Growing great garlic!
I headed out yesterday desperately seeking garlic. No, Tasmania had not suddenly been invaded by vampires. I had received notice that Jenny Edlington was selling what she calls “seed garlic” at the Liffey Valley Market.
Now technically the garlic cloves we plant to produce new garlic bulbs are not seeds. However, I won’t quibble with Jenny on that one. For $15.50 I picked up four top-notch garlic bulbs from Jenny. If this may seem a little expensive to you, just remember that each clove can potentially produce a whole new bulb with between 10-15 cloves ... if treated right!
Yummy, locally-grown garlic! But not for eating now :( (© Ludovic Vilbert)
So how do you look after garlic? Jenny shared her tips with us, with a little elaboration from me:
1. Prepare the growing bed first. Garlic does really well in well-drained soils rich in organic matter .Jenny and many other garlic growers recommend incorporating a layer of mushroom compost five to ten centimetres deep into the top few inches of soil. No, this is not compost made from mushrooms, as I must admit I first thought! It is a sterile mix usually prepared for growing mushrooms in. Mushroom compost is generally made from a mixture of straw, peat moss, gypsum, lime, cottonseed meal, cottonseed hulls, corncobs, cocoa bean shells, chicken litter and/or horse stable bedding.
2. Choose garlic bulbs with large cloves. More stored energy to help produce those new bulbs!
3. Plant when the season changes to much cooler nights, usually April to May. In Melbourne you will probably have to wait until May, but here in Tassie some of us can look forward to cooler temperatures just a little earlier! So hence why I am getting my garlic bed ready now for planting in a few weeks.
4. Separate bulbs immediately prior to planting and plant basal end down ten centimetres deep, twenty centimetres apart in raised beds. The basal end is the flattened end of the bulb where the roots will develop from. Now I have grown garlic a little closer together than twenty centimetres, more like ten centimetres apart and had success. However, if you really want a plant to thrive, you do need to give it room to grow.
NB. See the basal plate at the bottom of the garlic clove. This is the bit you "stick" into the soil (© University of Alaska Fairbanks)
5. Mulch with straw. Prevent weeds growing that may compete with the growing garlic for resources.
I am so glad to have met Jenny at the Liffey Valley Market. She has so much experience and knowledge of how to grow fruit and vegetables here in this cool climate. And Jenny is not the only local grower selling excellent fresh produce at this market. These markets are very precious as they provide not only the opportunity to purchase great produce, but also the chance a chance for locals and visitors to get together, have a yarn and share their growing tips. Priceless! But more on the market another time!
For now, I have a bed to prepare!
Next Liffey Valley Market: 9am–1pm, Saturday 14 April 2018, 1443 Liffey Rd, Liffey TAS 7301.
(Look for the old schoolhouse on top of the hill as you turn right from Bracknell Rd)
Harvesting garlic? More on that later too. Don't expect to do that until November/December. Like a great wine, it needs time to develop ;)