Garlic: the most versatile herb

No kitchen- or herb garden is complete without garlic – or Allium sativum. Garlic originated in East Europe and at present day herb gardeners, home gardeners and kitchen gardeners the world over cultivate garlic. Not only because of the excellent qualities imparted by garlic, it also keeps garden pests like flies at a distance and as such is great when one practices organic gardening.

Garlic is a member of the onion family and is universally used as a flavoring in cooking. Garlic has been cultivated and grown for many centuries and has never lost its popularity. Garlic’s medicinal uses have been recognized by the Ancient Egyptians and the Romans. Even Pythagoras declared garlic the king of all herbs. Garlic is an annual herb and it is an undemanding herb that will grow practically in any climate taking up very little space. In fact all that is required to grow garlic is full sun, and light, well-drained soil as the growth medium.

Garlic contains oil known as alicilium which is a great anti-bacterial agent. The uses of garlic as a herb is unsurpassed. It can be used as a domestic herb, as a culinary herb, as a medicinal herb, as a companion plant in organic gardening practices. When you plan on cultivating garlic in your herb garden then the following paragraphs will provide some guidelines.

Garlic can be cultivated in spring from seedbulblets or cloves. I found it easier to make use of the store bought cloves of garlic that I carefully break off from the main bulb.

Prepare the soil by working in good quality compost – especially the top layer of the soil. Water the soil thoroughly before planting. Garlic planting can be done in spring or autumn. It is vital to keep the soil moist until the garlic cloves start developing shoots.

When making use of garlic cloves to start your garlic plants then do the following: In spring place the garlic cloves in the soil at a depth of about 4 cm (1.5 inches) and plant the garlic cloves about 8 cm (3 inches) apart. If you want to grow more than one row of garlic, then you need to space the rows about 15 cm (6 inches) apart. Keep the soil where the garlic cloves are planted moist until shooting occurs. Then water very well to keep the soil cool, moist and friable. Leave the garlic plants to mature for the full season and reap your harvest before the frost.

When making use of garlic seeds to start your garlic plants then do the following: In spring or autumn the garlic seeds can be sown in sand-filled seed trays. Keep moist and protected until the garlic plants are well up. Harden off the garlic plants by placing them in the sun for longer periods of time each day. Remember not to allow the soil to dry out. Plant 15 cm (6 inches) apart when the garlic plants are big enough to handle.

In both cases, whether you planted your garlic using garlic cloves or garlic seeds, you can provide your new garlic plants with a boost by applying some fertilizer when the plants are about 14 days old. Limestone Ammonium Nitrate (LAN) is an excellent choice when fertilizing the garlic plants. Use approximately one (1) teaspoon of LAN per garlic plant and water well.

Then after three weeks make use of 3:1:5 fertilizer on your garlic plants. Follow the same procedure as above by using 1 tablespoon of 3:1:5 per square meter. Follow this regime of fertilizing with 3:1:5 every three weeks. Stop fertilizing and watering when the garlic plants when it starts to dry out and the leaves start to turn yellow. When harvesting garlic let them dry in the sun for a few days, then braid the tops together or place them in a net bag. Hanging them in an airy location will help prevent rot. Peeled garlic cloves may be stored in a jar of oil. The garlic retains its flavor and the oil will add flavor to salad dressings.

Problems when cultivating garlic


Thripes are tiny insects that feed on leaves and cause white, blotchy areas on your garlic plants. Thripes might result in your garlic plants weakening and the yield is reduced. Try to prevent the problem that thripes pose by keeping weeds out of the garden to eliminate alternative hosts. A blast of cold water will remove thripes from plants. Soap-Shield and diatomaceous earth may be effective.

Onion Maggot

The onion maggot is the offspring of a small fly that lays eggs near the base of the plant or on the bulb itself. The maggots kill the garlic plant by burrowing into the stem and bulb. Pull up and destroy any garlic plants before the maggots mature into flies. You may also try making tarpaper collars around the garlic plants. Wood ashes, rock phosphate, or diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the base of the garlic plant is said to be effective.

Neck Rot

Neck rot is the most common problem. It strikes just after harvest or while the bulbs are in storage. Drying the bulbs at warm temperatures with good ventilation and storing in a cool, airy spot will help prevent the disease.

