Thursday, October 28, 2010

Garlic and frosts

The garden is full of surprises. The frost has come down so hard that its literally pushed the soil up. It looks like fingers of broken glass reaching up trying to strangle my winter brassicas. Still, so far they look unbothered by the changes in temperature, as does my perpetual spinach.

I popped into the greenhouse last week to pot up my garlic and found my strawberry runners were still producing. Little berries admittedly but they struck me as some sort of miracle, and yet more flowers still coming.

Anyway, garlic, yes. To get the best and earliest garlic you should plant it in Winter i.e. now. In this country this means playing a risky business with supermarket bought garlic as the garden centres do not cater for garlic sets until spring (which is incredibly frustrating). The idea is that the cloves get frozen along with the earth and then begin the growing process the second that the soil warms up enough. This speeds up the entire growing process and enables the plant to start germinating immediately.

I chose to plant my bulbs in individual pots in the greenhouse, this is purely from a practicality standpoint rather than a need of the garlic. I simply don't know exactly what I will put in which bed next year - nor if I will possibly change the layout entirely. It is still good if not better to plant the cloves directly into the soil about 15cm apart in rows and make sure you mark where you plant. If you decide to do as I have and pot them, simply wait for them to become well established before relocating them in Spring. Last year I planted my garlic too close to my potatoes which meant they were overshadowed and didn't reach their full potential. Even on the small side it tasted sweeter and more delicious than any supermarket long stored garlic you buy here.

There are not many problems you can have with garlic except for bolting. This happens when temperature fluctuates wildly - an occupational hazzard living in Iceland - but with garlic that does not mean a ruined crop. The garlic flowers can be eaten and are especially good chopped finely in salads providing a real garlicky tang.

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