PLANT GAR­LIC

NZ Gardener - Garden Diary 2018 - - Sow & Grow -

GAR­LIC IS TRA­DI­TION­ALLY PLANTED on the short­est day of the year, but any time from now un­til the end of the July does it proud. If your soil is frozen solid for much of win­ter, you can also tuck the cloves into cell trays or re­cy­cled seedling pun­nets and trans­plant it care­fully once it’s about 5cm high (or the roots are hang­ing out the bot­tom of the plas­tic tray).

PLANT­ING TIPS

• To pre­pare the soil, weed your beds and add a sprin­kle of gran­u­lar fer­tiliser or a shov­el­ful of or­ganic ma­nure. The more good­ness in your soil, the bet­ter. Dig in well-rot­ted horse ma­nure, com­post, sea­weed, fish guts – any­thing re­ally. Just make sure it’s worked in well. Dig it in to a good spade depth and let it set­tle for 10-14 days prior to plant­ing.

• Gar­lic needs full sun and free-drain­ing soil; it won’t do well in light sandy soils, nor heavy, soggy clay.

• Source top-notch or­ganic seed. Your gar­lic will only ever be as good as the seed you start with. Use only New Zealand-grown gar­lic as seed, or buy seed gar­lic from gar­den cen­tres now. (The bulbs should have trimmed roots on the base, whereas im­ported gar­lic is scraped clean.)

• Split whole bulbs into in­di­vid­ual cloves. Save only the fat­test outer cloves for plant­ing – about 4-5 per bulbs. Eat the skinny in­ner cloves.

• When plant­ing: bury or press the cloves into the soil so they are 2-4cm deep, with the pointy end of the clove fac­ing up­wards. If they aren’t cov­ered with soil, they have a habit of ris­ing up through the ground in a frost and end up sitting too close to the sur­face to root firmly.

• Give them some el­bow room. Space cloves at least 30cm apart. It’s a com­mon mis­take to plant them too close. When fully grown, gar­lic gets as big as a healthy leek plant.

• Ex­pect to see green shoots within 3-4 weeks.

WHEN AND WHAT TO FEED WITH

• At the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, gar­lic needs ni­tro­gen, so use any fer­tiliser you have at hand. It does the bulk of its growth in Septem­ber and early Oc­to­ber, so liq­uid fer­tiliser helps then too. But after Oc­to­ber, lay off the ni­tro­gen as you want the bulbs to swell up un­der the soil sur­face, not put on more top growth.

• Keep reg­u­larly weeded but don’t mulch with com­post dur­ing the sea­son; this can lead to col­lar rot (the same is true for onions). Do wa­ter your plants fre­quently.

TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS

• The cloves can rot in wet soil be­fore they sprout. If you’re wor­ried, start them in seed trays first. Rats, pukeko and rab­bits can also dig up the cloves – if you have is­sues with ver­min and feath­ered varmints, lay chicken mesh over the trenches after plant­ing. Once they’ve sprouted, they’ll leave the plants alone.

• Moulds are com­mon on al­li­ums like gar­lic and onions. Never plant cloves that are mouldy. Rust can be a real prob­lem and this ru­ins the bulbs for stor­age. It’s a fun­gal dis­ease so you could try us­ing a gen­eral fungi­cide, but that some­what de­feats the point of grow­ing your own or­ganic gar­lic! If you had rust last sum­mer, source new seed stock and plant them in a dif­fer­ent spot.

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