Sunday, 5 January 2014

Garlic and Daffodils.

The first planting of 2014 - garlic
If you remember, last week I took the opportunity to stock up on some Indian spices while I was down in London. They also had some amazing garlic bulbs for sale, not the dried up ones but plump, juicy bulbs beginning to sprout.

I'm never sure what to do about garlic. All the books say to buy disease-free bulbs and to replace stock each year. But this is not cheap and it would probably be cheaper just to buy garlic in the shop - it would at the very least be a marginal crop. On the other hand, an old gardener I know reckons that once you've bought garlic the once, you're stocked forever.
So last year I used cloves saved from the year before and ... you've guessed ... it almost completely failed. Now, whether this was due to disease, strength of stock or some other factor, I cannot tell.
I've flown in the face of advice on many occasions, usually learning the hard way instead. But this year I decided to order in a few fresh garlic bulbs, since my potato supplier has started to stock them which means I don't end up paying twice for postage.
But there has still been a niggling thought which keeps coming back to me. What about those lovely, juicy garlic bulbs you can get in the shops? Surely they would grow?  And they certainly don't cost the earth, unlike those from the catalogues. And if the ones from the gardening companies can't be used from year to year, then what's the point?

So, back to that Indian grocers shop. I purchased four of his best garlic heads and decided to give them a go in the garden. If each clove developed into anything like what I was purchasing then this would be a very good buy.
The only problem now was that they needed planting, for garlic goes into the soil early in the winter. But with the constant stream of storms and downpours we've been having, I really didn't fancy putting spade to earth.

Despite the photos, it was actually me who planted most of the daff bulbs.

But another job was pressing, too. For a couple of weeks ago I purchased some daffodil bulbs at a knockdown price. There's a reason why they are sold off so cheap though, as it's really too late to be putting them in. They probably won't all come through, but then they were less than a quarter of their original price. Anyhow, with the weather being as it has, they've just sat in the hallway poking out of their mesh bags and making me feel guilty every time I've walked past them.
So, with a slight frost this morning and a break in the weather, I resolved to make the most of a fine winter's day and get them planted.

The ground was surprisingly unsodden. Crumbly would be exaggerating, but certainly not a sticky mass of lumpy clay.
The daffodil bulbs went in quickly, round the edge of the lawn where I can leave them unmown during their messy phase after flowering.
With the soil so compliant, I bit the bullet and decided to tackle those garlic bulbs too. Sue broke them up and we got exactly fifty cloves from four heads.

I turned the soil over in one of the beds where the root crops will grow next year - I like to grow my garlic and onions in with the roots to help ward off the carrot fly.
With a little 'help' from the chickens (who also did their best to eat the garlic every time I turned my back), the patch was soon dug.

It didn't take long to push the cloves in to the soil, up to their necks. It won't be long before they start sending out roots and getting a headstart ready to shoot up, divide and plump up in the spring and summer. That's as long as I can keep the chickens away from them.

Yours truly planting up a grid of garlic cloves,
being very careful not to tread on the soil.
But I do like the chickens to go into the veg plot in the winter. They search out the overwintering bugs, keep the grass down and fertilise the ground. They keep me company too when I'm digging.
It just means that any winter crops need a little extra protection.

It doesn't look much, but this is the start of the
veg plot 2014.

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