DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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17 October 2013

Growing great garlic

We planted our garlic in March and true to form, it was ready for harvesting in late September. We bought our garlic from Green Harvest, a hard-necked variety called Glenlarge - it is suited to warmer weather and it's the best garlic we've grown so far.  Hanno said the larger cloves, generally from the outside of the garlic bulb, produce the biggest and heaviest bulbs. You can still plant the smaller bulbs but they won't grow as big as the others, so don't think you've done anything wrong. We grew ours over our colder months and hopefully this crop will see us through until next September.  I've already put aside the biggest and best bulbs for planting in March.

Above and below  - our 2013 garlic crop.

Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow in the vegetable patch. You plant them, 6 - 8 inches apart, in a sunny site and add plenty of organic matter to the soil pre-planting. Break the bulb apart and plant the cloves pointy end upwards, down to about the first knuckle on your finger**, water in with seaweed tea. Depending on your climate, the green shoots will appear two to four weeks after planting.  When the green shoots appear, start fertilising every month with a foliar spray of comfrey tea or seaweed and fish concentrate. Keep watering regularly if it doesn't rain but don't over-water them, too much water will rot them in the ground. As the time for harvest approaches, ease off the watering. They're ready to harvest when the green tops start turning brown and shrivelling up. Don't pull the garlic out of the ground, dig them out with a spade to loosen the soil.

** Added later: I just read this again and wanted to clarify this first knuckle planting. What I mean is that you push your fore finger into the planting soil to the level of your first knuckle. Place the clove, pointy side up, in the hole and cover with soil. The point of the clove should be just below the surface of the soil.




When you harvest, treat them gently because they must be in excellent condition to store them for a long time. Place the crop on a table for a couple of days, undercover, and remove clumps of dirt and any obvious material that would prevent them from drying out - you'll clean them properly a bit later. Divide the harvest up into bunches and hang them to dry out for about three weeks, depending on your climate. If it's humid it may take a bit longer.


Every time you handle the garlic, be gentle and don't drop them. When they've dried out, take down all the bunches and lay them out on a table where you can work on them for a while. You'll need a small pair of scissors - I use an old pair of embroidery scissors because I can cut in around the root without cutting into the garlic flesh. 


Take the first garlic and remove all the dirt, then rub it with your fingers to remove the outer loose papery skin. You don't want to take all the paper off because it protects the bulb while it's in storage. Cut the top off about an inch or so above the bulb. This will help the paper stay on the garlic. Cut the roots off the bottom and generally tidy the bulb up as much as you can without removing too much of the paper. When you're happy with that one, go on to the next.


Don't break the garlic bulb up, they will store better as whole garlics. Store them in a dark, dry space, not the fridge, it's too humid. The place you choose to store your garlic will have the biggest effect on how long it lasts. I have mine in a wire basket at the bottom of my pantry alongside the potatoes and onions. You could also hang them in a mesh bag or plait/braid them and hang them in a cool dry place.

If you don't get a year out of your garlic, it might we worth your while to experiment with two separate crops using two different varieties - an early and a late garlic.  No matter what you use though, take the opportunity to use some of your garlic fresh on the day you pick it. Fresh garlic has a more subtle flavour than older garlic. I used two fresh whole garlics cut through the middle and baked with some roast lamb. It was so delicious and definitely worth growing for the wide variety of health benefits and recipes you can make with it.


45 comments:

  1. Yum Rhonda. I never seem to be able to grow garlics very well. I haven't given up though and our crop for this year is still in the ground. I read somewhere that cutting off the leaves to around 1 inch high when they are in the ground (regularly) helps them concentrate their energy on making bigger bulbs so, that is what I have done this year. Time will tell I guess.

    Regards,
    Carly

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    1. I haven't heard of that method, Carly. I've heard of people cutting off the scapes but nothing else. I'd be interested in knowing if it works. Good luck with your garlic.

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  2. That looks sensational. My vege patch is slowly getting there, but now I feel I need to add garlic to the mix as we use it in almost everything..

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  3. Thanks for the tips on growing, preparing and storing the garlic, we've got some in our garden coming along very nicely. I will have to bookmark this page so when they're ready I can check back here :) thanks again!

