As the mornings close in and the nights are cool – even if the days are still muggy as heck and a steamy 30 degree plus – autumn is definitely in the air.
Exciting times. Autumn means garlic planting!
This is our second year of a commercial sized crop and we’ve learnt so much over the past twelve months – including how wonderfully enthusiastic the wider community is about local, organic method, garlic growing.
Asides from a steep learning curve, we’ve been thrilled to be embraced by the local restaurants with our scapes (flower heads), green garlic and smalls (undersized green garlic), we’ve had newspaper interviews, National Award wins, a fabulous Chilli and Garlic Festival and – most importantly the best bit – we’ve talked and talked and talked direct to our buyers from all over Australia about garlic.
So what have we learnt in our first year as large scale garlic growers?
Garlic, as a crop, is very tolerant and easy – as long as conditions are perfect.
We had a few major stress moment when we thought we’d lose our Creole’s due to continual wet weather on mid-December. Two hot and long and wet days were spent pulling mulch off the garlic beds so the stems didn’t rot, and then another two long days harvesting from thick, gluggy clay. Most literature advises that one must let the soil dry before harvesting … but the garlic was right on the brink of tipping so the instant our soil was dry enough to allow the tractor onto the paddock – we were in.
Fortunately the late-December drying conditions were perfect and the Creole turned out magnificent.
The Turbans weren’t so lucky. They were harvested in the dryer conditions of early-December, but the followed weeks turned to rain and humidity. Drying conditions are critical in the first three weeks following harvest – a stiff breeze and low humidity is ideal. We had the stiff breeze but humidity was very high.
Sadly we lost around 30% of our Turbans due to humidity rot … and we had to scrutinise every bulb from our 250kg Turban harvest to ensure whether it was okay for sale or seed stock or the scrapes pile.
We had “tailed” every bulb before it went in the shed, to remove the roots and any clay that might cling. This prevents moisture working its way up into the bulb itself during drying … but next harvest we’ve decided to “top” as well. Leaving the leaves on during drying has not shown to improve either the flavour or health benefits, but it does increase the humidity in the drying shed due to transpiration … so we’ve decided to snip them off right from the start.
And now, in Autumn 2015, our second planting is nigh. We’re doubling our total volume – reducing our number of Turbans due to short storage length and the rot problems – increasing our long storing, award winning Creoles – and introducing a new variety that does well in our area called Italian Pink (also long storing).
We’ve bought ourselves a “bale feedout” as, last year, rolling out the massive round bales of mulch hay by hand nearly killed us – we’ve perfected the harvesting by using a “sweep” that is ideal for our heavy clay soil – and we’ve met someone who will lend us their converted “lettuce planter” for planting out our garlic (no more days and days in the paddock with a pvc pipe and rake).
So the Lime and Chicken manure for our high clay soils were dug in 8 weeks ago – the Cow Peas have been growing like crazy as a green manure crop – the Boran, Potash and Copper Sulphate was spread by hand today ready to be turned in with the Cows Peas tomorrow – and in three weeks’ time we’ll be planting, mulching and waiting with baited breath for the first signs of sprouting.
WOOHOO – watch this space
Hmmmm – rather than a case of tennis elbow – I suspected I’m suffering “spreaders” elbow!
Enjoy this change of season and take time to smell the garlic