Plant some garlic and sow some broad beans before Christmas to give them a head start. You’ll feel pretty accomplished when they are ready to harvest in the early summer. Broad beans are ideal vegetables for schools with a garden as they will be ready to harvest before the end of the summer term. Depending where you are, you might manage a crop of garlic before the summer holidays too!

Broad beans

Broad beans are easy to grow and there’s still time to sow a row or two this autumn. If it’s not too cold (above 7C) and not too wet, you should be OK to sow seeds now. Germination usually takes around 10 days. Give it a try! ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is usually recommended for autumn sowing.

Broad bean flowers near Wallington, Hertfordshire. Broad beans

Broad bean flowers near Wallington, Hertfordshire. © Paul Dixon and re-used under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

Good drainage

Choose an area which receives full sun. Make sure it has good drainage by digging it well. Add some well-rotted compost to poor soil.

How deep?

Sow the seeds about 5cm (2") deep. Cover the seed lightly with soil and firm down gently.

How far apart?

  1. Sow each seed 23cm (9") apart in each row.
  2. Make double rows 23cm (9") apart.
  3. Each double row should be at least 60cm (24") apart.

Cold and windy?

If you live in a cold area, broad bean plans will probably need some fleece protection over the winter. And some protection from strong winds would also help.

Plant some garlic before Christmas

Autumn is the best time to plant garlic as cold weather helps the cloves to form correctly (split) as they grow. Without exposure to some cold one clove may just grow into one large single bulb.

Garlic likes sun, a weed-free environment and a free-draining soil. If your soil is heavy dig in lots of compost and some sharp horticultural sand to open up the soil, or use multi-purpose compost in containers.

Some people start garlic off in modules or pots in the greenhouse and plant it out in the spring. Others leave it there until it’s ready to harvest.

Garlic and shallots at Fanny's Farm Shop, Merstham, Surrey. Broad beans.

Garlic and shallots at Fanny's Farm Shop, Merstham, Surrey. © Peter Trimming and re-used under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

How to plant

  • Gently break the big bulb (or head) of garlic open and detach the cloves. No need to peel off the paper skins.
  • Select the largest cloves (and keep the rest for cooking).
  • Make a small hole in the soil about the depth of the clove and place the clove in it. Pointy end upwards towards the sky and the flat ‘basal plate’ downwards. (It’s often recommended that you push the clove gently into the soil but if you’re too enthusiastic or the soil is too firm this can damage the basal plate and rot can get in.)
  • Birds love to pull garlic cloves out of the ground so make sure that the top of the bulb is just below the surface of the soil or only a little bit is sticking out.
  • Plant the cloves about 10cm apart, in rows 30cm apart. Or where you have space. Or in containers.

What sort?

Buy your garlic from a garden centre or a specialist grower and choose from those varieties which will thrive in this country and which are disease-free.

Hardneck varieties are thought to have a stronger and more interesting taste but will only store until midwinter. The RHS recommends Chesnok Wight, Lautrec Wight and Red Sicilian.

Softneck varieties often have better storage qualities. The RHS recommends Solent Wight, Germidour, Purple Heritage Moldovan or Purple Moldovan.

Elephant garlic is often sold as garlic but it’s more closely related to leeks. It produces a small number of mild and very large cloves.

Garlic is known for having a very strong smell - luckily it's used a lot in cooking as it also tastes really yummy

The softneck variety Early Wight matures early and can be harvested at end of May from autumn planting. That makes it ideal for growing in school gardens. It’s best used soon after harvest as it’s not good for storage.

Give it a go!