Play it cool, plant some gar­lic

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cun­dall

GROW­ING your own gar­lic is dead easy. Un­like most dor­mant plants, which are stim­u­lated into growth by warmth and light; gar­lic is the op­po­site be­cause bulbs need cold con­di­tions in or­der to send out roots and be­gin to grow.

This is the main rea­son it is a mis­take to store gar­lic in the fridge. Af­ter a cou­ple of weeks in the cold, the cloves or bulb di­vi­sions start to shoot.

And if there is the slight­est amount of mois­ture around, say in a plas­tic bag, the roots too will be sprout­ing fu­ri­ously.

Usu­ally a suit­able time of the year to plant gar­lic cloves is from late au­tumn, in or­der to take ad­van­tage of win­ter’s cool­ing soil. In fact, the best yields of big, tasty and aro­matic gar­lic al­ways oc­cur in places with cool win­ters, which makes Tas­ma­nia one of the best places on earth to grow out­stand­ing crops.

There’s still time to plant gar­lic, be­cause an ideal soil tem­per­a­ture to get it mov­ing and grow­ing fast is 7C or lower.

Bet­ter still, if this cold con­tin­ues for about eight weeks it’s no prob­lem in Tas­ma­nia. The yield of big, fat, solid, long- keep­ing bulbs can be enor­mous by late De­cem­ber.

Last July I planted our main gar­lic crop. I used enough lo­cally grown bulb- di­vi­sions to cre­ate four rows, each 3m long.

The bed was small, less than half the size of an aver­age bath­room. Yet when the crop was har­vested it was so heavy I needed a wheel­bar­row to cart it away while gloat­ing about the fi­nan­cial sav­ings. At the time, the su­per­mar­ket price was be­tween $ 30 and $ 40 a kilo­gram.

This enor­mous gar­lic har­vest was spread out on the wooden floor of a sunny ve­randa al­lowed to fully dry off.

Later it was tied in loose bun­dles and hung un­der­cover in a dry, airy shed. I’ve just planted our new crop us­ing the best of last year’s har­vest.

If you have no home- grown gar­lic bulbs to plant, go buy some.

How­ever, make sure it is ei­ther Tas­ma­nian grown or at least from other parts of Aus­tralia. Im­ported gar­lic can be a waste of time be­cause this stuff has been treated to re­tard sprout­ing while await­ing sale.

Grow­ing your own gar­lic is as­ton­ish­ingly easy be­cause the plants re­quire very lit­tle care or at­ten­tion.

I never bother us­ing fer­tilis­ers, just soil that has been ma­nured the pre­vi­ous year to grow un­re­lated veg­eta­bles such as toma­toes or bras­si­cas.

How­ever, add lime to the soil be­cause gar­lic detests acidic con­di­tions. Also sprin­kle a good fist­ful of sul­phate of po­tash over ev­ery square me­tre of cul­ti­vated soil be­fore plant­ing out gar­lic bulbs. Both are min­er­als rather than fer­tilis­ers.

Sim­ply push the bulbs into the soft soil, base- plate down so the pointed ends fin­ish up just be­neath the sur­face.

Spac­ing is about 100mm. Make sure there is a big gap be­tween the rows, a dis­tance of at least half a me­tre. There are a cou­ple of rea­sons for this.

Gar­lic plants can­not com­pete with weeds. So a wide spac­ing be­tween rows al­lows the soil to be quickly raked ev­ery few weeks to dis­rupt and kill weed seedlings as fast as they emerge.

The other rea­son for widely- spaced gar­lic rows is to al­low for in­ter- row crop­ping later, with equally non- greedy com­pan­ion plants.

This gives enough space to grow rows of weed- sup­press­ing car­rots, parsnips and beet­root from a spring sowing.

All of which have a low need for fer­tilis­ers, love to grow to­gether and even pro­tect each other.

This method of grow­ing gar­lic with other friendly com­pan­ions en­ables small sunny beds to carry huge crops of the most nu­tri­tious of all food plants with­out need­ing sprays or chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers. That’s what I call highly pro­duc­tive or­ganic grow­ing.

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