13 November 2012

A Scientific Experiment Part 2

Back in March I wrote about my "scientific" experiment to try to work out the secrets of growing good garlic.  You can read about it here.  Even though not all the garlic I planted is ready, I thought it was time to do an update on the obvious outcomes so far, although I should really start this report by warning that my brain is not geared toward scientific preciseness...

To recap, we planted a variety of garlic types in a variety of garden beds over several months, to see what would be most successful.  Luckily I noted vaguely what types they were in the earlier post, because I didn't actually remember to write the details on all of the tags!

I'd have to say that we've had mixed results so far.  Some apparent successes, and some complete failures.  Here's where it's all at:
  •  The early planting of market garlic in the City Garden has almost entirely failed.  This was due in large part to the plants in the vegie garden not being far enough inside the chicken-free zone, so they were given constant haircuts.  What has remained of them seem to be going rotten at the base of the stem.  I don't think they got enough sunlight.  The plants in the polystyrene box seemed to do a bit better for a while until we suddenly realised that the chickens had taken a liking to EATING polystyrene!  I put the box up high enough so that they couldn't reach it, which went OK for a while until they jumped up and tipped the entire box over (and started eating at it again...).  Before this happened, the plants had been badly attacked by aphids - the first time I've had them in such quantities in the City Garden - which I couldn't get rid of, and they'd pretty much killed the plants anyway, so the chickens really just put them out of their misery.  0/1
  • In the Country Garden things are going a bit better.  The early Diggers garlic planted in polystyrene boxes under a eucalyptus tree and in rough dirt in barrels are going quite well.  They seem to like not being too wet. The photo above is from that batch, and although not yet fully grown I think they will be OK. 1/2
  • The various types of early Diggers garlic planted in one of the large garden beds was doing really well until recently when the more slender varieties all got rust and attacked by aphids and keeled over.  The heads of garlic on those ones are still quite small and not yet properly formed, and they seem to be going rotten at the base of the stem too.  The large garlic varieties in that same bed are doing much better and nearly ready to harvest.  1.5/3
  • The success story appears to be the late planted garlic from the local grower that I put under the rose bushes in mounded up but rubbish soil.  It has large bits of tan bark, pebbles from the adjacent carpark in it, along with roots from the roses.  So it's dry and well drained, and I suspect that might just be the key to growing successful garlic, at least during wet winters like we've had.  It's even managed to succeed against attacks from the local rabbits (who'd probably taste great from eating all those leaves if we could just catch the buggers!) 2.5/4
So overall I think I've scraped a Pass for my garlic science experiment, but possibly only because we grew so much of it.  I'm hopeful that we will have quite a reasonable crop, although many of the individual heads may be quite small.  And at this stage I think that next year I'll try to get more of the local commercial grower's bulbs again as his garlic seems to be acclimatised to the local conditions.

Has anyone else noticed particular conditions that your garlic has thrived in this year?
The Country Garden bed with a mixture of types including
 some very sad looking aphid-nibbled specimens
So far so good...!

ps. The chickens are still alive and don't seem to have suffered for their love of eating polystyrene ;)

    

8 comments:

  1. For us, our best garlic is grown in raised beds. Having good control over the soil composition is key. We use a fast draining soil that's on the sandier side. There's plenty of organic material amended in the soil, but I never plant garlic in newly composted beds. Because we use a lot of composed poultry manure, it would be easy for us to introduce too much nitrogen, favoring top growth over bulb formation. This year the garlic is following our cucumbers. Last year it followed our peppers. When I plant, I do amend the planting holes with bone meal (high phosphorous for bulb growth), and I add a layer of straw for the winter to protect from frost. I remove the straw in spring though so the soil doesn't stay too damp and favor rust or mold. All that said, the variety of garlic can make a big difference too. I've had some that consistently does great, and others that languish, even after numerous attempts to grow them. Finding the variety or varieties that do best for you helps. Glad the chooks didn't overindulge too much on polystyrene! ;)

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    1. Thanks for your great tips CVF. Focusing on the bulb growth, not the bits that you can see is an important reminder. We did read a tip to tie the stalks in a knot so that the energy goes into the bulb but I think we tried it a bit too late. And I didn't worry too much about the frosts as the plants seemed quite healthy, but perhaps that did have some impact.

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  2. Mine did terribly.... the cloves I planted sprouted and then they seem to have just grown a bit bigger and not produced any new cloves :( I'm pretty sure they were just too wet from being in the main garden and getting over-watered when I got really keen with the sprinkler over winter. I'm thinking from your discussion above that I'm probably better off planting the garlic in separate containers, not in the main garden, so that I can control how much water they get. Thanks for this! I will get it right eventually! I don't know if the roses also help, because I have a friend at work who planted garlic too, and the extra cloves that she put around the roses are doing really well apparently!

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    1. Good drainage certainly seems to be a key factor, but judging by the fact that everyone seems to have had really mixed results it still seems that it's a bit hit and miss! It will be interesting to hear if yours work better in pots next season. As for companioning planting, I read that garlic is supposed to be really good for repelling aphids, but the only plant in both the City and Country Gardens that have ever been attacked by aphids is garlic!!

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  3. My hardneck garlic didn't do very well although there are some decent sized heads. They did the flopping slightly rotting stem thing you describe. My soft neck is still in and growing so I will reserve judgement on that at the moment. I was at mum & dad's yesterday and their hardneck is doing great - big fat heads, nice flowering stems etc etc. They aren't quite at harvest stage yet and already their heads are way bigger than mine. The difference between their place and mine are: their climate is colder by about 4 degrees on average. Their garlic gets full sun, mine gets about 6 hours per day. Dad plants his garlic as you would shallots with the tip of the clove at or just above soil level, mine were I planted as general advice - a few cms below the soil. I will check whether he specifically prepares his beds for garlic when I next speak to him, but he generally uses a lot of compost and the soil certainly isn't sandy. He gardens in raised beds. Not sure what all that tells you but it is interesting.

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    1. Sounds like your Dad has it sorted! It would be great to hear of any special tips that he has. I wonder if planting the cloves at soil level makes a significant difference? And I've never yet had a plant that flowers. Does this say that I'm just pulling them out way too early, or do only specific types flower???

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  4. Have you considered growing Giant Russian Garlic instead? It is far easier to grow and more reliable than regular garlic as well as having huge easy to peel bulbs. Some of my cloves are larger than golf balls! The only down side is that it is a bit more mild than regular garlic. Botanically speaking I think it is a type of leek and not a true garlic, but my taste buds can not tell the difference.

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    1. No I've never grown it but I'll check it out next year. Thanks for the tip!

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