Thursday, June 21, 2012

DIY planting + growing garlic

It's garlic planting season everyone. Yes even YOU!
It's the shortest day of the year this weekend and the time you should all think about planting garlic. You don't need a lot of room to plant garlic it requires no maintenance and with all the rain you'll never need to water. 
I harvest my own garlic yearly and I always have strings of dried garlic hanging in my kitchen pantry for cooking. There is nothing better than eating what you have grown, it's fresh, you know what's in it and no chemicals used in it's little life. The white garlic you find at the supermarket comes from China and is bleached do you really want to put that in your body? I don't think so. Go to an organic grocery store and grab some organic Australian, local or Russian garlic. I suggest for a household that loves garlic plant 20 cloves or break up 2-3 bulbs ready for planting. If it's Russian or Elephant garlic this is generally more expensive and quite a strong garlic so plant 5-10 cloves of this and the rest in the smaller variety. I don't have a community garden plot anymore after six years we decided it was to hard getting to the garden with a newborn and pram. Now we have our veggie patch instead of a garden out the front of PoppyFox HQ. OK not the typical suburban front yard but l love it and it's all I've got til I buy that farm of my dreams. It's my green sanctuary, my little haven away from Miss Two when l need it. I guess that's why l long for a Acapulco chair to place by my front window so I can watch my garden grow. Poppy does love to dig with me and get her hands dirty, she knows all her veggies and I know as she grows so will her interest in growing veggies and living a simple life.

Preparing to grow garlic

All you need to do is buy organic garlic either the small Australian garlic with the purple and white skin or the big Elephant garlic or more commonly known Russian garlic. Don't waste your money on buying single potted garlic plants from Bunnings, do it yourself and save a bundle. You just stick the cloves in the ground and wait for it to grow. 
 Garlic loves sweet, well-drained soil and not acidic, soil. You need to use cloves for planting so take a couple of bulbs sit down while watching some TV at night and prepare your cloves.  Take a bulb of garlic and just break it down into little cloves it's important to keep the skin on. Look at the cloves – the bottom part is called the base plate and that's always got to be planted down. 

Preparing the soil + planting the garlic 
To begin, loosen the soil in the area you plan to plant and add in some compost and dolomite to improve fertility or the quality of the soil. You can find Dolomite + mulch at Bunnings. When you have prepared the soil and taken the time to rake it even make a small hole with your thumb and shove them in the soil making sure the bottom part goes in first. 
Plant each clove about 5cms deep and 10-15cms apart this will largely depend on how much room you have to plant in. Remember if a garlic bulb when it is harvested is the size of a base of coffee cup then allow for that much room in between planting to ensure they grow, get the sunshine and the rain.  Make sure the pointy end is sticking up and the flat, root end down (base plate). All healthy, disease-free cloves can be used to grow new bulbs, but as common sense dictates good-sized cloves will grow into good-sized bulbs. Really large cloves are prone to spitting (forming two small plants). If space is an issue plant the best cloves first and save the rest for dinner. Feel free to use them in the recipe l just posted for the Winter Fennel Salad or throw it into some spaghetti sauce. Yum!  Use a cluster or circular planting method, or in lines so you know whats a weed and what's garlic. Or even try planting them in the garden amongst your flowers or in some large pots or tough tubs with drilled holes in the bottom. You don't need a lot of room to grow your own veggies. My little front garden veggie patch is a testament to that. 
Remember It’s also time to plant spring onion seed. It’s black, angular and very attractive. Sow it thickly like grass seed. Then cover with some potash (also found at Bunnings), because it loves it. And finish with a thick layer of dolomite limestone because they love an alkaline soil too. I often plant Spring onion seeds and garlic close together as they require time to grow. I plant the spring onion seeds in a line next to the garlic and harvest the spring onions when l need it. Spring onions take less time to grow so they are great for kids to grow because they don't have to wait so long.
Once you have planted your garlic cloves and/or your spring onion seeds, cover with soil, add a layer of straw or sugar cane mulch or leaves and dried grass clippings. It's important to really cover the ground you have just planted out with mulch to protect the bulbs over winter.  As the garlic grows you'll notice green shoots and then leaves forming above the ground. This is a great sign that all is going well. Let them continue to grow and reach for the sky. At the community gardens where l use to have a plot some Italians would cut an inch or two of the garlic leaves when they grow tall with shears to promote bulb growth. You can experiment in your garlic crop during the year by doing half this Italian way and the other half growing naturally and see if it makes a difference. 
Garlic takes several months to grow to maturity. You know when to harvest it as the green tops of the garlic plant dry off and die around Springtime. You just use your hands to harvest the whole bulb when it's ready. Sometimes it helps to do harvesting after a light rain, using your fingers to pull out the bulb or you can use a hand shovel or large spoon to give you some leverage. I often string these up and give them as Christmas presents to the family. I planted 100 plants last year and we all still have some. I kept a string of garlic for replanting this year and that way l will always have some to eat and to grow.

Now go back inside and forget about it until springtime.
Happy gardening.

x Mummafox
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