7 April 2020

Notes from the Kitchen Garden: time to plant garlic and grow garden serenity

| Joyce Wilkie
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Garlic cloves should be planted now for harvest lates this year. Image: supplied.

The plan this month is to write about planting garlic and I will get to it. But as I type I am having a lot of trouble forcing COVID-19 to stop bouncing around my brain like an out of control table tennis ball.

There’s been too much late-night YouTubing of numbers, graphs and worldwide statistics; too much loneliness from being separated from the people I love to hug; too much fear about what the world will look like at the end of this epidemic.

So I close my eyes and will an image of a small white ball resting quietly in the palm of my hand and I breathe. Then, like so many others right now, I go out into my garden and grow food. Sales of seeds, seedlings, tools and garden inputs are unprecedented.

People are also going back to having a few chooks in the back yard (if they can find them). Poultry manure composted with straw bedding and weeds closes a back garden fertility loop not to mention the security of your own eggs.

Have you ever sat and watched a hen going about her business?

Watching a calm and reassured bird clucking her way around her yard, pecking accurately at the tiniest thing or stretching out for a feather massage in a dust bath is better than therapy!

Last week I was talking to a stonemason from Queanbeyan who has space in his yard and was putting in a vegetable garden and a chook run for his staff. What a thoughtful and hopeful thing to do!

Today I was chatting to a Canberra microgreens producer. Like so many local, small-scale growers, she was selling her produce to Canberra restaurants. In my case, I have switched to delivering to the doorsteps in Gundaroo and, in the process I am connecting, albeit at a distance, with old and new friends in my community.

Fiona, on the other hand, has rejigged her greenhouses to grow seedlings. She has an honour stand outside her front door and is very experienced in just what you should actually be planting in Canberra at any time of the year. You can see more about her operations and contact details here.

What may be difficult to get right now is seed garlic. April is garlic planting month all over Australia so if you have saved your own bulbs for planting or have managed to buy some, plant them now.

You can also use any Australian grown bulbs from a greengrocer. Break the bulbs up into individual cloves, plant the biggest right way up into rich, well-prepared ground. They need to be 150 mm apart and planted deep enough so the tops of the bulbs are just covered.

Growing guide

A year of garlic growing will provide a satisfying home harvest while taking up little space. Image: Supplied.

They have no problem growing through a deep covering of mulch but if you don’t mulch keep them well weeded. Smaller cloves should be planted but at 30 mm apart. These will provide green garlic shoots to use while you wait for your main crop to fully mature.

One more thing, seeds are not like toilet paper, please don’t hoard them. They are little bundles of life that die if they are not used. The best plan is to buy one packet at a time, plant what you need then pass the remainder on to a gardening friend.

What I’m Eating:

  • Apples
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbages
  • Carrots
  • Chinese greens
  • Garlic, Kale
  • Onions, Parsley
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes, Pumpkins
  • Radishes, Rhubarb
  • Salad greens
  • Silverbeet
  • Snow peas
  • Spring onions

… and until the first frost, all the remaining summer vegetables.

What Seeds I’m Planting

  • Broad Beans
  • Cauliflowers (for the spring)
  • English Spinach
  • Garlic
  • Lettuces
  • Onions (early varieties Hunter River Gold, Early Flat White, Violetta Lunga)
  • Rocket
  • Winter green manures (Field peas, rye corn, oats).

Joyce Wilkie has farmed vegetables and free-range poultry at Allsun Farm, Gundaroo for decades. Educating people about where their food comes from and teaching them how to grow it is her abiding passion.

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