Growing Garlic in the Subtropics

Growing Garlic in South East Queensland

If you watch certain garden shows, they will tell you that you shouldn't even try growing garlic in our climate. 'Stick to garlic chives they say', but seriously it's not the same thing at all. Well I am the kind of person that if you tell me I can't do something, I will be determined to prove you wrong.

For a long time growing garlic in Brisbane has been a huge fail for me. Admittedly I never actually did my research and would just head to local organic markets buy some bulbs and chuck the cloves in the ground. Or if cloves sprouted in my fridge I would throw them in the garden. I don't recommend this technique at all.

This year I decided to do my research and figure out if there actually was a garlic we could grow. Some things we need to consider.

  • It doesn't really get too cold
  • the cool season is very short

So with that in mind I found subtropical varieties that are better for us to grow. 

Varieties of Garlic for Warm Climates

The main variety I grow with great success is Glenlarge. We now source our seeds from a local organic grower and they are available usually in Late November-December for planting the following year. Get them here for 2024 NOW.

Aside from being quicker to grow, the main difference between these varieties and other traditional types is that they are short day. This day type indicates that the amount of sunlight they require to develop a bulb and as they will predominately be growing over winter they need to be shorter day length.

When to plant

I planted mine on the Autumn Equinox (or after the first full moon in March) but you'd be right to plant them right up until the end of April. Any later than that you may find they don't form before it gets too hot and the rains start.

Planting your garlic

You want to focus on the outer edge of cloves as your best guys. The inner cloves won't produce a great bulb in the first year (but I planted these anyway in random places around the garden). Break off your cloves and soak in some Seaweed solution (Many people choose to soak their cloves overnight but I wasn't organised so they got an hour tops of soaking). You can grab our Seaweed Solution here. We also now put in som Mycorrhizal Fungi as well.

Plant them with the flat side down, pointy end up and just below the surface of your soil. Space around 15 cm apart in rows of 40cm (check the planting instructions for your variety). Water in well.


Prep your soil well!

I think the biggest problem is not realising that garlic in those early stages are heavy feeders. If they don't get big fat juicy leaves the bulbs will reflect that. We had our best growing season in a bed that was filled with an aquaponics disaster (lots of fish casualties from a black out). Make sure you give your garden bed plenty of well aged manure and compost. We also add Volcanic Rock Minerals and blood and bone into our garden prep for Garlic. 

Regular growing maintenance

You want strong steady growth of your garlic, so make sure you feed them regularly. We do weekly seaweed application or Actively Aerated Worm Casting Tea and if they seem to slow down we'll use something a bit stronger like Charlie Carp or apply a fresh sprinkling of Organic Xtra slow release fertiliser. Remember they are heavy feeders!

Be aware of space invaders

I had some issues with a tree sucking the life out of our garden bed and the garlic did not like it one bit. Make sure your bed is free from nutrient thieves to ensure a bumper crop.


Because all the information online indicates that you should be harvesting your garlic in November, it's easy to miss the boat. Which I did when I first attempted growing Glenlarge. I left some in a little too long that the cloves started separating. They are fine, we ate those bulbs straight away but if this has happened to your entire crop you may struggle to store them for a long time (blended and chucked in the freezer will ensure no wastage, freeze flat in a ziplock bag - you're welcome).

I found optimal harvest for us is between Late August and mid September - almost bang on 6 months. I harvest as soon as the leaves started to go slightly brown and droop. Any that had fallen over were too far gone. Do a bit of bandicooting on a few to check that the bulb has formed, they all we're pretty good by this stage.

All up we got around 30 bulbs from the original 4 bulbs that we planted. Albeit they all weren't as huge as the ones we originally planted they should definitely last us a good percentage of the year.

Curing & storage

Another big issue with garlic in the humid climates is storing it and making sure it's fully dry and doesn't go mouldy. I initially had my garlic outside in the sun to dry it, but then I read you could then get sunburnt bulbs! So I bought it under cover and hung them up in a spot that gets a pretty good breeze but protected from rain (which we weren't getting anyway). I did this until the stems were completely dry, then attempted to plait them and failed miserably.

Saving for next year

Much to hubby's disgust, I always pull out the biggest bulbs for replanting in the following season. Like all seed, second year crops in your own area will adapt to your specific climate and you will get an even better crop the following year. Store them in a cool dark place and they will last until replanting time.  



Are you growing garlic this year? Any tips you'd like to share?

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