Gardeners in southern England often plant garlic in October and November, and if you live in low-lying parts in the west or south-east of Scotland, you could too. My preference, gardening 200m above sea level, is to sow early in the new year, which is also best for folk in "less favoured" parts of the country.
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If you'd like to plant now, choose a short dormancy variety such as Sprint. Garlic is described as having either short or long dormancy. This refers to the length of time you can store the crop after harvest. Shorts are usually planted the previous autumn and lifted in early summer; they are only stored for three or four months. Longs are planted in January or early February and are ready in July or early August. They store right through the winter.
Deciding when to plant garlic also depends on winter temperatures. To prevent premature bolting, the plants must be exposed to at least a month of temperatures below 10C. This is not a problem for Scottish gardeners - in January and February, the mercury rarely, if ever, climbs higher than that - while southern gardeners must hedge their bets by planting before winter.
This need for vernalisation suggests garlic must have originated where winter temperatures were low and not in warmer regions, as is often thought. There's some evidence it may have first been domesticated in the Kirgiz desert of southern Siberia, and garlic still grows wild there. In the 19th century, Siberian peasants were even allowed to use garlic to pay their taxes.
Garlic has been used like a currency for thousands of years. Egyptian pyramid-builders were often paid in fresh garlic to build up their strength and some reputedly used this energy in unintended ways. They chewed fresh cloves, hoping that their wives might not detect another woman's perfume through their strongly flavoured breath.
Whatever your motives for growing garlic, plant while the soil still has some warmth. Start by carefully pulling apart each of the cloves of the parent "head". Each clove grows into a plant. I make this point because several people have asked me why their garlic failed. They had planted the whole head without realising it should be divided up.
Don't put garlic in soggy or poorly draining soil: it will simply rot. The safest way to get the plants started is to put each clove in an 8cm pot, sinking it just below the surface. Plant out once they have started sprouting. For good, large heads, space garlic 30cm apart. Make each hole sufficiently deep for the soil to completely cover the bulb. The crop will establish itself before winter and grow when the soil warms up again.
Broad bean varieties Aquadulce and Super Aquadulce have been developed for autumn sowing. They're tougher than other varieties and, provided we don't have a harsh winter, should do fairly well in much of Scotland.
As with garlic, I start beans off indoors. Moisten the seeds in a bowl of water and cover with kitchen towel. Keep moist by adding water when the paper begins to dry out. Once the seeds have germinated, plant out in 5cm-deep holes. Space the seedlings 15cm apart in double rows, 30cm apart. They will have a better chance of surviving winter if covered with fleece. Keep the fabric off the seedlings with cloches or twigs. There will be casualties, but you'll get a crop a fortnight earlier than from an early spring sowing.
If you're feeling really brave, you can try a row of first early peas. Twinkles are tasty and have a fair chance of surviving a mildish winter. Fleece is essential and there will be casualties, but it might be worth a try.