I had to buy garlic again this week and I looked at those fat juicy bulbs and felt pangs of despair. It seems so unfair that I don’t have overflowing baskets and bulging braids of similar sized garlic stored in my shed beside my onions – just waiting to be used. But alas no. The rust took care of that – two years in a row. I’m not keen on a repeat performance three years running. And I’m not being a sucker for punishment. I’ve grown garlic before with great success although I’m thinking it may have been more good fortune than skilled gardening technique. I just followed the directions on the packet and hoped for the best.
It would seem, that while you can grow garlic by following the directions on the packet and hoping for the best, there is a lot more you can do to increase your chances of success. The first thing I have decided to do is to split the crop up over several different kinds to find the one that works best in my garden and my climate. I’m often too busy living in the moment that I never get around to ordering any from the specialist places and so by the time I think of it they have all sold out. I am then left with no choice but to buy the generic ubiquitous type sold at garden centres that couldn’t possibly be suited to all gardens from the far north to the deep south and everywhere in between. Well this year I’m ready. Most places don’t start selling their seed garlic until April – May and I shall get in early – I’ve marked it in the calendar.
The next thing to consider is my timing. I’m a bit of a creature of habit and have turned the shortest day in my garden into a bit of a traditional ritual of planting my onion and garlic on the shortest day, so I can harvest it on the longest. My onion growing farmer friend always chastises me – “Sarah you start your onions too early.” I probably should listen to him as he always has a good crop from his farm across the road. The shortest day is not the only day you can grow these things – there is a window of several months.
Garlic basically need a period of chill to stimulate the leaf growth and then as the day lengthens and things warm up it switches over to making those bulbs nice and fat. Now most of the suppliers sell them in packs of 3 bulbs, so If I take a bulb from each group and plant them out evenly over the window of time recommended for garlic planting, then I will not only get to see which variety does best but also when is a good time.
The other thing I really must do is tend to my soil. Garlic are quite a hungry crop. I saw evidence of this first hand last year after a dismal crop when I planted some mustard across the bed the onion and garlic shared in the hopes of clearing up some of the problems in the soil. Where the onion grew the mustard was tall and lush, and where the garlic was it was shorter and a bit manky. Which alludes to the fact there wasn’t as much residual nutrients left in the soil at that end of the bed. So in the next couple of months before I sow my garlic I’ve got a bit of work to do to make the soil rich, and full of loads of goodies that the garlic will love and grow strong and healthy and importantly be able to resist the attack of the rust.
I’m also wondering if I should spray with a copper based preventative spray. I’m not a great spray fiend, yet if needs must to ensure a harvest then I’ll give it a go. At least I will have had the choice at the end of the day as to what happens to my food.
The final problem is where? In my crop rotation cycle they follow the tomatoes using their healing properties to clean up after the greeblies and problems that lurk in their soil. But each crop has their own set of problems and issues – hence my struggle with garlic rust. The thing is I really should start to sort out the soil now, but the tomatoes are still there and judging by all the lush green growth and green tomatoes they are enjoying a last burst of life and aren’t ready to move anytime soon.
I could put them in where my onion overflow bed will be next season, but it still has the peanuts in it and they aren’t due out anytime soon. The bed the corn was in doesn’t have anything in it at the moment and there aren’t any alliums in this crop rotation cycle. The problem would be that the peppers and capsicums are due to go into this bed and will need to go in before the garlic comes out, but having said that they could do well in large pots until the garden is free.
I need to make a decision so I can get on with enriching the soil so it has settled down and blended in before the garlic needs it for a great outcome.
Come again soon – planning is just as important as digging in the soil.
Sarah the Gardener : o)