Get­ting to grips with gar­lic

The Tribune (NZ) - - AL FRESCO | GARDENING - WALLY RICHARDS

Gar­lic cloves are tra­di­tion­ally planted on the short­est day of the year, June 20, for har­vest on the long­est day De­cem­ber 21.

But any time from mid-May to mid-July is good for plant­ing gar­lic cloves.

Easy to grow, the ideal place is in a sunny shel­tered spot. Gar­lic loves frosts, so no pro­tec­tion is needed.

Gar­lic prefers a fri­able soil that its roots can pen­e­trate and where the bulbs can swell eas­ily, so loosen up the top­soil with a rake or hoe to make a fine tilth.

Sprin­kle BioPhos, gyp­sum and Rok Solid over the area and rake it in.

Use a dib­bler to make a small plant­ing hole about 25mm deep and pour in a tea­spoon of BioBoost, a nat­u­ral slow re­lease all-pur­pose food. Cover with a lit­tle soil and sit a clove of gar­lic on top, point up­ward. Plant with 10cm be­tween cloves and 15cm be­tween rows.

Cover care­fully with pur­chased com­post (Dal­tons or Oder­ings) so the cloves are buried 25mm un­der the com­post, and sprin­kle with Rok Solid and BioBoost.

Af­ter plant­ing and be­fore any weeds spring up, cover with a 5 to 10cm thick layer of mulch. Gar­lic loves mulch and mowed au­tumn leaves are ideal.

Al­ter­na­tives are pea straw, weed-free grass clip­pings, or more good com­post.

Keep the gar­lic bed free of weeds. Spray any signs of pest in­fes­ta­tion (usu­ally black aphids) with Wallys Neem Tree Oil or the new Wallys Su­per Neem Tree Oil which has three times the active anti-feedant in­gre­di­ent.

While gar­lic is tra­di­tion­ally har­vested on the long­est day, it is bet­ter to wait un­til af­ter the leaves start to go yel­low but while there are at least six green leaves on the plant, and this of­ten hap­pens around mid-Jan­uary.

Har­vest­ing ear­lier might mean the bulbs aren’t as big as they could be.

Har­vest­ing later might mean the bulbs split, or in ex­treme cases start to de­te­ri­o­rate.

To har­vest, use a gar­den fork to loosen the soil, and just pull up the plant up gen­tly by its base.

Af­ter lift­ing, leave the leaves on, be­cause dur­ing the dry­ing process the good­ness from the leaves goes into the bulb, in­creas­ing its size, flavour and nu­tri­tion.

Clean off the dirt and leave the bulbs for a few days ly­ing on a dry sur­face in a dry area such as a car­port.

Store it by ty­ing clumps of five or 10 to­gether by the leaves and hang­ing un­der a car­port or shed roof out of the sun­light. When dried, the plant tis­sue is quite ab­sorbent and will even ab­sorb mois­ture from damp air and turn mouldy.

Once nice and dry, store the bulbs in­doors in a card­board box in a dry room or shed where con­den­sa­tion is not a prob­lem.

Af­ter lift­ing, leave the leaves on, be­cause dur­ing the dry­ing process the good­ness from the leaves goes into the bulb, in­creas­ing its size, flavour and nu­tri­tion.

PHOTO: FAIRFAX NZ

Gar­lic comes with health, nu­tri­tional and food flavour­ing ben­e­fits, and for those not im­pressed by the qual­ity or cost of com­mer­cially grown and im­ported gar­lic, now is the time to plant.

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