In early September we harvested the first of the garlic, a hard-neck variety called Monaro Purple. That’s the garlic bed in the photo above. At this stage the Monaro Purple (the right-hand half of the main crop in the photo) aren’t easily distinguished from the Glen Large on the left. The three in the foreground are Elephant Garlic.
From 30 cloves of Monaro Purple we got 30 bulbs (thanks Green Harvest). They aren’t huge (but the flavour is great). I planted them a little late, and we have had hardly any winter at all, followed by Summer in Spring, and hardly any rain for months, so you can’t expect too much. Last year the tops died off in late September, but they were two weeks earlier this year. Green Harvest say that Monaro Purple is mainly suitable for cooler areas, but as I haven’t been able to find a hard-neck garlic suitable for the sub-tropics that was what I grew (can anyone suggest a better variety for Southeast Queensland?).
I thought I’d done something really clever by green-manuring the bed a few weeks before planting with a mix of lemon grass, pigeon pea and mulberry prunings (there’s a post on it here). It certainly achieved an almost miraculous improvement in the soil texture, and I was expecting a similarly spectacular improvement in the garlic harvest. However, 12 hours after harvesting the garlic I read a post on Root Simple – Tips on Growing Great Garlic. Here’s an extract from the post:
When I asked a garlic farmer I met yesterday how to grow garlic he said, “It’s like giving a credit card to your wife . . . you’ve got to give her all she wants.” When I asked him to clarify, he told me that garlic requires as much compost, nutrients and water as you can spare. [Garlic expert, Jeffrey] Nekola said he doesn’t even plant garlic unless he’s prepped his beds for at least two to three years and noted that one of the best heads of garlic he ever grew took root accidentally in a compost pile.
Pull the garlic cloves apart (leave the skins on) and plant them in the ground with the pointy end up. Nekola suggests planting them with a tablespoon of soybean meal (found at feed stores as animal feed). Nekola also recommended mulch. Let the garlic sprout first, but then pack down at least an inch of straw. Lay your drip tubing under the straw.
So my green-manuring should have been just the start of the bed preparation. Right after reading that I put a load of chicken manure onto the bed that the garlic came out of, as the first stage in getting ready for a really good garlic harvest next year.
I had expected to be harvesting the Glen Large garlic from the same bed some time in October. It’s a soft-neck variety, with large cloves and a fantastic garlic flavour, and keeps well when frozen in olive oil.
There were also a few Elephant Garlic, planted as a trial in the same bed – this is the first year I’d grown it. Up until late October the Glen Large were apparently doing well, if what was above ground was anything to go by. However we got some heavy rain before they were ready to harvest, and when I pulled up a couple of bulbs around a week after the rain they were slimy and stinking. Heavy rain is the last thing you want when a garlic crop is near ready to harvest. All of the Glen Large were the same, as were the Elephant Garlic. Oh well. But in fact when I checked on the Glen Large bulbs, all were small and unformed. I suspect it may have been the inadequate rainfall over several months, as the soil was definitely in a better state than last year, when I got a bumper drop of Glen Large.