Counting Garlic Chickens

Going with garlic – no glut no glory!

The veggie patch at ours is a bit orderly. I’m a bit like that. Companion planting, intercropping and self-sown goodies are not really my thing. Rotations, compost additions and mulching – they are my thing!

Strategies — preserving traditional plant varieties and gaining self-sufficiency

A few years back, a friend from Western Victoria posted pics of his garlic harvest – not quite boastful, but proud of his achievement. (A bit how I aspire to be with my successes). In acknowledgement, I complimented him on his efforts, which led to an offer of a barter arrangement when Anthony was next in Melbourne. We swapped homemade passata from our tomato crop for a fistful of garlic corms.

The garlic came from a now closed organic market garden near Mount Arapiles (a mecca for rock climbers in southeast Australia). O’Connor’s organic veggies were a bit of institution, and this garlic line came from Reg O’Connor’s own stock. There’s an ABC Open interview with Reg and Hazel which also provides footage of his farm (and possibly his garlic crop) in 2012.

A moderate crop was achieved in my first effort – which left me in a dilemma: how much to eat versus how much to keep for planting. This uneasy balance is made easier with any corms that look like they’re not great storage material: damaged, too small, a bit green etc… Consider them EATEN. So that made it easy enough – three sizable corms kept, five or so straggly ones dispatched in the kitchen.

Garlic plant teeming with garlic mites
Garlic mites lunching on the garlic crop September 2013

Having sown the stored garlic into a bed amended with some wood ash – collected from a friend’s fire place at their olive farm – things were looking good! they came up promptly and grew consistently in the unnervingly mild winter of 2013. At this point there’s a whole counting your chickens situation!

Approaching August of 2013 some little black critters had a crack at the garlic. Looking them up, they appeared to be onion aphids. I tried the veggie oil/detergent/water mix in a spray bottle to clag the critters and keep them down… Looked like a promising early result.

At this point we, as a family went on holidays for four weeks – with a house sitter looking after house, dogs and garden. Alas, this did not assist the garlic. On return, the garlic was all but departed – with just a few small corms hanging in. A sad and sorry result! Fortunately the remaining crop was just enough to sow a productive crop for Winter of 2014.

Freshly harvested garlic laid out for drying
Freshly harvested garlic late November 2014

Conditions were good. Wood ash was incorporated into the split growing beds (split my proverbial eggs into two baskets this time!). My attention to details was consistent (and uninterrupted by trips away!). The result was a bumper crop! The relief (and a more generous eating share) was a welcome change!

So it was with mixed emotion when Anthony announced in early 2014 that he was heading overseas for a six months. WHAT ABOUT O’CONNOR’S GARLIC?! I cried! “You’ll have to carry the torch” was his sombre tone. This year I planted more than I ever have, into a bed that hasn’t had Alliums (leeks, onions, spring onions or garlic) for over a year. I added my wood ash (garlic prefers a slightly alkaline soil pH) and planted out the best cloves in neat and evenly spaced rows. Sowing date April 9th.

Garlic corms plaited
Plaited garlic from 2014 harvest
Selecting best cloves for planting
Sorting and counting garlic for 2015 planting

The growing conditions so far were mild until around July when a proper Winter kicked in – slowing growth – but doing no harm! Here’s the current state of things in early August. I have giving some seaweed solution from time to time and weeded pretty regularly – as garlic are known to really dislike weed competition!

 

garden bed with wood ash for incorporation
Garden preparation for garlic planting
Garlic cloves arrayed in rows in soil
Garlic cloves planted in prepared bed

There’s real chance that – crop going well – I’ll be in a position to provide growing supplies to Anthony on return from his adventures at seas… Then again, don’t want to count my chickens too soon!

They did survive a hail storm in July which is a blessing!  I will provide a catch up on the crop as Spring arrives and plants jump away!

Garlic plants surrounded by hailstones
A brief but fierce hail storm struck in July

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    A card-carrying science nerd — PhD in biological science. Successful creator of an award winning sustainable business. A lecturer, teacher, innovator and now builder of information tools for agriculture — I seek to provide informed approaches and making low resource consumption easy and understandable.

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