Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

How's Your Luck with Growing Garlic? A Few Basic Tips May Improve Your Pungent Harvest

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

How's Your Luck with Growing Garlic? A Few Basic Tips May Improve Your Pungent Harvest

Article excerpt


WELL it's officially least by the calendar anyway.

The start of March is supposed to herald cooler weather, with average daytime temperatures dropping to around 26A[degrees] C, and minimums to around 15A[degrees] C.

At least that's what we've experienced on average over the last 70 or so years.

Let's hope this unseasonal run of above average temperatures will end soon, as it's almost time to plant cool season vegetables in your backyard patch.

Most gardeners in our region should be now preparing the soil for planting in a couple of weeks' time, when air and soil temperatures have dropped and day and night length are almost equal, around the autumn equinox on March 20.

For one cool season vegie, it's traditionally the best time to plant around this date.

Which vegie? I'm speaking of the notoriously pungent bulb, Allium sativum, or garlic.

I like to grow organic garlic in my vegie patch as I believe that most, if not all, imported garlic we see in supermarkets, and in local fruit and vegie shops, is "devitalised" with gamma radiation and fumigated with methyl bromide before being displayed so perfectly (oh, and probably bleached) on their shelves.

Over the few years I've been growing garlic I've had what I would describe as sporadic results. Very sporadic. Not to mention frustrating!

I usually buy about four or five different varieties each year, plant them about the same time (they all arrive at once from the mail-order supplier), and attempt to work out why some produce good-sized bulbs, and others struggle to grow more than a few leaves, with the best they can muster below ground being tiny bulbs, or no bulbs at all.

Here's some things I've learnt along the way, but this is by no means the definitive growing guide to garlic in your region.

Firstly, don't plant garlic out of season. In other words, plant in autumn for a spring or summer harvest. It's important that your region has a definite distinction in day lengths between autumn, winter and spring.

This means that the closer you live to the equator, the less likely you'll be able to grow a wide variety of quality garlic.

In addition, garlic can be divided into two types -- termed "hardneck" and "softneck".

It's generally accepted that hardneck varieties are better suited to cooler climates, and softnecks are better grown in the warmer areas.

This probably explained one of my failures, when very small round bulbs were formed.

I discovered that the variety I had ordered was indeed a softneck, not ideally suited to our region.

Recent breeding, however, has produced a few softneck varieties better suited to cooler areas. (I'm trying a few of these this year)

Another defining factor in garlic production is soil texture. …

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