Friday, July 10, 2009

Garlic, again and again

Well, the garlic-growing experiment continues nicely. Having posted something about garlic here and here in recent months, I have some good progress to report to my half-dozen readers world-wide!

Stage three plantings are up and showing signs of doing best out of the three plantings. What I mean by 'stage three' is merely the last cloves to be planted. These had spent a full eight weeks chilling out in the crisper section of my fridge and were then planted out on our winter solstice – June 21. There's an old saying of 'plant garlic on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest'. And so that's the plan. As pictured above this afternoon, all the June 21 planted cloves are up and belting along nicely.

Standing back a bit further reveals the three rows of garlic. On the very left is the little row of garlic which was planted in April, without any prior chilling of cloves in the fridge. Four weeks later I planted the middle row, after the cloves had been in the fridge for four weeks. And on the right is the third row, the eight-weeks-in-the-fridge guys. It may be significant, maybe not, but with the two earlier rows I had two 'misfires' – ie, cloves which didn't come up – out of the six cloves planted each time. With the 'eight-weeks' guys not only have all six come up, but I had five leftover cloves at the end of planting, and so they've gone in another spot in the garden nearby, and all five of those cloves have come up – a 100% success rate. So, it looks like a good spell in the fridge prior to planting might help the cloves get going, at least in the relative warmth of Sydney, that is. Maybe it's not so important in colder areas, where garlic is said to be easier to grow.

Now that all the cloves are up and running, I've laid out some mulch after both doing a spot of weeding as well as feeding, by laying down some lines of Dynamic Lifter (pelletised chicken poo) in between each row of garlic plants.

While at a local garden centre today a little packet of golden shallots caught my eye and, being something of a garden-centre impulse buyer from way back, the rest is history. I had the perfect spot for them, the bare patch of soil next to my 'spillover' garlic which has just come up.

The shallot pack says I can plant these between May and September, and expect to harvest them around January. Planting depth is shallow – you're meant to plant them with the pointy tips just poking out above the soil surface. The new shallots form below ground at the base of the bulb, clustered together to form a kind of a circle of bulbs emanating from the one spot. As is the case with all root vegies, they don't like manure or fertiliser added prior to planting, so I didn't. Pictured here on the left are the new garlic shoots powering along, and on the right you can just see the brown tops of the shallots poking up (they need to be planted about 15cm apart, but I gave them a bit more room than that). As I had a bit of spare ground left over at the end of the row after planting them out, I dashed inside to the kitchen, grabbed two more golden shallots from the pantry and whacked them in the ground, to see if they do any better or worse than the fancily-packaged garden centre ones. This isn't the ideal spot for either the garlic or the shallots. Right now it only gets morning sun, but by September it should get about six or more hours of sun a day, so I'm hoping they'll catch up in growth once the weather warms and the sun gets higher in the sky.

The only other trick I have up my sleeve is chilled water. I'm going to occasionally water the garlic and the shallots with chilled water from the fridge, at least once or twice during this July, our coldest month of the year. The chilled water will provide just a touch of extra icy-wintry weather to help trick them into thinking they're somewhere much cooler.

And so that's this month's garlic report from Amateur Land. A lot of Aussie gardeners are having a go at growing garlic lately (all my gardening friends are), due to the fairly patchy quality of shop-bought garlic here. Some of the imported stuff in the shops is OK (I've found the Californian and Argentinian garlic to be OK, but the Chinese garlic has achieved legendary status it's so bland), and you never know what you're going to get, quality-wise, from one week to the next. The locally grown garlic is often both rare and overpriced, but it is quite good when you can find it. So lots of us are having a go at growing our own.

If this year's crop does well, I have no doubt that I'll be adding garlic as one of my regular crops. But there's a long way to go yet!


greenfumb said...

I am in Sydney too and have garlic for the first time but I am really worried that it is going to rot in this awful wet weather. It is in raised beds but there's not much else we can do to protect it is there?

Michelle said...

Have you considered putting some ice cubes on the garlic bed? That would really give it a good chill.

Jamie said...

Greenfumb: no, there's not much you can do, but if the garlic is in raised beds, that should be good enough.
Michelle: great idea!