Tips when growing garlic

  • Use only the outer layer of cloves from the main garlic bulb to propagate your garlic plants.
  • Pinch out the garlic flowers to promote clove formation.
  • As soon as the leaves of the garlic plants begin to dry and the garlic leaves start to turn yellow, Stop the watering and then you may start harvesting the garlic.
  • Watch out for rain when the garlic is ready for harvesting.
  • Be careful when harvesting your garlic. Use a garden fork and lift carefully out of the soil.
  • Garlic can also be grown in containers.

How to use Garlic

Medicinal Uses

  • When included into the daily diet fresh garlic is quite beneficial for many disorders. Garlic is used as an expectorant, as an antibacterial medicine. Garlic is also used to treat hypertensionarteriosclerosisdysentery and the common cold as well as typhoid and bronchial catarrh.
  • Garlic juice is also considered a medicine. Diluted garlic juice can be used to treat and wash wounds. And also for cold sores medication: cut through a clove and dab on as first tingling sensations appear.
  • Make a corn cure: place a fresh piece of garlic on a bandage and bind it down in position over the offending corn. Do replace the garlic with fresh ones every day and repeat the treatment for ten days.
  • Garlic is also used as an antiseptic, general tonic and worm deterrent.
  • Eating garlic is also believed to help the body resist infectious diseases because it improves resistance to infections.
  • Garlic is used to treat fevers and blood disorderstuberculosiswhooping coughasthmaobesity, and arthritis.
  • Garlic can also be used to treat rheumatism: mix garlic with honey and rub into the affected areas.
  • Garlic can be used to treat colds: eat a raw garlic clove three times a day, or drink the juice.
  • For a chest cold and for asthma make a garlic syrup. Peel and chop three cloves of garlic and simmer in 625 ml water until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the garlic by straining the mixture through a sieve. Add 185 ml of apple cider vinegar and 100 g of sugar or honey to the garlic mixture. Store in the fridge. Take one dessertspoonful each night.
  • Garlic is also used to reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Further studies indicate that garlic may have a positive role in the prevention of coronary heart disease, and thrombosis.

Domestic and garden uses

  • Put some chopped garlic in your dog’s food to keep him/her free from ticks and fleas.
  • If you want to prevent weevils in wheat or corn bins – place a few cloves of slightly crushed garlic in the bin or food container where you want to keep the weevils out.
  • Peel and finely chop cloves of garlic as a standby for curing coccycidiosis in poultry.
  • Do you need a spray for potato and tomato blight – make use of chopped garlic and onions. Chop two bulbs of garlic and 4 large onions, boil with 3 litres of water, cool and strain. Use shortly after reparation.
  • Make a garlic extract to control aphids in your garden. Add two crushed cloves of garlic to 570 ml of water and spray on the afflicted plants. Add strongly scented herb plants like rue or basil for best effect.
  • Use Garlic as a companion plant for roses and raspberries. This practice will also reduce mildew. You can also use garlic as a companion plant to strawberries, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers as well as fruit trees.
  • Planted around fruit trees, garlic aids in preventing leaf curl.

Culinary Uses

  • Garlic is a herb that has a very strong pungency/flavoring and can thus be used in and on most savory dishes – both hot and cold dishes.
  • Garlic can be used in salad dressings and marinades.
  • Garlic can be used to make garlic vinegar and garlic oil.
  • Chopped garlic can be used to make garlic butter.
  • Garlic is one of the essential ingredients in many dips.
  • Garlic bulbs can be eaten as a vegetable by baking the whole bulb.
  • Garlic leaves can also be used to flavor foods as it imparts a more delicate taste than the garlic clove.

For the cook

Garlic bread
  • 1 cup of soft butter
  • 4 to 8 cloves of garlic , peeled and finely chopped (alternative: 1 teaspoon of garlic flakes)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley (alternative: 1 teaspoon dried parsley) OPTIONAL
  • 1 french loaf (alternative: a freshly baked whole-wheat bread)


  • Blend the butter, garlic and salt as well as the parsley thoroughly.
  • Slice the bread fairly thick but not right through.
  • Butter each slice of the bread on both sides with the well-blended garlic butter.
  • Wrap in foil and place in a hot oven for about 10 to 15 minutes or on a barbeque fire while roasting the other foods on the fire.
  • Serve hot. Enjoy.
A note of caution: Be careful of the powerful effects of herbs. Use herbs in small doses and stop taking them if you feel side ‘effects.
NOTE: Consult your doctor before taking herbs if you are unsure about their effects.

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