I have a confession to make… well two really. The first is that I never manage to get my garlic in before Christmas and yet still usually get a decent crop, although I’m sure yields would be higher if I planted earlier. The second that we have a bad case of white rot in our garden (and, I suspect, in the allotment) so for the last 3 years I’ve planted in old potato sacks. I’ve been surprised at the success of container growing – it’s a great way to grow garlic in a small garden or on a patio. I’m not even sure I’d go back to growing in the ground, even after the requisite 15 years or so when the soil might be white rot free.
This year I am determined to plant whilst the old year is still waning, so I’ve been hunting out the paper bags filled with old bulbs from this year’s harvest. I’ve been growing ‘Early Purple Wight’ and ‘Red Czech’ for several years – bought from Isle of Wight based The Garlic Farm at Hampton Court Flower Show. We are pretty much self-sufficient in garlic throughout the year and saving bulbs makes this crop a cost effective one too. Last year I swapped some produce for a few elephant garlic cloves and they work really well in meals for the kids, who are yet to develop a taste for really spicy cuisine. Most produced healthy bulbs, but a few clearly took offence at being planted late and only produced round cloves. I’m going to plant the biggest of these again this year and see what happens.
In 2017, I’m adding to my collection with the new varieties ‘Persian Star’ and ‘Susan Delafield’, kindly given to me by Julieanne Porter, who grows a range of different varieties in her own garden. Julieanne’s interesting accounts of garlic growing and trialling container/ground cultivated garlic can be found on her blog – Gwenfar’s Garden and other musings. I’m looking forward to getting to know these new varieties and seeing how they perform in the pots and in the kitchen.
I’m planting into a mixture of peat-free multi-purpose compost and my own garden compost, with around 6-10 cloves per pot. The pots spend the year next to the greenhouse in a sunny spot. They do have a tendency to dry out in the summer, so need regular watering, but apart from that are relatively maintenance free. This year the elephant garlic produced scapes which needed to be removed to encourage the plants to focus their energies on creating large bulbs. The discarded scapes were an added bonus, making a zingy pesto and delicious garlic bread.
Garlic scapes are a delicious spring treat
So, armed with old and new containers (some of my old ones have now entirely disintegrated after 6 valiant years of service), I’m off out into a dreary looking garden to bury treasure for next spring. The new containers are Haxnicks Vigoroot Potato/Tomato Planters, available through Suttons Seeds and kindly given to me to trial with my garlic. They stand 45cm high and hold 40 litres of compost. The planters are made of strong, stiff felt with sturdy webbed canvas handles.
The fabric planters should last for 3-6 years and work by ‘air-pruning’ plant roots, encouraging more vigorous rooting and therefore better absorption of nutrients. This will hopefully lead to bigger bulbs in the summer. Once filled the containers seem stable and although they will need careful watering due to the porous nature of the material, the sharp drainage will be good for the garlic. I’m planning to mulch the pots to help conserve moisture and to add plenty of homemade compost to give the cloves a good start.
So with all 5 varieties in situ, I’ll be waiting for more cold weather; a couple of cool months at temperatures of 0-10°C (32-50°F) should be sufficient for good bulb development. Once the milder spring weather returns the garlic should begin to sprout and I’ll be able to assess its vigour. Until growth begins, I’m intending to observe the garlic planters very closely from inside the warm kitchen with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie (or two).
Hot Press Mushroom News…
The Oyster Mushrooms started to show on Day 9 of the Advent-ure and are now coming on swiftly. I’ll leave you with pictures of the babies, with more growth to come over the rest of Advent and then, hopefully, good eating.
Baby Oyster Mushrooms appearing on Days 9 and 10
If you want to grow your own Oyster Mushrooms, you can buy kits from The Espresso Mushroom Company. If you’d like to see how it all starts, take a look at my vlogs on the kits, on soaking the coffee grounds and on setting up the soaked growing kit.
If you’d like to follow my garlic and mushroom growing, I’ll be posting more details of both on the blog and day by day mushroom images over December on my Facebook page. You can follow my blog by clicking below. Thanks 🙂