Garlic and friends
Garlic (Allium sativum) is immensely valuable for cooking, but unfortunately our North Coast climate is not ideal for growing it. There are a few tricks that can help us to grow our own, hopefully to replace imported garlic. Ninety per cent of bulbs sold in Australia are imported!
Garlic needs cold to promote the formation of separate cloves. For this reason, we dont plant garlic in the early spring, but in the autumn. You will get better results if you buy your planting material now and put it in the crisper of the fridge for six weeks or so. Ignore the people who tell you that you need special untreated garlic for growing Ive never had a problem with supermarket garlic, which is much cheaper.
After the chilling period, plant out individual cloves 5cm deep in sandy, non-enriched soil that drains freely. Keep them well-watered through the winter and early spring, but let them dry off around October. The leaves will yellow and die back, signalling that its time to harvest.
The giant or Russian garlic is deservedly popular in our area. While more closely related to leeks than to true garlic, it does have a reasonable flavour and grows more willingly for us. Bulbs make a good baked vegetable (for garlic lovers!), but unfortunately they dont store very well.
Garlic chives are very handy for cooks, as well as being decorative. Divide established clumps now, or plant seed in spring. Society garlic (Tulbaghia sp) is unrelated to garlic chives, but has a similar flavour. Its easy to differentiate from the real thing by the pretty lilac flowers garlic chives have white ones. Society garlic is very hardy and decorative enough for the flower garden. Its only drawback is that the flavoursome leaves can be a little tough.
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