Garlic (Allium sativum)

How well established is this crop?

This crop is established industry. It has been grown commercially for over 5 years. Commercial returns, current growers and some level of regional based research may be available to help those new to this industry.


Garlic in various forms is one of the most popular food flavourings worldwide. It is a staple in many Italian, French and Asian dishes.

The majority of the garlic consumed worldwide is the softneck garlic (Allium sativum), it is also known as Italian garlic or silverskin garlic. Another variety is the hardneck garlic (Allium sativum var ophioscorodon). This type of garlic has fewer cloves and less layers of the ‘parchment’ between them. There is a large range of varieties within these two types.

A third type of garlic becoming more common in New Zealand is ‘elephant garlic’ (Allium ampeloprasum). This has large cloves but a much milder taste than the more common varieties.

New Zealand has a well established garlic industry in Marlborough This supplies garlic to the domestic market as well as contributing export earnings. Countries such as Fiji are major importers of New Zealand garlic.


Garlic will grow in most climates found in Otago. The key is to plant in conditions most likely to lead to success.

Winter Chilling and Frosts

Most growers wait until the main frosts are over before planting cloves. In more temperate parts of the region cloves could be planted before the winter if the soil conditions allow.

Rainfall and Irrigation

Garlic does not seem to be adversely affected by rainfall during its growth in fact rain or irrigation is recommended to keep the crop growing well.


When grown on a paddock/commercial scale, shelter from the wind is not common.


The key physical requirement of the soil for garlic, is that it is free draining. Like most crops grown from bulbs wet soil leads to a range of fungal diseases.


Medium levels of soil fertility are required for successful garlic production. Aim for a pH over 6.0, adding lime if needed. For best results carry out soil and foliage tests. Then have the results analysed by an expert before deciding what fertiliser to apply. Hill Laboratories has a recommended nutrient chart for this crop.

Weed Control

Garlic tends to grow slowly and does not compete with weeds very well. The use of herbicides to control weeds in the crop is common. Talk to your spray professional about this. The only other option is mechanical or hand weeding.


There are a huge range of garlic selections available. The best way to succeed is to obtain cloves from another local grower. In most cases these will be well suited to the climate you are growing in.

Be careful to introduce some new stock on a semi-regular basis. Growing from the same stock constantly may cause virus problems and lower vigour in your crop.

Pests and Diseases

Garlic does not suffer from many insect pests but there are a number of potential diseases. Growing in free draining soil and sourcing clean clove stock is the best way to start. After that fungicide dips and drenches will most likely be needed.


Garlic is usually planted in rows 25mm deep, with at least 100mm between plants. Planting in beds as wide as the machinery allows is common with commercial growers.

General Management

Initial management depends or whether you plant in the early part of winter or later after the frosts have gone in the spring. After this time weeding and fungicides are the main activities through until harvest.


Garlic tends to be harvested when the foliage has died off. Bulbs are picked up by hand from the soil and placed in large bins. They are then taken for processing where they are trimmed, washed and dried. They are then sold as cloves or further processed into other products.


Large scale garlic production will require a tractor, specialist equipment for planting cloves and spray equipment. Smaller blocks can be managed with hand held gardening equipment and a backpack spray unit.


For a small scale producer the best way to make a living form a garlic crop would be to add value and make the raw garlic into a specialist product. If just producing cloves the returns would be in the range of 10-20c per clove, based on the prices they are available for in supermarkets.


New Zealand Vegetable & Potato Growers Federation (Inc)
PO Box 10232
New Zealand

Phone 04 472 3795 Grower Freephone: 0800 2 VEGFED (283433)
Fax: 04 471 2861