HOW TO GROW GREAT GARLIC
— really old wisdom...
“Plant on the shortest day of the year,
harvest on the longest..”
Really, only a few simple steps will make a huge difference to your crop of Garlic. And please don’t worry too much if you miss some of the “ideal” criteria I’m outlining for growing Garlic, it can and will forgive you if you do your best to provide for its needs!
Personally, I’ve managed to get a good crop of Garlic from heavy red Clay soils and white bone-dead sand. Please don’t worry about the soil, lets try to take care of the plants needs. In saying that, a really sandy soil can be helped a lot by a one time watering of a clay slurry, loose enough to pour through a watering can. It really helps hold moisture! And a clay soil can really be helped along by mixing gypsum (see recommendations on the packet) with a coarse wood-based compost/potting mix (plenty is good!) to help air, roots and water move freely. Soil pH is ideal in the range 6 – 7.5. Please test any new soil for contaminants in built-up areas if you aren’t sure of its history. This food is worth it! Garlic roots stay quite shallow, Meaning a decent soil preparation might only really need a good loosening down to spade depth (try not to invert the soil!), and a light cultivation down to about two inches depth, to aid in planting and root development. A sprinkle of lime as you might dust icing sugar lightly on a cake, nearly all done! Try to remove any and all green material on your planting site if possible, as we consider:
Harvesting might happen from from mid-November through to late December – the plant will tell us when it’s ready!! some say:
This crop loves water! more than you’d think! Try to give it the best quality water and water regularly and lightly if you can, the roots are so shallow, that if the soil surface can be maintained moist, then you’ll be bound to get a luscious crop! The mulch will help, especially in dry autumn and spring weather. Watering regularly might be the single most important factor in growing a ripper crop! Please refrain from watering once the garlic plant starts drying off from the base leaves up. Once or twice might be ok, but from here on in, we’re thinking about the storage qualities of the Garlic Bulb that we’ll:
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If you’ve added a soil amendment at soil preparation time, and plan to mulch with a quality mulch, garlic will need only moderate fertilising. I’d consider maybe 300-400gm of Organic based fertiliser pellets per square meter. Katek and Neutrogs Seamungus are both excellent examples. One application at planting, one in early spring with re-mulching. Easy!
Garlic and weeds are not friends. Easy solution? MULCH! We’ll kill two birds with one stone if I suggest- Lucerne Hay! it’s cheap (free, up to $12-15 per bale) and has a lot of leaf and fibre. It is protein rich! Worms love it as it breaks down, and so do the Garlic plants, and so it’s quality slow release fertiliser too! Any weeds that do come through it are rare, and incredible easy to pull out. Take a couple “biscuits” from the bale, and tease them apart over your planted Garlic patch to a depth of 5cm, not too much, we’ll mulch again in early spring! Water the mulch down thoroughly. Wait for little green sprouts to come through. That’s It! Grass weeds are harder to deal with than broadleaf weeds. Try to be vigilant and cast your eye for small grasses to pull regularly.
— neighbours, obviously.
“..harvest when there are only 5-6 green leaves left at the top”
A good Garlic plant will have 10 to 15 leaves, so regarding traditional ‘wisdom’ suit yourself!! In any case, run your fingers into the soil next to the plant stem, you’ll get a good idea if the bulbs are big enough. Lift the entire bulb with a shovel (not a fork!), top, roots – everything! Shake/ tease off the dirt in the roots. Be Gentle! They are full of moisture and delicate and need to be cured in a airy and dark and warm place. I’ve often stuck a bunch of bulbs loosely into a paper shopping sack, and left the bag top open in the garden shed with some airflow to cure. It works pretty good! Once the stems above the bulb are dry like paper, they are hard enough to use and store (or braid/string-up). Hey. dont be afraid to use them fresh, but be warned, they will be STRONG!
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