Elephant Garlic

AT A GLANCE

Milder than ‘true’ garlic, elephant garlic produces satisfyingly large, plump cloves with a light, mild flavour. Easy to grow both as an annual or perennial, elephant garlic is a great addition to any garden or allotment.

More details

SunFull
Germination7 - 14 Days
Sowing MethodDirect to Ground
Greenhouse / PolytunnelOptional for Early Crop
Seed Count6 - 10 Cloves
Recommended Soil pH5.0-6.0

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More closely related to leeks than actual ‘true’ garlic, elephant garlic produces huge bulbs, large blue-green leaves, and flower stalks up to 2m high. It can be used for culinary (perfect for roasting or baking!) or ornamental purposes. The bulbs can weigh up to 500g and reach up to 10cm in diameter. The cloves are often so large, that a single clove will suffice for a meal (and the peeling is easy!).

Starting out

Elephant garlic, like true garlic, is super easy to plant and harvest. Choose a spot that has full sun, moist conditions, and well-drained soil. Split the bulbs into individual cloves and plant each clove upright (i.e. with the flat base down) at a depth twice their height. Ideal spacing between cloves is around 20cm (8”).

The best time to plant elephant garlic is from Oct-Nov, but you can get away with planting as late as February. The later you plant, the more likely it will just give you one large monobulb (i.e. no separate, individual cloves). Some find these preferable to cook with, so there’s something to be said for late planting.

If you plant in the fall your elephant garlic should be ready for harvest the following June/July.

Plant direct
Weeding

Maintenance

Like true garlic, once planted elephant garlic care is pretty simple. If you planted in soils rich with compost and/or well-rotted manure, your garlic should need very little feeding (if any). If your soil is not particularly fertile, side dress with compost February to April. Our wet climate generally provides more than enough water for garlic crops, so no extra watering tends to be necessary unless there’s a drought. (If there is a drought, however, don’t let your garlic dry out—irrigate accordingly.) Keep in mind, elephant garlic bulbs are prone to splitting in adverse wet weather conditions or over watering, so if you choose to do additional watering, do so carefully. )

Otherwise just keep your garlic bed weed free and nip off any flower buds that appear (to redirect energy to the bulbs) if using as an annual. Keep the area weed-free until the foliage turns yellow in mid-summer.

Harvesting

Elephant garlic can be treated as an annual or a perennial.

As an annual: Wait for 2 or more leaves to turn brown/wither on each plant. Simply loosen the plants from the soil with a trowel and lift, being careful not to score the bulb itself.

Note: When you lift the bulbs they there may be numerous little rounds attached to the base of the bulb. If you peel the outer shell off of these and plant them, they will grow and form a clove which you can dig out the following year and plant again to get a full on elephant garlic bulb (in effect the little rounds count as 2-year harvestable garlic bulbs).

Once harvested, let the garlic bulbs lay out somewhere dry and warm for a day before hanging them. Once they’ve cured for a day, brush the dirt off of the bulbs and hang in a cool, dry place.

Note: Don’t let the garlic stay in the ground too long after the foliage has withered—the bulbs may re-sprout and then rot when stored.

Cloves planted in late autumn will be ready late June through mid-July. Spring-planted garlic will be ready slightly later.

Note: You can keep your largest cloves as a seed crop for next year’s garlic!

As a perennial: Elephant garlic does not have to be divided or harvested each year. If you leave it be, it will spread into a clump of multiple flowering heads. These clumps can be left as ornamentals and/or as pest deterrents. Eventually, though, they may become eventually over crowded and need some thinning.

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