It's time to prep your garlic bed

23:47, May 22 2012

I'm pretty excited - I'm getting ready to plant my garlic. Traditional wisdom says to plant cloves on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest day, but I'm following Hannah Zwartz's advice from her column in the Dominion Post in which she says you can plant garlic any time from now to give it a good head start before the really cold weather sets in.

Garlic plants like lots of organic material and free-draining soil. They'll be in the ground for six months, and you don't want them rotting in boggy soil. 

Last year, I grew them in a temporary bed which was just bought compost and Tui vegetable mix. I added a bag of horse poo, planted the cloves, and mulched them with straw. The trickiest bit was keeping birds out while the cloves were still getting established, so I covered them with upturned fridge baskets. Sparrows still got in, so I ended up covering them with some plastic mesh until the cloves were rooted in place. I grew shallots alongside them, and fertilised them with seaweed and horse poo "tea" I'd brewed up in a bucket. 

This year, I'm not sure my soil is free-draining enough, so I've chucked in some gypsum to help break up clay, lots of homemade compost, some blood and bone, and a dusting of lime. I'm letting it settle for a few weeks and will probably plant, weather permitting, in the first week of June. I can't wait. 

You can't grow garlic from bulbs you buy at the supermarket - it's probably been treated to stop it sprouting. It's best to get seed garlic from a garden centre or from an organic grocer. I'll be using bulbs that I harvested from my first crop, and it's also best to use the biggest cloves you can get your hands on. They say you put the best in to get the best out. 

Are you growing garlic this year? How are you preparing your bed?

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