Growing garlic, from soil to market

Saturday May 16 2020

Proper spacing will lead to hig

Proper spacing will lead to higher yields of garlic (inset). Photo by Lominda Afedraru 

By Lominda Afedraru

Garlic is a perennial vegetable belonging to the onion family grown by farmers using its bulb across the globe including Uganda.

According to experts the crop originated from Central Asia before making its way to Africa.

It is believed that eating garlic reduces blood pressure and improves cholesterol level.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, most people have resorted to consuming the vegetable which is mainly cooked as spice.

As such Seeds of Gold looks at the best agronomy practices for farmers to adopt in order to get bumper harvests.

Muzamiru Twaibu Mwanga is a youth belonging to joint farmer youth group in Kapchorwa who attained skills training in agronomy practices in growing horticulture crops.

He is now training fellow youth engaged in growing crops such as onions, spinach, carrots and garlic among others in most parts of his village. He is engaged in growing mainly onions and garlic on two acres.


Citing literature from Plant Agro-business guide about what farmers must consider when growing garlic, Mwanga notes that there are two types of garlic grown by farmers in Uganda. These are the hard neck which produces flower stems called scape which can be used as salad.

This type comprises of varieties namely laubred wight, elephant garlic, chesnuk red and early purple wight variety.
The other type is the soft neck type which does not produce flower stems. It includes wight cristo, Albigensicon wight, cedon and germidout

Propagating garlic
“To begin with make sure the soil is soft and the bed should be 1 by 10 metres to avoid movement made over the beds and for easy weeding process,” says Muwanga. The beds must have trenches to provide water runway.

“In the hole apply fertiliser and cover it with a thin soil layer. Plant the seeds and cover lightly with soil and apply mulches,” Muwanga explains.

After planting irrigate the nursery bed liberally for the first 10 days and continue watering regularly. Germination of seeds will take about 7 to 10 days after which the mulches are removed and used to make a shade above the tender plants which have not fully developed. The shed is applicable to hot conditions.

Transplant when the seedlings have a thick base and a height of 15cm. The seedlings should have 3 to 5 well-formed leaves at transplanting time. Two weeks before transplanting reduce the shade to improve seedling survival rate in the field.
It must be exposed to temperature of below 65 degrees F otherwise they may fail to germinate.

Soil and seed preference
Garlic grows well in drained fertile soil with plenty of organic matter tolerating soil pH ranging from 6.2 to 6.8
It is important for farmers to obtain seed from certified seed outlets to avoid purchase of adulterated seed which may fail to germinate or seed infected with disease.

Planting and weeding
“If you are not constrained on land, plant garlic in well-tilled beds of two or four rows, with about 20cm spacing between rows and between plants. This bed size is ideal for manual weeding and production of large bulbs,” says Muwanga.

Farmers are expected to break the cloves from the bulb a few days before planting but it is a requirement to keep the hook on each individual clove. Plant each clove 10cm apart in width and the rows must be 30cm apart. It is important to water the field every 3-5 days during bulbing and for soils that are not fertile, it is important to apply fertiliser besides the bulb.

Farmers must ensure that the growing vegetable is not competing with weeds, start weeding as soon as the shots are out and do it every other time when the weeds begin to grow. It is important to practice crop rotation to keep the soil fertile for the next planting season.
If the right agronomy practice is followed, it will take 9 months or less to harvesting time.

Pests and diseases
The most common disease ravaging farmer fields is white rot which affects the roots causing the entire bulb to get damaged. Clearing up the area to keep it safe from weeds and crop rotation may act as measure in curbing the disease. The common pests are nematodes which are soil borne and may end up destroying the roots and bulbs, onion thrips damaging the leaves thereby slowing the growth stage.

Farmers are expected to spray the field with recommended pesticides and practice mulching which helps moderate the temperature.

Harvesting and storage
Harvesting time depends on when planting took place however farmers are expected to observe yellowing of the plant leaves which indicates maturity.
It is important to lift the bulbs with a spade or garden fork before pulling and thereafter the brush soil to keep it clean.

Value addition
A good number of processors are now extracting oil from garlic which is blended in honey for consumption. This can be used for treating common cold.

Steps for preparing garlic seeds
• To make seeds, one buys or harvests garlic and then dries in the sun for one month before disinfecting in chlorine.
• The next step is to clean the garlic bulbs using organic soap. The purpose for doing this is to wash away the disinfectant and dirt.
• After the cleaning, it is important to prevent mould formation on ‘bruised’ garlic. Organic salt is used to do the work.
• At this point one should mix a bio-stimulant in water and the garlic immersed in the solution for 12 hours.
• This is to break the garlic’s dormancy, which lasts up to eight months when planted. The stimulant makes the seeds germinate in two weeks.
• If not added, and the rest of the procedures are followed, it takes about three months.
• The garlic is then stored in a room whose temperature should be controlled to 20 degrees Celsius for germination to take place.
• The treated garlic are left in the room for two weeks before they are then dried in the sun for two days.