloves. Do not make the mistake of peeling them – keep their outer covering (i.e. husks) in place. When you place the cloves into the ground they must be in a vertical position. The roots will be at the bottom side so that they get into the ground first.

Water Requirements

Moisture is a key need for garlic to grow well as I mentioned earlier. This means irrigation may be necessary especially if there is not enough rainfall. Especially during the time bulbs develop and grow towards maturity, watering is crucially vital. At the beginning irrigation should be done regularly – once every 7 days. Once germination has occurred and the crop is now growing, irrigation can be done twice a month.

Pest, Disease And Weed Control

Naturally, garlic somewhat wards off diseases and pests. There are of course some diseases and pests that you must look out for. Cutworms are the most common pests whereas white rot and Downey mildew are some of the common diseases. Weeds are best dealt with by proper land preparation at the beginning. During growth, weeding can be done using mechanical and also chemical methods.

Harvesting And Storage

Harvesting is imminent when yellowing and tipping over of the tops begin to occur. Do not wait till they flat out dry out – that will be too late if you want to harvest good quality garlic. When harvesting, it is advised to sample before harvesting everything. The bulbs must be sufficiently dry, compact (i.e. thick), and the husks must be dry (looking and feeling like plastic paper). Those are indicators that the garlic is ready for harvesting. Harvesting should not be done too early or too late. If done too early, bulbs might be too tender and the husks will be too soft making them susceptible to damage. Bear in mind that husks provide a protective layer for the garlic cloves. If it is done too late, the bulbs can become too hard and can even break thus exposing them to damage and diseases. Harvesting entails digging out the bulbs from the soil using handheld implements or other mechanized methods.

Before storing the garlic ensure they are well dried. You can dry them in a shade for about a week. It would be best to remove (or cut short) roots and any foliage. The storage temperature of 4 degrees Celsius is best when storing garlic. This means a cool dry place is ideal – plus it should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Refrigeration during storage is a big NO! By following proper storage regimes as stated here, garlic should last a good 12 months. Room temperature with adequate ventilation suffices for the longevity of garlic in storage.

Important Factors To Consider

When farming garlic it is important to ensure that soil moisture is maintained during the entire period. Application of fertilizers is inevitable due to the high demand for elements such as nitrogen. Some of the common varieties are Godavari, Egyptian White, Elephant, Rocambole, Egyptian Pink, and Purple Stripe amongst others. In-row spacing should be 10 centimetres and inter-row spacing should be 25 centimetres.

Average yield is anything from 4 to 10 tonnes. It is quite possible to realize a profit of around US$6000 per hectare.