Fresh garlic, straight from the garden is a divine experience and it is also the way to ensure you get the maximum health benefits possible. 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. 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.
Grow Your Own Garlic
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. You can find garlic to grow at your local nursery or online: diggers.com.au or theseedgarlicshop.com.au and Giant Russian Garlic: naglesfallsfarm.com.au
Garlic Uses in the Garden & Beyond
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 is a brilliant companion plant for 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. For medical use garlic 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 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.
LOCAL GARLIC GROWING WORKSHOP 12th March 2022
Peter Donnelly of Coachwood Nursery, Somersby
Getting along to a workshop at a nursery is the perfect way to experience growing anything in action as well as having the opportunity to ask questions. Another thing is this, you are not going to find local knowledge, tips, tricks and yes, secrets, online or in books. You will when visiting your local nurseries and especially when attending any dedicated workshop. Central Coast local nursery Coachwood Organics & Coachwood Nursery has
a brilliant workshop coming up to help to help you Learn everything about growing Garlic successfully & organically. Join Peter Donnelly of Coachwood for his Growing Garlic Workshop. $29 at 3pm, 12 March 2022. Take home a range of different garlic varieties. Demonstration and guided tour. Bring a drink bottle, hat, and sturdy shoes. Students aged 12-18 welcome to join the class. Enquiries 0491 147448 or online www.coachwoodnursery.com
GARDENING BOOK REVIEW
Gardening for Everyone, Growing Vegetables, Herbs and More at Home
by Julia Watkins, Little Brown Publishers, 2022. 304 pages, ISBN: 9781472146922
This gardening book is big on planning and in my book? That makes it a winner straight off the block. Julie Watkins focuses strongly on sustainability and very much on long term goals. Her advice is peppered with personal accounts of her mistakes and lessons and that makes gardening more accessible for those wondering about their own past challenges or current aptitude. The book is encouraging and to beginners and I feel expansive enough for more experienced gardeners looking for sustainability gardening practice information and inspiration. Big on beautiful photographs to light that spark in us all and a clever section called ‘Play’ that brings fun and creative ways you can add joy and usefulness in your garden spaces. My only little gripe here is that the title is not a good fit and being an author myself, I know this is usually a publishing house issue, not necessarily an author one. The contents and advice miss the mark with many gardeners as it focuses primarily outdoors and for those with no limitations. Other than that, a good and rather lovely sustainable gardening book.
GARDENING GUIDE FOR COAST GARDENERS THIS WEEK
(for temperate regions early autumn)
If your soil is still waterlogged from the recent rains then hold off direct planting but you can plant in seedling pots now and transplant later. You can plant the following now: Culinary herbs, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrot, cauliflower, chicory, cress, endive, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsnip, peas, salsify, shallots, spring onions, silverbeet, swede, spinach, turnips, ageratum, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, carnation, columbine, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, larkspur, nigella, pansy, polyanthus, poppy, primula, snapdragon, statice, stock, sweet pea, wallflower
Next Week: Rain and Flood Garden Rescue
HAVE YOU GOT A GARDEN OR GARDENING TOPIC TO SHARE?
Down in the Garden is looking for Central Coast gardeners who would like to share their garden with us.
We are particularly looking for: Seed Saving, Evergreens, Tulips, Spring Bulbs, Water Feature Gardens, School/Children Gardeners, Commercial Kitchen Gardens, Medicinal Plant Gardeners, and Community Gardens but all gardens and gardeners are welcome contact: [email protected]
Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963. She is also co-host of @MostlyAboutPlants a weekly botanical history & gardening podcast with Victoria White.