By Sarah O'Neil
June is a fabulous month. Despite it being the first month of winter when the weather really does show its wintery colours, it also hosts the shortest day. So even though we are only beginning to experience the cold and the wet, after the winter solstice on the 21st the days start to lengthen. This gives us something to look forward for the duration of winter. Each evening will have a little more daylight and we will be able to cope with any kind of weather, knowing spring isn’t that far away.
But not only that, the shortest day is synonymous with planting onions and garlic and to be able to be in the garden planting anything at all at this time of year is something to get excited about. I am especially keen to get my garlic in as we didn’t get any last year. All season I battled with rust through my garlic and never really managed to get on top of it. It came as no surprise when it came time to dig them out and I found the entire crop wasn’t worth keeping.
I’m a bit precious when it comes to making the most of the harvest and will carefully peel forked and twisted carrots, I’ll cut away bad bits, I’ll serve up the tiniest of spuds and if slugs, aphids or caterpillars have been nibbling away on something, I’ll just wash it extra well and it will be fine. I grew it so we’ll eat it. You can imagine the stern looks across the table if a child attempts to leave something I’d spent the last 4 months nurturing… from seed! My kids now know not to even try it.
However this garlic crop really wasn’t worth the effort of peeling and using the slither of a clove found within, as most of the bulbs even lacked the slither. It broke my heart to just toss them on the compost heap after six long months of waiting to see what lay hidden underground. So this year I am more prepared.
My soil will have the fertiliser and organic matter well blended in, in advance so I don’t burn the cloves as this wouldn’t set them off to a very good start. And I will only use the fattest healthiest looking cloves from the seed bulbs I bought from the garden centre. I bought extra to make sure I wasn’t tempted to use the skinny ones.
Having them in my raised beds will stop them getting to too wet, as it can get a bit soggy in my neck of the woods, but they do love to be damp so they will be alright as the swamp soil that fills my bed has the remarkable ability to hold moisture. I shall also keep them weed free as they really hate competition and I’ll be generous with the blood and bone throughout the season to get fat healthy bulbs.
I do have to say I’ll be keeping a sharp eye out that dreaded rust and the moment I see it I won’t hesitate to reach for the spray. I’ll do whatever it takes to actually have edible garlic this year.
As a backup we do have elephant garlic and that gave us a fabulous rust free crop, however the flavour is much milder as it is a close relation to leek. This has kept us going through the season with its subtle garlic flavour and their giant cloves are just pretty cool.
This year I’m not taking any chances with my garlic crop – it will receive the best care and attention, because, well, you never know when you will run into vampires!
Garlic and Elephant garlic