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  4. Hi Rhonda
    I pulled up my garlic today. I have planted it now for two years and last year was disappointing. This year I planted Egyptian Pink garlic and it was double to what we had last year but still the bulbs were smaller than shop bought. I use garlic at least once a day and with 6 of us I am not sure I will ever grow enought to see us through a year...but it was fun growing it and definitely glad to have done it again.

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    1. Double last year's crop is a great leap ahead. I think finding the right variety for the area you live in is the big challenge. Maybe you just need to keep trying different varieties to get bigger bulbs.

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  5. I'm always amazed that we both live in the Southern Hemisphere but climates so different. Our garlic is growing really well but not ready for harvest until at least December.
    Love Leanne @ Cottage Tails New Zealand.

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    1. HI Leanne. I think NZ starts at the level of Sydney. Sydney and south of it have much colder and longer winters than we do. I bet you can grow all those lovely foods we can't grow such as apricots, apples etc. Good luck with your crops.

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  6. Morning Rhonda, that garlic looks great. I'm trying some this year, but in a big pot. So far it's just like shallots so maybe won't be a success, will try again next year. I enjoy reading about you and Hanno working together, it's lovely. Kathryn x

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    1. Hi Kathryn. Let me know how the garlic goes in pots. I gave a couple of garlic bulbs to Sunny's mum to take back to Korea. She has a balcony garden but we were both hoping they would grow in her pots. She's only grown flowers before now so I gave her some seeds to try: radish, Asian greens and lettuce as well as a couple of clumps of Welsh onions - the perennial onion.

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  7. This was very timely as I have been thinking about what I want to grow next spring and researching it. I love seeing the pictures of your garden. It inspires me!

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  8. They look wonderful! We eat tons of garlic. Spaghetti and meat balls is my favorite meal of all time. Can you show us the cannoli crop? If I could grow garlic for savory and cannoli for sweet, my life would be complete!

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  9. Rhonda, We are trying Elephant garlic also some purple garlic. The Purple one we have harvested and it is drying. We are a little unsure about the elephant type which we also got from Green Harvest. I think the elephant garlic has to go to seed before harvest however it would it then after that still be treated the same for drying? We also picked up some peanuts from our local Bunnings store to try and grow for fun. Also do you know much about the Welsh bunching onions? thanks Mary-anne

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    1. We haven't grown elephant garlic here Mary-Anne but I can't see why it would be dried the same as true garlic. The peanuts will be fun. We've grown Welsh onions for years. I was given some by a reader many years ago and that same lot is still going strong. They're one of the best onions to grow and very easy.

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    2. So with the Welsh onions just leave some to bunch again [ in a new muclched bed] and keep them going like that all year hear in the hinterland?, that would be great. thanks lots of questions
      thanks Rhonda

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    3. In my comment above, I meant to type I can't see why it wouldn't be dried the same as true garlic.

      We have our Welsh onions in a square corner of the garden. We use them during the year by mainly cutting the tops off them. Every so often I'll pick a bunch of entire onions but usually I only use the tops. They slowly multiply by bunching out during the year. Then they flower in spring, they've just finished here, and put on a short spurt of growth. We move ours every couple of years into enriched soil. I've given a lot of them away to visitors and we still have hundreds. It's a very handy plant.

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  10. Hi Rhonda,was just wondering if I could use worm tea as fertilizer instead of seaweed or the comfrey tea? Thanks.

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    1. Yes Sian, worm tea would be an excellent choice. If you plant them in good enriched soil, they don't need a lot of extra fertilising. Just a monthly spray of something like worm tea gives them that extra push along.

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  11. Thanks Rhonda and Hanno, I'll forward this to the Master Gardener.

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  12. Last year I grew Garlic in pots, saved the best bulbs and this year it's gone into a garden bed of it's own. The size difference has been remarkable, and I am looking forward to a lovely harvest in a couple of months :) The garlic that I didn't plant was starting to sprout, so I cleaned off all the skin and stored the peeled cloves in a jar in the freezer. Although they don't defrost well, and turn a bit mushy when they come out, for chopping into dinner, that's all that I need.

    Having it all pre-peeled and ready to throw into dinner is fantastic, makes the dinner rush so much easier. Just hoping that the jar holds out until the new garlic is ready to harvest!

