Growing Gorgeous Garlic

Growing Gorgeous Garlic

Garlic is one of the most useful, yet one of the most expensive by weight to buy. It’s pretty easy to grow and worth the effort to grow a number of garlic plants to have a harvest that will last you up to 3 months.

Garlic can be planted as a companion plant around roses, carrots, onions, radishes and spinach as an insect repellent, as well as to crush and use to spray plants as an all round insecticide and has a number of uses in home health remedies, particularly for relief of colds and coughs, parasites and digestive upsets. Best of all, garlic adds a wonderful depth of flavour to loads of dishes.

Seed garlic heads are sold by many organic suppliers. They include soft and hard neck garlic as well as garlic chives. These organically grown heads are preferred over just using garlic bought in the supermarket, as you will have a higher quality yield.

Soft neck garlic varietals will be able to be stored for up to 10 months, while hard necks are fine to about 3 months. Garlic chives have the best flavour when cut fresh to use straight away, or can be cut for use as dried herbs.

Plan to plant garlic in autumn and, if you get really hard frosts, it is best to plant 6-8 weeks before the first frost is expected.

However, as summer wanes, prepare your soil with compost and animal manures then, at least a fortnight before planting, break up the soil so its crumbly and keep moist.

When you are ready to plant, break up the garlic heads into individual cloves, without peeling the skin away. Use a stick or small digger to make 10 cm deep holes for each clove 15-20 cm apart, with about 30 cm between rows. Alternatively you can plant each clove in between other plants, allowing space to grow. Place the hard flatter side down, so it’s standing in the hole with the tapered end upwards. Backfill with the soil and firmly, but gently, tamp down. Cover the bed with sugar cane straw or similar mulch.

If you are using a pot , try to use a self-watering design with more than 30 cm soil depth. This will give the garlic enough room to grow its roots and the new bulbs, as well as help you maintain moisture in the pot.

Garlic loves moist and cool conditions, so, if it’s dry, water regularly or ensure that irrigation drippers are topping up moisture (10 mins x 2-3 times a day) when there is no or little rainfall. 

It’s a good idea to write GARLIC on some wood icecream sticks and place them at the perimeter, so you don’t forget what you planted in that bed or self watering pot.

The growing period is long for garlic, so once spring is over and the weather is heating up again, wait until the leaves have yellowed and die off before lifting the garlic heads gently out of the ground or pot. You can dry these out somewhere warm and then clean off any soil, cut the leaves off and store these in a cool dry place on a rack if possible. Soft necked garlic leaves can be plaited and hung. These look amazing hung in your kitchen, ready for use. Keep an eye out for mold, but generally they will keep for up to 10 months. Hard neck garlic heads are fine to about 3 months. 

Garlic is a valuable source of Vitamin B1 or Thiamine and Vitamin C and can be eaten raw or cooked. One of my favourite dishes is to add crushed garlic, slightly cooked in a frypan, to boiled and drained then mashed or crushed new potatoes, adding some olive oil , salt and pepper to taste and maybe some lemon to finish  – yum! 

So, it’s pretty easy to grow – give it a go this autumn!  

 

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Juicy delicious tomatoes

Juicy delicious tomatoes

Red nirvana as I like to say. However, with all the wonderful heritage varietals available now, tomatoes can be green, black, striped, yellow or even purple!

What tomato can I plant?

The seeds could be from a packet you have bought or saved from last years crop. I love the names of all the varieties and I always have a hard time deciding which ones to go for in a particular year. For lovely big fresh eating and salad tomatoes, I choose Grosse Lisse, Rouge de Marmande or Break o Day; for small sweet tomato bites I plant Tommy Toe or Red Cherry and for delightful taste and appearance, I plant Green Zebra and Burnley Bounty.

Planting tips

You can plant these in a punnet or shallow seed tray with a good seed mix of soil with no rocks or large twigs, a little sand and compost, so it’s free draining but nutritious for your baby plants. If you reuse commercial seed trays, clay or plastic pots, first soak them in a diluted white vinegar solution for a few minutes and scrub with a brush to ensure that any old soil or contaminants are removed.

Soil should be at around 20C to plant into, so you may want to raise your seed in a greenhouse or kitchen bench first about 6-8 weeks before the weather warms….then plant them out when it gets a bit warmer. If not, seed trays can be outside.

Sprinkle the seeds sparingly over the seed mix, as they have a high strike rate, and cover with another sprinkle of soil. Use a spray bottle to keep the seed mix damp, but not wet. Once they are about 3 cms high and have more than three leaves each, discard the ones that look sickly or weaker.

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Tomato Seedlings

Carefully tap the tomato seedlings out of the punnet and gently pull the plants and new roots apart to separate each plant and transplant to a preprepared garden bed or into a self watering pot outside and position in full sun. I have found that in our very hot summers, the tomato plants enjoy partial shade as well if possible. They should be planted about 20-30 cms apart to allow the roots enough room to grow and the foliage to not be squashed once they reach fruiting stage. Water them in well; you can add a sprinkle of Epsom Salts to the water to aid in strengthening the root structure and some seaweed solution like Seasol to stimulate new growth.

If you have bush tomatoes, they won’t need staking, but all others grow better if they can ‘climb’. You will need to get some soft tape or string or plastic hold rings that don’t cut into the stalks to help the plant remain upright as it grows.

After the flowers have been pollinated, it is advisable to net the tomatoes as they form, as birds love the fruit just like you do!

If the plant gets stressed by lack of water or high winds, it may drop its fruit or the tomatoes may not develop fully.

Stuff to think about

Tomatoes are susceptible to fungus diseases. Everyone who grows tomatoes will have different advice, but I have found that I get good yields by not cutting or trimming the end growing points, but just keeping the plant free of broken or dying leaves and cutting off the lower branches of the plant to prevent mildew or a fungus taking hold. Try not to break the dead leaves and branches off as they sometimes tear the main stem of the plant. Make sure there is good air flow through the plant and not have branches bunched together or crossing over.

Tomatoes are thirsty, so water them regularly in the garden. A self watering pot can be topped up as needed and only water around the roots. Try not to get the foliage wet, as this will increase the risk of fungus developing. Also, keep the plants well mulched with some sugar cane mulch or home made compost.

Voila!

Depending on the varietal, after about 50-90 days from germination you will be able to harvest your yummy fruit. Twist the fruit away from the main stem gently without tearing the branch. Wash and eat!

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Tomato Flowers

The first and most prolific are the cherry tomatoes followed by the bush and climbing fresh eating or cooking tomatoes. Next come the large summer slicing tomatoes that are ambrosia to eat. Your cherry tomatoes will continue to produce right through a 3-4 month period. I have harvested in April to May some years.

We would love to see some photos of your handiwork…or your harvests in Grow and Tell!