The recent Koonya Garlic Festival has put garlic at the forefront of my mind and I will be preparing beds this week. I went to 3 talks at the festival, all with excellent advice on growing, eating and storing garlic. What it comes down to is that, whatever garlic cultivars you choose to grow, the state of your soil will determine how well the flavour develops. The growth of the bulb itself will be determined by soil and weather.
Garlic does not need a lot of fertility but it needs humus (well rotted organic matter) and for the soil microbes to be well fed. Here is what I am going to do:
1. Dig to a spade’s depth and loosen any clumps
2. Dig in plenty of aged sheep manure (cow would be even better, I am saving my compost for brassicas and other greens)
3. Dig in a well known, pelletised seaweed, fish, humic acid and manure product available in large buckets. Seamungus.
4. Really concentrate on improving the structure of the soil, with elbow and back grease!
5. Mention was made of lactobacillus bacteria so I might dilute some kefir or pickle juice and pour it over!
6. Water, mulch and leave, or sow a quick green manure.
7. Plant out at times according to what garlic you have.
The planting, harvest and storage times depend on the cultivars you grow. I will be planting my 3 cultivars from late March onwards. I cannot reproduce all the information here but I suggest you search online for “Tasmanian Gourmet Garlic” and a book called “Garlic”.
March in the Tasmanian vegetable garden
Brassicas grow wonderfully in the cold and they are so healthful for our bodies during winter. Use them in winter soups, stews and warm salads. I love a plate of cooked kale, with scrambled eggs on top. There are hundreds of varieties from all over the world. European brassicas include broccolis, cauliflower, cabbages, collards, Brussels sprouts and all the kales etc. My tips for growing these are:
· Get good sized seedlings into the ground NOW and cover them with lace curtains or white shade cloth to keep off the cabbage moths which are still active. (The moths will disappear when we get a cold snap.)
· Plant seedlings into damp soil rich in compost and lime to get them growing fast before the end of May when day length and low sun angle bring a halt to further growth if the leaves are too small to provide enough energy to do more than survive.
· Protect with iron based slug and snail pellets.
Asian brassicas can be sown throughout autumn because they grow so fast that nothing slows them down all winter. These include bok choy, tatsoi, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, mizuna, mibuna, kalian, daikon, hakurei turnips etc. Most parts are eaten; stems, leaves, flower shoots and some roots. My tips for growing these are:
· Wet the soil thoroughly. Put your fork into it and check it is wet down at least 15cms. Keep watering until it is!
· Spread with well rotted sheep manure and some sea & manure pellets or similar then dig it all in well, to the depth of the wet soil. If you have good compost then use that. Asian Brassicas are less fussy about pH than European brassicas but prefer near neutral.
· Rake to a fine tilth. Sow thinly. Asian vegetable seeds germinate quickly and reliably and will provide a long season of fabulous food right through late autumn, winter and early spring. Sow every 2 weeks for continuous supply.
· To stop birds disturbing them while they germinate, cover wire crates (from a tip shop) with lace curtains and place over the area. I use this system a lot as rain and irrigation go through, white lets the light through and the lace reduces the wind.
· Protect with iron-based slug and snail pellets.
I have staked and tied up several old parsley, kale, chicory and fennel plants. This week I will be harvesting the very dry parsley and kale seeds to share with friends and to sow myself. But I won’t need to sow much because it is all self-sowing where it is falling. I will transplant some of the seedlings elsewhere, give many away and leave some to grow where they fell. Seeds are so easy and, to me, they are the second crop, after I finish eating a plant.
How are your beans? Did you let a few pods get away and start to become knobby? I hope you will leave them on the plants to dry off completely then save them for next year. Beans do not cross and all are so easily saved and shared.
There is nothing better for you and your family, for eliminating food miles, for food security of our region and for the health of the whole earth than saving seeds. Of all the options we are presented with to help reduce our carbon footprint, none surpasses growing food from seed that has been saved and shared in your own area.
If you don’t want to save your own seed, look for locally saved seed at any of our great Huon Valley markets.
Sow in March
Plant out now
Spring and salad onions
Coriander, pennyroyal, cress
European brassica seedlings
Evergreen shrubs and trees
Spring bulbs (ixias, daffodils etc)
Tips of the month
· Last chance to do summer pruning of fruit trees. Wounds will heal quickly and you can see where to prune while the leaves are still on.
· Rake up all fallen fruit to reduce over-wintering of diseases.
· Let your chooks range under the fruit trees to get rid of codling moth larvae.