Ail ail sailor…choosing seed garlic for a coastal plot

We planted our first crop of garlic in our new garden this year (2016). I was very lax on taking photos unfortunately.  We only had the house midway through the previous summer (2015), much too late to plant garlic. This year seemed much windier and colder than last summer and we believe the garlic suffered more from that than from any disease, and with everything else we weren’t really prepared for it – our wind netting went up a bit too late.

Vegetable plot July 2016

Garlic and chums in the new veg plot, July 2016 – foreground is raspberries and white borage, then gardlic, shallots, beans, kale, yacon, Chinese artichokes…you know, the usual. Wind netting in place in this picture – the empty bottles on top of cane to avoid too frequent trips to the eye surgeon

The tops were bashed about badly and started to rot before they had begun to die down – no signs of any disease, but it’s been hard to get them dried off and a number of bulbs had to be thrown away as they’d gone a bit odd before they dried off. This year we intend to plant fewer cloves, better spaced out, possibly slightly ridged – the wind netting is ready and if we get our skates on there may even be some wooden hurdles, though that’s probably a bit optimistic.

The best performing varieties were the “Wight” varieties, Early Purple Wight and Solent Wight, bought from Tuckers – our “local” nursery, also seemed good value and I’ve used them before. We also picked up some Cristo from the garden centre – in past trials on Which? it rated highly but once again we found the bulbs very small and won’t be growing it again. We’ve grown a fair few other varieties in the past – looking at some notes we had good results with Marco and Germidour, and even Cristo in the past. I’m very poor at notekeeping which is one of the reasons I’d like to get blogging  again as we start a new garden.

Garlic, dried off. Not certain which variety these are.

Garlic, dried off. Not certain which variety these are.

In past years the varieties of garlic available seemed to change year on year and you couldn’t bank on buying the same variety one year to the next. There are still “specials” every year but it seems some varieties are pretty consistently available. I need to get an order in for a couple of bulbs as soon as possible so I’ve been looking at what’s available this year and what might be most suitable for our cool, damp, maybe windy conditions here. Shortlist so far:

Garlic varieties for a cool, wet plot:

Early Purple Wight – Widely available, local supplier Tuckers says: “ideal for British conditions…An early British variety…harvest May to June, will keep for three months but best used fresh. RHS AGM” – £2.40 a bulb at Tuckers. Performed well in 2016 in our new plot.

Solent Wight – Tuckers again: “ideal for British conditions. Latest maturing. Harvest July to August; should store until April. RHS AGM.” Also a Which? best buy although produces a smaller crop. £2.40 a bulb.  Performed well in 2016 in our new plot.

Extra Early Wight – Final word from Tuckers: “harvests about 10 days earlier than Early Purple Wight…earliness and reliability”. £2.40 a bulb. Earliness sounds promising, and presumably either the same breeding or at least similar research to the other two above.

Picardy Wight – The Garlic Farm says: “Adapted to cooler and wetter conditions, will grow anywhere in the UK that has proved a challenge to other garlic…will keep to May the following year.” Sounds perfect!

Vallelado Wight also sounds promising for my conditions: “This softneck is more tolerant of our wet cold climate than other Spanish types.”. Same price as Picardy Wight. Tuckers also sell this but don’t mention the tolerance attribute. The question is how tolerant *are* other Spanish types…one to try in the future though.

Where might I buy:

Tuckers: – sell single bulbs which is great for smaller plots or making up your own mix. I’ve bought from here a number of times and generally the bulbs have been pretty good quality. £1.25 delivery on garlic under £30.

The Garlic Farm – – £5.95 for two bulbs for the varieties I was looking a, but postage is £4.95 which makes it too much of an investment on the scale I’m growing (free over £40 which is great if you can group together). I suspect most suppliers source their seed garlic from here.

Simply Seeds – – not tried these before. Good price (£1.99 a bulb for Picardy) though smaller stock, and delivery is £2.99 which seems fair.

Other suppliers are a bit crazy on postage, or unclear, or sell only in larger packs. I suspect we’ll go with Tuckers again, but will have a look in to Simply Seeds as they seem to be a genuine nursery, their prices and postage are reasonable and they stock Picardy Wight which I’d like to try. The Garlic Farm is probably best saved for when we have more room!

If anyone does read this and has suggestions on a good variety for my conditions, or a better supplier, I’m all ears. (That’ll make an excellent pun when we get to grow sweetcorn again).

Garlic in storage in a box

Garlic in storage – in a flat cardboard box for ferrying in and out of the sun/rain for drying, now quite a convenient way to store it



2 thoughts on “Ail ail sailor…choosing seed garlic for a coastal plot

  1. gz says:

    I planted my garlic late this year, so had no frosts..I thought it wasn’t worth paying much that late, so went for organic garlic from our local superstore…as expected most stayed single and didn’t split into cloves, but despite the lateness grew to a reasonable size.
    I must get planting again for next year this time..thankyou for a heads up on the varieties

  2. Esculent Etc says:

    Thank you for your comment, and you’re welcome! Still haven’t placed my order yet. I have seen single undivided bulbs of garlic sold at a premium in Waitrose as “solo garlic” (about the size of a large pickled onion I think, years ago) so you could claim to be an astute dodger of supermarket marketing. I also wonder if you could grow a fat bulb of garlic with a single clove, how much quicker and cleaner it would be to prepare if you’re doing a big batch of sauce or soup where you would normally use several individual cloves…

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