Monday, March 23, 2015

Growing Garlic

so when you reclaim a veg patch that has been overrun with zucchini it can take a bit of time.  which is ok ... if not a bit of hard work.  never hurt anyone!  it was slow going doing it bit by bit in some bloody hot weather (and muggy too boot!), but with a great family effort, we got more than half way through on the weekend, and after a few tweeks this morning, i am happy to say we are more than half way there.

looking good!

we a deluge of rain yesterday which means that the garlic bed is ready!  i thot it would be interesting to take you step by step through how i have a raised bed covered in newspaper and how in the world could that be for planting garlic.

so the first step is to ensure you have really good soil fertility.  we started this last year when we planted out green manures and let that enrich the soil for a year.

garlic is the second long bed down, early growth of green manure.

garlic doesn't like to compete with, well anything.  in lots of beds you could plant things intermixed for companion planting.  not so with garlic (okay, except Roses ... they do great with roses).  it needs its own space and area without anything else.  grass and weeds are the worst for choking them out and not letting them grow well.  so what do you do to give them the best possible option of not getting over run by competition?  commercial growers will use weed mat, but given that 1) we don't have heaps of money to buy that and 2) we prefer recycling .... well, the choice to use newspaper was easy.

what this mean was a chop and drop from the green manure (you don't need to pull up the roots as they have released nutrients into the soil and done their job and will now rot down nicely.  after that you cover the entire bed with a THIN (2-3 sheets) of newspaper.  this is just the added layer of weed inhibitor that they love.

here you can see where we have started laying the newspaper in thin layers down the bed.
the green stuff on top is the end of the green manure which is covered by the newspaper and
rots down beautiful.

and then you either water in, or like us are blessed with a hard deluge of rain that ensure the newspaper doesn't fly away in the breeze and begins the beautiful garlic blanket of goodness.

and now, the bed is ready.  irrigation pipes in place -- the bricks are temporary just to help straighten out the pipe.

there are of course two more steps.  the first of course is to plant the garlic.  i will be doing 4 cloves across approximately 8 cm apart.  these will go in pressed through the newspaper ... giving them the ability to grow up through the hole that you have made.    the second step is your mulch.  once the bulbs are planted a thin layer of mulch should be added.  i do thin at first to encourage the bulbs to grow up .... once they have sprouted then i put a thick layer of mulch on to ensure that winter blanket is lovely and warm.

you maybe wondering about all the other newspaper.  we love recycling and reusing and are blessed to be friends with a local newsagent who appreciates us taking all their old newspaper rather than them having to get rid of it!  after a gentle toss of the soil in the paths, we lay down heavy (like 1 cm thick) layers of newspaper to make the paths.  this will eventually get covered with saw dust .... but it is one more step towards the diminishing returns on our weeds and errant grass.  the more we suppress them, the less they will grow.  it will be a few years before we are confident that they are eradicated (ah, lets face it .... it will always be a battle).  but to know that all we have to do when we see a patch coming up is to pull it out and cover it with newspaper is well, wonderful!

so my order with greenharvest has been received and includes both glen large and red creole garlic .... at far ends of the spectrum from each other with regards to flavour and heat.  but tomorrow, we head about an hour down the road to a guy who grows russian garlic and will be getting a few kilo's from him.  which is fabulous .... because it's been grown locally and is already adapted to our climate ... so that is a step ahead of the game.

but ... i bet you are wondering just how you plant the stuff.  it's a bulb ... so you break the bulb apart into all the cloves.  don't remove too much of the skin ... just enuf to ensure that each bulb is separate.  and then, toe goes first.  have a look at this clove.  the toe (bottom) is on the left and the head on the right.  you would be very familiar with this from your own cooking i would imagine.  just easy to remember ... toe goes in first!

this is a red creole garlic clove

in my patch, i am simply making holes with a small stick through the nicely wet newspaper that is inhibiting weed growth.  put the toe in and push it down until it is almost all the way want to just see the tip of it.  and then mulch .... mulch light and loose but big and high.  mine is about 25 cm deep .... very loose so the garlic is encouraged to grow up .... but big enuf to keep weeds out and to make a lovely winter blanket to encourage it to grow.

put about 120 cloves in today i reckon.  that was all my Glen Large .... it is a good all rounder here in Australia and grows well in most climates.  i am also going to put in a small quantity of Red Creole ... a spicy variety to test out is viability in this climate.  and then there is the 2 kilo's of Russian or Elephant garlic that will go in later in April.  a big juicy clove garlic that is mild in taste.

happy planting!

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