    It's so easy to grow, and much much better than the sprayed stuff that is imported into the shops. I can't imagine not growing it every year now.

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  13. Here in the UK I plant my garlic on Bonfire Night (November 5th) and it is ready by August. Some folk sow in March, but I have more success this way.
    Love your blog.

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  14. THANK YOU for such a clear post and photos. I must try growing garlic - we use so much and there's not much local around here!

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  15. We planted fall garlic last fall and harvested it in August this year. It was small but it's a start. We just planted more for next years harvest.

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  16. I plant my garlic at Easter time and harvest around Christmas. I have been growing garlic for years now and I try to grow enough to last us for the year but I run out every just before! I have about 4 cloves left of my 2012 harvest and I am a couple of months away from harvesting this years! Homegrown garlic is sensational and just cannot compare to the bought stuff.

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  17. Just getting ready to plant our garlic here in a couple weeks! This is the first year that my entire crop will be from saved cloves :) I plant them a bit deeper and mulch well with straw to help them overwinter, since the cold season stretches well into April. Was curious how many cloves you plant to get a year's worth?
    -Jaime

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  18. Hi Jaime, I tried for one bulb a week this year and that's what we got.

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  19. Garlic is something I have never tried it seemed to difficult......my neighbor gave me some last month to try but I did not....you made it sound so easy I am going to give it a try tomorrow! Thanks for taking the time to describe it
    Kim

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  20. HI Rhonda, your garlic looks great, I think you have inspired me to try growing it! but my real concern is your sister, I have just been watching the news and hearing about the bush fires in NSW (I'm in Melbourne) and all I thought of was your sister - I hope everything is ok xxBrenda

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  21. Thanks for your concern, Brenda. I spoke to Tricia about an hour ago. She's okay but two of her sons have been evacuated from their homes. It's pretty scary.

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  22. Thanks Rhonda. I knew nothing about growing garlic so appreciate your post. Will they survive a frost or two if I plant them to grow over winter?

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    1. We don't get frosts here but I don't think it would damage your plants. Maybe someone in a frosty area could add a comment.

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    2. Hi Floodproofmum, frost won't hurt your garlic, at all, we were at 0 degrees here this morning, and get down to minus10 and ours survives winter very well. We are in the Central West of NSW and between creeks, so gets very cold.
      Rhonda, those bunching onions sound very like the ones we used to pick out of my bf parents garden and munch on the way back to primary school after lunch, do you know where I can pruchase some?
      Cheers
      Lorraine

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    3. Hi Rhonda and FloodProofMum, I'm in Canberra and our frosts are legendary. My garlic (5 types, 2 softneck and 2 hardneck, plus Russian/Elephant garlic) are all in wicking boxes. I planted in late March/early April and have not yet harvested - the cooler climate makes for a longer growing period, but the frosts do not bother them at all.

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    4. Hi Lorraine, I just checked at Green Harvest and they have seeds for a couple of different varieties on sale. We grow the green ones here but I just read about that beautiful looking red one - it needs cold weather so that might suit you very well. xx

      http://greenharvest.com.au/SeedOrganic/VegetableSeeds/OkraToOnion.html

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    5. Thanks everyone. Great News! We only get a little frost but good to know I can plant over winter! Cheers, Tanya

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  23. Rhonda,

    Thanks for the post on garlic, we're getting ready to plant garlic and this came at a great time.

    Erika

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    1. Hi Rhonda ,like you we have been growing garlic for about 30 years now .
      We always plant in June and harvest in December.(Tasmania) Much like you we store ours in onion bags in the garage but we do also put a jarful in the fridge in good quality Olive Oil. . We always plant about 60 to 100 cloves and give some to our daughters in Melbourne when we go over . We use some of our bulbs for the next years crop. We also grow leeks most of the year and lettuce. Most of our lettuce is self seeded .We have enough berries (Blackcurrant, Redcurrant, Gooseberries and Raspberries for jam's and jellies and cordials too. Our kale is doing really well and we have had a lot of cabbage, cauliflower and broccolini . We also freeze excess fruit from the apple and pear trees and use them in puddings . We have Bramley Apples for pies ,just delicious . I get a great deal of pleasure from my vegie garden .

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