It is garlic planting time on the Coast and across temperate areas of Australia right now.
Good news is, they are one of the easiest plants to grow and home-grown means more flavour and nutrients.
This wonderful veggie can be planted in pots and garden beds and can be used fresh or stored for use all year round.
What’s the story with garlic, which are the best types for you to consider growing and how can you use it?
Let’s find out.
Garlic (Allium sativum), probably originated in the western areas of Asia, but it is such a long-cultivated plant that we cannot be completely sure.
The Ancient peoples of Egypt, China and India, all have recorded histories of growing and using garlic as a medicinal and culinary plant with some even attributing mystical properties to it.
Most commercial garlic is treated with a chemical to render it sterile, so you won’t be able to use those bulbs for propagation and it’s handy to know that there are two types of garlic, ‘hard-neck’ which has flowers and ‘soft-neck’ which does not.
Soft-neck garlic will store for longer than it’s hard-neck friend, but I do like the flowers which are also edible, and the spikes make amazing, dried foliage material.
Another factor you will need to consider is that you probably won’t end up with as large a bulb size as you find in the shops, but you will have leaves and you can eat those as well.
Types to consider: Dynamite Purple, Spanish Roja, White Crookneck, Giant Russian, Melbourne Market.
The soil must be open, free-draining and well-prepared with compost – pH level sitting between 6.5 and 7.5 is best and whether you decide to grow in the garden or in pots, find a sunny spot.
Garlic can be planted by seed but is mostly cultivated via bulbs.
To do this, gently separate the bulb into individual cloves and only use the larger ones.
Plant directly in their final designation into the soil with the tips just below the surface and firm down.
Garlic is not a fan of weeds so keep it tidy and water should be consistent but don’t drown your plant.
They just don’t like to get soggy feet or humidity.
Water seedlings a few times a week until they are a couple of months old and then back off to once or twice a week.
Feed every second week with a seaweed-based fertiliser, as they love it and mulch with your usual veggie garden mulch medium but ensure you don’t crowd the plants as air flow and low humidly are important.
Harvest most varieties at around the five-month mark but this will depend greatly on type.
You will know they are ready as the leaves will begin to wilt and yellow around this time.
Lift gently, keep the leaves intact and hang to dry for a few weeks in a warm, sheltered spot to cure before storing in a cool, dry, dark place.
The leaves are left on during the curing process so that all additional nutrients are pulled down into the bulb.
Don’t forget to save some of those bulbs for next year’s planting.
Along with growing garlic, make this spray from it to combat pests in your garden.
Blend together 4 cloves of garlic with 1 cup of water and a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid (not antibacterial), strain into 500ml spray bottle and top with water.
Spray onto plants to deter pests (test on a few leaves first).
Garlic will grow really well with beetroot, carrots, strawberries, lettuce and roses and provides a fair amount of protection from various pests but it should never be planted alongside beans or peas as it will stunt their growth and production.
Medicinal Use of Garlic
How good is it?
Well, it has been used as both an antiseptic and an antibacterial agent for over 3,000 years.
Garlic is still used for these reasons in herbal medicine today along with treatments for digestive issues, respiratory diseases and for circulatory benefits as well.
Firstly, don’t go giving garlic flowers to those you love because in the Language of Flowers and Plants, it means ‘Go away you evil one.’ (Could be handy at other times though, so hold that thought!)
As much as we in Western cultures would like to believe that garlic has always been considered the great protector and many points throughout history support this, it’s just not always the case.
While you will find that along with traditions, such as the roasting and sharing of garlic cloves on Midsummer’s Eve in France to use as protective amulets, garlic was actually forbidden in many cultures at times.
It was looked upon as ‘unclean’ by religions including Hinduism, Islam and some sectors of Buddhism and Christianity at different times.
The Ancient Greeks thought that garlic-breath was an offence in their some of their temples and so consumption was banned before worship.
The protection myths though are very plentiful and are probably related to the obvious health benefits that garlic shares.
It’s not just Dracula and other vampires that are said to fear this plant but all demons and evil spirits.
The Sanskrit name for garlic, ‘Ishunm’ translates to ‘slayer of monsters’ and it is thought throughout many folklores around the world that sleeping with a clove under your pillow will indeed protect you from such evil-doers while sleeping and from nightmares.
TIME TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
I’ve seen them, you’ve seen them, the dreaded white cabbage moth is everywhere!
Get those nets up, decoys out and try planting a sacrificial crop over on the edge of your garden of a few brassicas.
What you can plant this week includes: artichoke, Asian greens, asparagus, broad beans, cauliflower, chives, coriander, dill, endive, kale, leek, lettuce, mint, mustard greens, onion, garlic, silverbeet, snow peas, spinach, turnip, ageratum, alyssum, columbine, calendula, candytuft, carnation, delphinium, foxglove, gypsophila.
IN SEASON FOR MAY
A selection of available foods in season during may: Asian greens, apples, avocado, beetroot, banana, brussels sprouts, cabbage, chestnuts, carrot, celeriac, custard apple, celery, cumquat, dates, feijoa, eggplant, eschalot, fennel, grapes, garlic, ginger, kiwifruit, hazelnuts, horseradish, kale, leek, lemon, lime, lettuce, mushrooms, mandarin, nashi, okra, onions, olives, pear, peanuts, persimmon, parsnip, pomegranate, potato, peas, pumpkin, quince, silverbeet, squash, swede, sweet corn, spring onion, sweet potato, spinach, rhubarb, taro, turnip, tomato, walnuts, witlof, zucchini
AROUND THE COAST THIS WEEK
CEN Wildplant Nursery Sale Day 9am to 12pm Sat 1st May. CEN Office 18 Brush Rd, Ourimbah. Follow the plant sale signs. A range of local native plants available including ground covers and herbs, shrubs and trees, bush food, bird attracting, native bee attracting, frog friendly and screen plants.
Breakfast with Alpacas 8:30am – 11:30am Sun 2nd May. Iris Lodge Alpacas, 33 Dunks Lane, Jilliby. An interesting and fun way to start the day and exactly how it sounds, enjoy breakfast along with these beautiful animals. NSW Dine & Discovery Voucher accepted, to book: irislodgealpacas.com
Let’s Paint A Field of Daisies with Mum 6:00pm – 9:00pm Fri May 7th. The Creative Hub Australia, 4/96 The Entrance Rd, The Entrance. You’ll be taken step by step to create a beautiful artwork and you will leave with a masterpiece, new memories and many laughs. To book: paintnpalette.com.au
Recipe – Garlic Potato Sticks
Makes 8 sticks – As seasonings go, garlic is the go!
You can use the entire plant with the leaves and flowers having a subtle variant on the bulb flavour.
Leaves are great in stir fries, flowers and bulbs in just about anything.
Here is something a little bit different to try either on the BBQ or for the adventurous, over a fire pit.
8 large food skewers
8 large roasting potatoes
1 tbs of dried or 1tsp fresh herbs of your choice
2 tbs olive oil
3 tsp butter
2 large cloves of minced garlic
Chop washed potatoes into 3cm approximate cubes.
Skin can be left on or taken off to suit you.
Cook in boiling water until just soft.
Drain well and then thread onto skewers.
Mix together all remaining ingredients and brush well over the potato skewers.
Place onto a well-oiled grill or use a non-stick sheet.
Turn and keep basting with mixture until skewers are golden brown.
Season with salt and pepper if desired.
Serve as a treat or accompaniment to a meal.
Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 – 10am every Saturday on Coast FM.
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