A beginner's guide to garlic farming: How to plant, grow, and harvest
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Are you planning to enter into garlic farming but don’t know how to get started? Garlic is one of the easiest crops to start growing, even if you’re a beginner. But before you start farming, there are several things you need to know. 

Garlic farming in Kenya is very lucrative. But you’ll need to learn more about the business if you want to join in on the successes of others. This includes learning about planting, ecological requirements, the best soil for garlic farming, common garlic diseases and pests, and the best time to harvest your garlic.

To help you get started, below is a beginner’s guide on how to start growing garlic. 

Why start garlic farming?

Garlic is a relative of onions, shallots, and chives. It is known for its numerous health benefits that include:

  • Reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • Helping to control blood pressure
  • Boosting your immune system
  • Helping to remove heavy metal from the body
  • It is good for fighting cold and flu
  • It helps to make the bones strong
  • It is good for the skin

What are the main varieties of garlic?

There are many varieties of garlic, but there are mainly categorized into three main groups. The 3 main groups are soft-neck garlic, hard-neck garlic, and elephant garlic. 

  • Soft-neck garlic is mainly grown in Africa. It is very white with a paper-like skin. If you are in Africa, it is one of the best types of garlic you can consider for farming.
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However, soft-neck produces fewer cloves but very large heads. Also, it is robust and does not have a harsh smell. Some of the varieties of soft-neck garlic include Creole, California Late, and California Early.

  • Elephant garlic is the other common variety of garlic. It has large heads and huge cloves. It is one of the standard varieties of garlic you might find at the store near you. 
  • Hard-neck garlic is a variety with a strong, sweet, and sharp smell. Although it has larger and fewer cloves on most heads, the skin is easy to remove.  

What are the ecological requirements of garlic farming?

As you enter into garlic farming, you need to understand that it is a plant that grows well in drained fertile soil. Whether you intend to use your home garden or your upcountry farm, you need to check the soil type. 

You need to conduct a soil test to ensure it is fertile and free from diseases. Experts recommend a pH of 6.5 to 6.7. This is the best type of soil for garlic farming. You can also use suitable organic fertilizers to increase your yield.

Also, you are advised to assess your land properly and have a crop rotation to maintain a healthy farm.

How do I prepare the land for garlic farming?

After identifying the soil type, the next step is to prepare your land for garlic farming. You need to make the land ready. If the land and the soil are not ready, look for techniques to improve it.

Garlic is a crop that does well even in marginal soil. However, it is necessary to enhance the soil using organic fertilizers such as manure and alfalfa. This will make it ready and efficient for garlic farming.

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It is a crop that grows well in loam soil. This means it does not do well in clay or sandy soil. For optimal growth, the soil should have enough nitrogen, potassium, sulfur, and phosphorous.

Do I need to prepare a nursery for garlic farming?

No. You do not need to prepare a nursery for garlic farming. The best option is to buy already germinated cloves from a well-known dealer.

A beginner's guide to garlic farming: How to plant, grow, and harvest
A man holds garlic seedlings. Image: FarmBiz Africa

How do I perform garlic transplanting?

Once you get the germinated cloves, all you need is a hoe. This will help you dig trenches that are 3 inches deep. Then plant the cloves by placing the root down and then cover them with loose soil.

Agricultural experts recommend you space the cloves six inches apart. Also, the spacing between the rows needs to be two feet. You are also advised to water the crops after planting them.

Does garlic farming need irrigation?

The good news with garlic farming is that it does not need a lot of water. However, if you are planning to grow garlic in areas will little rainfall, you need to water the crops often. You must begin to water them once they sprout.

Based on the type of soil, you should limit the irrigation. This is because garlic cannot do well in waterlogged soil. The crops will start to clot. To avoid any unnecessary wastage, you can cover the ground with mulch.

Which are the common garlic diseases and pests?

Garlic is a plant that is not affected by many diseases. However, there are some soil-borne diseases you should worry about. The common ones are basal rot, mildew, white rot, rust, and penicillium decay.

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The common pests that might affect garlic include roundworms, bulb mites, wireworms, and blister beetles. Also, you are advised to get rid of weeds whenever they appear.

How do I tell garlic is ready for harvest?

Harvesting garlic at the right time is significant. This is because late harvest may lead to rotting of the garlic cloves and the heads might split. Also, harvesting early might give you small cloves that are less compact.

Garlic takes about three to four months to grow fully. The condition of foliage shows that your garlic is ready for harvest. However, if the soil is dry, the foliage may die before harvest time.

Therefore, if you manage to keep the soil wet, the garlic will be ready for harvest when the foliage appears light green.

About the author

Staff news writer for The Venture Brat

VB Reporter

Staff news writer for The Venture Brat