Garlic Harvest Blues – Day 18 NaBloPoMo 2017

One of the great things about keeping a blog is being able to compare harvests over time. And one crop that usually grows really well for me is garlic. We use it a lot so I grow plenty, and this year I thought with three beds, I might have enough to see our household through the year. And in the nearly eight years I’ve been living here I’ve only ever had a garlic crop fail twice, once about five years ago and this year.

My maincrop variety (like so many great gardening stories) started out with a few cloves someone gave me. I think it was a standard Tasmanian purple skin (but who knows?) and it keeps quite well for six or seven months. Over the years I’ve built up my stocks, only keeping the best and biggest cloves to replant the following autumn. And I carefully rotate beds, mulch them well and leave them to get on with it. Generally, there’s not a lot to do except weeding – they don’t like competition.

I carefully checked a couple that were starting to die back a few weeks ago, and was shocked to see as I eased the soil back that there was very little bulb development. Also, they were slow to get started and we had a lot of rain – so much that it looks like 30-40% rotted in the ground. I’ve heard from friends that I’m not the only one to have problems this year – but I don’t know if that makes me feel better or more concerned!

Harvesting garlic as I’ve said before, is something of an arcane art. Too early and the heads aren’t properly developed, but leave it too late and bulbs will split and don’t keep. After some very warm weather and a thunderstorm last week, I decided it was time to pull the worst affected bed.

It was pretty “meh” compared to previous harvests but I suppose is better than none at all.

Part of this year’s poor garlic harvest

The next bed doesn’t seem to be as bad, the plants seem stronger and stems thicker, but it’s dying back and will need to come out in the next week or so.

The final bed looks like this season’s winner, all named varieties I bought from a local specialist grower, specifically for their long keeping qualities – planted later and correspondingly will be harvested later. And they’re looking very good – thanks Letetia 🙂 I think I might be changing my maincrop variety next year!

It was warm out in the yard today, a really beautiful spring day, and while I took a break in the shade of the plum tree, I found some very well formed reminders that summer’s just around the corner ❤

Prune plums forming on the tree

Have a great Saturday everyone and see you tomorrow 🙂

Making Room – Day 10 NaBloPoMo

This will be a short post as I’ve got to get ready for an early set tonight as I mentioned here a couple of days ago and I’m still not absolutely certain what songs I’m going to play. Something short and vitriolic feels kinda right at the moment.

While the world seems to be coming to terms with the US election, I gardened hard this morning. I picked heaps of snow peas, and there’s loads of new flowers and peas coming on. It’s been a wonderful crop and hopefully with last another month or two.

I also ripped out a couple of giant Italian Parsley plants that are going to seed and stripped them for use in the kitchen over the next few days. Then I got stuck into the broad beans in the next bed and picked the largest pods I could find and shelled them into a bowl while the chickens looked on. Again, there’s still heaps of flowers and new beans forming, so this is going to be a good crop. All the parsley heads and bean husks got chopped up and fed straight to the chickens, who are giving us loads of eggs this year.

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I’m the only one in the house that likes broad beans as a fresh vegetable but they dry very well, and we go through a lot of dried beans each year in curries and stews to make meat go further. I’ve laid out what I imagine would be a meal’s worth and I’m going to see how long it takes for them to dry out. It could end up being a dehydrator job but at least these will have a start.

Also, I gave up waiting and decided to lift the rest of the garlic. Some of it is a little small but it is what it is – and with the parsley, I want to make that other great Italian garnish – gremolata.  I’m going to experiment with reconstituting some of my dried lemon zest and adding that instead of buying fresh lemons. My lemon tree is flowering but no fruit until next year.

And the big reason to harvest these plants is the amazing realisation that I’m running out of bed space! I really need the room to plant out more beans, tomatoes and zucchinis. It’s hard to imagine that I’d ever run out of space in this yard. When I arrived here (7 years ago next month) the back yard was a huge mess. Many of the fruit trees were diseased and some were dying. What is now the greenhouse was an overgrown shed that had suckers from a cherry tree growing inside and most of the yard was a jungle, with weeds almost as tall as me.

This year’s garlic was in the first bed I made. I remember the soil was impoverished, dry and hard, with little worm activity. After all my layers of compost, mulch and crop rotations, today it’s black, rich and alive. When I first started here it was easy to get overwhelmed by all the mess and everything that needed to be done, but over the years I’ve created 6 more beds plus the greenhouse and got it to the point of producing almost all our vegetable needs and some of our fruit year round. One is dedicated just to asparagus, another just to raspberries and one is in the permanent home of rhubarb and acid-loving berries.

