Learning to garden (3) – The Garlic Project

A few years back a family member bought a pack of garlic, after I had used half, it was pointed out to me that they were seed garlic and should be planted not eaten.  The two remaining bulbs were split up and and the cloves pushed into a shadowy and unloved (except by the local cats) part of the front garden.  Despite neglect and cat poo, we had a small supply of garlic.  Since then I have grown garlic each year.  I guess we use about 50 bulbs a year as we tend to use “bulbs” rather than “cloves”.  One year I purchased some seed from a garden center which was not in good condition and to be fair to the grower, it was generously replaced, but I thought I would try planting stuff bought in shops.  First this came from a “organic” grocer because someone had told me that supermarkets sprayed their garlic with “sprout inhibitor” (I have no idea if this is correct).  Over time, I got lazy and found the garlic from the supermarket worked just as well.  Last year’s crop was the best one so far, the bulbs came from Holland via Waitrose and an outlay of £9 has given us a six month supply of good garlic.  Most supermarket garlic seems to come from Spain where the climate is different from that in Sussex, maybe the Dutch bulbs felt at home in England.

Despite having lived in this house for more than twenty years, it is only recently I have taken much interest in the garden and garlic has just been planted in any space not littered with rubble and this might account for the variations in quality.  For the past couple of years I have just been planting the large outer cloves and using the smaller inner ones for cooking, I have no scientific evidence to suggest that this has improved the quality of the harvest, however, it does mean you get six to ten plantable cloves per bulb rather than ten to fourteen.

I am trying to sift through the experience gained from what can only be described as three or four years of random planting.  This year, garlic is being planted in a bed which gets as much sun as is available on the western side of an suburban valley.  The area is about 4 square meters which I estimated would take about 50 cloves of garlic.  The plan was to use good quality seed. I should have ordered six bulbs of “Provence Wight”, but only ordered four.  The empty the space is being filled in with some “Doocot” again from Waitrose.  This bed has been a dumping ground for whoever has lived in the house and until recently it was home to 75 bags of rubble and two courgette plants.  It has been prepared by digging in 100 liters of farmyard manure from the garden center (selected because the dog will not eat or roll in it) and 100 grams of wood ash.  Any remaining seed garlic was planted in clumps in the front garden where it will have to contend with the local cats.

The great thing about garlic is that it is something to plant after the remains of tomatoes, courgettes and sad cabbages have been pushed into the composer as winter sets in.

Week ending 11-Oct-2015

Garlic planted in the back garden

  • 37 cloves of “Provence Wight”,
  • 12 cloves of “Doocot”
  • 6 cloves of “Early Purple Wight”

Garlic planted in front garden:

  • 8 Cloves of “Casablanca”
  • 5 Cloves of “Early Purple Wight”

Plan of garlic bed in back garden, enough space has been left to plant tomato plants at the end of April while the garlic is still in the ground.

PS

Still digging bits of horseradish out of the main vegetable bed

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About SolarBucket

I trained as a mechanical engineer in the 1970's and then spent most of the following 25 years doing sums and software for Oil and Gas Exploration. Current interests are the study of wind and solar resources.
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