Allium cepa ‘Electric’
Today I bought my garlic and onions for Autumn planting all ready to be planted out except we are getting an entire month’s worth of rain in one day today so not even my waterproof trousers are giving me the confidence to brave the weather.
Instead I’ll just note down a few interesting facts about the three different Allium species I’ve chosen.
I have Elephant garlic which is good for roasting and has a sweet, mild flavour. Elephant garlic’s latin name is Allium ampeloprasum so is not a true garlic but a member of the onion family nonetheless.
I also bought Garlic ‘Marco’, Allium sativum ‘Marco’ which has a distinctive strong flavour and is a good storer.
Garlic needs a free draining fertile soil in full sun. Before planting the ground should be dug over, removing weeds and adding well rotted compost if needed and a general fertilizer to improve yields. The bulbs should be broken into individual cloves which are then planted 3cm deep and 10cm apart along the row. When the leaves start to die back in the following summer the garlic can be lifted and left to dry and ripen on the surface for a few days.
Lastly, I’ve chosen Onion ‘Electric’, Allium cepa ‘Electric’, an overwintering red onion for early harvest and whose young growth can be used as spring onions. Apparently it’s very good in salads and stir fries. Soil preparation is the same as for garlic but they require a distance of 12cm apart in rows that are 30cm apart so a little more room than garlic. Protection from birds will probably be a good idea as they like to pull them out of the ground.
Now I just need the rain to ease off!
Garlic has long been known for its health benefits and I eat rather a lot of it, so this year I thought I’d have a go at growing my own.
Garlic prefers a light, well-drained soil in full sun, it won’t tolerate wet and heavy soils. If this is your soil you can plant in modules in the autumn and plant out in Spring as the weather improves. Garlic can only be grown from bulbs because viable seed is extremely difficult to produce at present.
There are two types of garlic, ‘hardneck’ and ‘softneck’ referring to the way they grow. The hardneck varieties produce a flower stem known as a scape which can be used in soups, curries and stirfries and has a more delicate flavour than the bulb. The softneck varieties don’t produce a scape but have a longer shelf life.
Garlic needs a cold period to grow successfully so the best time to plant is the autumn though there are spring planting varieties available. The bulb should be carefully split into it’s separate cloves and each clove planted 2.5cm below the surface with the root scar facing down, the clove should be sitting just below the surface. They should be planted 10cm apart in rows that are 30cm apart. Addition of compost at the planting stage will help the soil structure keeping it light and feed the cloves as they grow.
Garlic plants …
Garlic needs limited maintenance except for keeping it weed free, watering during long dry spells and protection from birds who’ll be tempted to pull the bulbs out of the ground. There are two diseases to look out for which are white spot which will rot the roots and eventually the bulb too and rust which shows up as rusty spots on the leaves. There is no cure for either and you should avoid growing garlic in the same spot for at least 3 years if you have either of these problems. Crop rotation will help to discourage these pathogens.
Autumn planted garlic can be harvested around June or July the following year. You know when it’s ready to harvest when the leaves start to turn yellow, don’t put this job off or you may find the bulb re-sprouts causing it to rot later and thereby reduce its shelf life. Take care when lifting the bulbs out of the ground not to damage them with your trowel as this too will compromise their keeping qualities.
Posted in Cultivation, Herbs, Plants, Vegetables
Tagged cultivation, food, garlic, garlic clove, growing garlic, herb, plants, vegetable, vegetarian