Now’s the time to plant your gar­lic

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

Itch­ing to plant your gar­lic? Go ahead. There’s no need to wait un­til the short­est day to plant gar­lic, as tra­di­tion dic­tates. Plant them now to get them off to a good start. Many gar­den­ers swear the ear­lier you plant them, the bet­ter. At the very least the bulbs have time to send out roots be­fore the re­ally cold weather sets in. Then come spring, they’re ready to shoot off. Buy seed gar­lic from your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre or use or­ganic, New Zealand-grown bulbs from fruit and vege shops. Di­vide the in­di­vid­ual cloves just be­fore plant­ing, and dis­card any that are soft or dam­aged. Plant the big­gest bulbs in a sunny spot in fer­tile, well-drained soil that has plenty of com­post dug in. The com­post pro­vides a slow re­lease of ni­tro­gen, which the gar­lic likes. Gar­lic does not grow well in stand­ing wa­ter, so plant in raised beds or con­tain­ers if your soil is fre­quently soggy. Sandy loam is ideal, al­though a free-drain­ing clay soil is fine. Push each clove, un­peeled and pointy end up, into the soil about 5 cen­time­tres deep and 10-15cm apart. Gar­lic needs am­ple mois­ture dur­ing its spring growth pe­riod for the bulbs to fat­ten up, so make sure you’re on hand with the hose or wa­ter­ing can if days are dry. As soon as the leaves ap­pear, fo­liar feed fort­nightly for a cou­ple of months, at which time bulbs will be start­ing to form. I like to use a mix of 1 ta­ble­spoon liq­uid sea­weed and 1 ta­ble­spoon fish emulsion with a litre of wa­ter and spray. I also sprin­kle some wood ash over the soil too. Re­move any scapes (flower stalks) that form, as the plant will use up valu­able en­ergy to form flow­ers rather than bulbs. Keep the soil around your gar­lic well weeded too, as gar­lic hates com­pe­ti­tion. Stop wa­ter­ing when the leaves be­gin to yel­low. Gar­lic is then har­vested when the leaves start to brown. When the lower leaves are brown but the top five or six are still green, that’s the time to har­vest. Har­vest on a dry day. Dig the bulbs out gen­tly with a gar­den fork, be­ing care­ful not to bruise any, or they won’t store for long. Lightly brush off any soil, then leave the bulbs out­doors in a shaded spot for a cou­ple of days to dry out, or un­der cover if rain is likely. Don’t leave them in full sun or they’ll cook. Cure your gar­lic be­fore stor­ing by hang­ing in bunches in a cool, dry place with good ven­ti­la­tion, or place on a mesh rack in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion. Make sure there is ad­e­quate air­flow and that the bulbs are po­si­tioned out of di­rect sun­light. Once cured (af­ter two to four weeks), the stalks can be cut to 1cm from the bulb, or plaited. Store in a dry room.

Burst­ing with flavour: Gar­lic likes fer­tile, well-drained soil.

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