Growing  Tips for the Alliaceae Family

Garlic, onions and leeks do best in light, well drained, but heavily composted soil. Garlic and onions and all members of this family including chives  are heavy feeders while they are growing tops, before the bulbs start forming.

Society Garlic, Multiplying leeks, Multiplying spring onions (giant chives), Mike’s multiplying onions, Welsh bunching onions

These do best in light, well drained, but heavily composted soil. Clumps will increase in size and can be divided each year to provide new clumps. When divided they all benefit from an addition of new compost when replanting. The stems of all of these plants are harvested for use leaving the clump growing. The flowers of both chives and society garlic are also delicious in salads.




Conventional wisdom is to plant on the Winter Solstice and harvest at Summer Solstice. It is now clear though that the best time for planting varies between varieties and from region to region. In the Far North early varieties are best planted in April and all others in May. The best time for planting will be between April and August and its best to check with experienced gardeners in your region.

Garlic does best in light soils with good drainage and need a sunny position. Enrich soil with well rotted manure, compost, lime and Nature’s Garden prior to planting.

We plant our garlic on diagonal spacings. Kay plants at 10cm spacings which gives her 100 plants per metre in a metre wide bed. I space my garlic slightly wider at approximately 12.5cm spacings which seems to work better in my garden.

Keep beds free from weeds. Garlic is able to push through quite thick mulch so this would help with weed control and protect the bulbs from extreme weather conditions. In wet areas watch that the mulch is not allowing the ground to become too sodden – should this happen pull mulch away from plants. Foliar feed with fish and seaweed during Winter and early Spring but stop once bulbs start to enlarge or the flower stalks start to emerge. Don’t plant your garlic in the same bed every year, it needs to be on a 3 year cycle to prevent build up of fungal spores and other pests. Full sun and regular water during the months when the bulbs are developing is essential – stop watering when the tops begin to turn brown as the bulbs are now almost mature and watering can cause rotting at this point.

Elephant garlic flower heads should be removed while young before they open to encourage good clove size and are excellent to eat.

Other top setting garlic such as Rocombole, Dalmation and NZ Purple will produce a flower head in early Summer. Picking the flowers stalks (scapes) will ensure you harvest far larger bulbs, plus you’ll get to eat the flower stalks which are all delicious. If not harvested they will produce bulbils which can be planted. Planted as seed they will take two years growth to produce eating garlic.

Harvest garlic when the leaves to start to turn brown. Don’t leave it till the leaves have completely died back as your bulbs will have started to split. Dig out with a fork and set to cure under cover away from rain and sun but plenty of air movement – keep tops attached to bulbs for curing and storing.

More on growing garlic here

Perennial Onions – Tree Onions, Flowering Shallots, Brown Potato Onions

Like garlic, onions do best in light, well drained but fertile soil. Prepare the beds as for garlic. These onions can be planted any time from May through to August with the best planting time varying from region to region. Most commonly May or June would be the best months to plant.

We plant all of these onions on a diagonal spacing, Tree Onions and Flowering Shallots at approximately 17cms and Brown Potato Onions closer at around 12.5 cms. Plant the entire bulb just below the surface of the soil. These onions also need to be kept weed free and again a thick layer of mulch can be beneficial.

Harvest when the clumps of bulbs are well formed and the leaves are starting to dry at the ends. Cure them under cover and out of full sun in a place with plenty of air movement. To store they can either be strung up in bunches or put in onion sacks. Tree onions often form bulbils and these can be saved for planting as can the actual bulbs.