Now I go down the yard and still get overwhelmed by everything that needs doing – and because of all the rain the weeds are out of hand again and the grass is tall – but that’s good for the rabbits and there’s food to pick while I consider my options 😉

Today’s cute bunny pic is a double feature. Bernard Black has undoubtedly grown

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But this is my British Giant doe, Boudica. She is a lovely girl, very good tempered, but HUGE – especially when compared to BB!

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I love the “one ear up” pose from both of them 😀

I’m off to get ready to play music. Go gently and be well friends ❤

A Day of Quiet Bliss – Day 29 NaBloPoMo 2015

It was very overcast and quite humid in Hobart most of today. Although I was supposed to go to an event nearby, I decided to stay home and potter around the garden. The girls were very pleased because this meant lots of extra treats for them and they rewarded me with eggs as usual. Boudica Bunny is also eating enormous amounts at the moment and all the babies are out and starting to get the hang of this eating solid food caper.

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I potted up more basil, chillies and Green Shiso (Perilla fruitescans var. crispa), a wonderful Japanese annual herb, which I primarily use in stir fries and salads. I’ve grown it in the past but never had such a fabulous strike rate as I did with this year’s seed supply. It’s looking wonderful and already has that unmistakable flavour and aroma. I find it likes a rich potting mix and lots of warmth for quick growth, similar to basil.

And then there was the completion of half the “corner of shame”. This is a classic before and after situation.

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Before

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After

Admittedly, we’re only half way there but that’s a lot further than we were a few weeks ago!

After removing the worst of the perennial weeds, I put some dolomite limestone over the area and covered it with several layers of cardboard.  Then we laid some cotton mats, donated by family members, that were old and worn and heading for the rubbish tip. (I think half our garden is recycled!)

A thick layer of coarse sand went over that and it was topped with some well composted native bark mulch, which I’ve found considerably less acidic than pine bark mulch. We did the same thing behind the chicken house and I’ve planted two Australian Tea-Trees (Leptospermum sp.) there to provide some extra wind protection for the ladies who lay.

The weeds will grow back – but not as quickly or as vigorously as they have in the past. I want to plant a couple of English Lavender here in the next few days and I’m planning to put netting or shade cloth above the fence to give a little more height for growing climbers in tubs and privacy both for and from our neighbours. Next spring, this is the likely spot for my beehive, angled in towards the garden.

I also finished the garlic crop, which has been curing inside the last two weeks. It’s now cleaned up, the tails have been clipped and it’s in three plaits, hanging off the laundry/kitchen door. It’s quite a decent amount this season, considering I’ve used and given away at least half a dozen or so heads already – and there’s more in the ground that needs pulling!

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Tomorrow is back to music work and teaching, the beginning of my birthday week, first day of my next university semester and the last day of NaBloPoMo – and I’m picking up my birthday present to myself tomorrow too 😀

 

 

Garlic Time – Day 14 NaBloPoMo

I’ve spent the afternoon in the garden, listening to Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, avoiding listening to the news. Reports of the attacks in Paris came through this morning here in Australia and I’ve found it incredibly distressing. I love that city dearly and have been thinking of friends who live in France (all safe fortunately) and what they must be going through.

I pricked out seedlings into grow tubes, said hello to my ever-growing flock of worms and fed them scraps, planted out vegetables and generally lost myself in Quidditch, Polyjuice Potion and Harry, Ron and Hermione’s escapades.

As an avid reader, I think audio books are brilliant, particularly for works I’ve already read. But as a writer, I’m convinced anything worth reading should be read out loud. I even read essay drafts for university aloud and it’s surprising what I can learn from the exercise. Perhaps it’s the musician coming out in me, but I hear flow and tempo problems far more easily than I see them on the page.

For my gardening time, I have a wonderful little bluetooth speaker I picked up cheaply that connects easily to my smartphone. I usually put them both on an upturned pot and chill out while I work.

My baby speaker with Kunyani/Mt Wellington in the background

My baby speaker with Kunyani/Mt Wellington in the background

Late in the day, I decided to have a look at the main garlic bed. We’ve had quite a bit of rain the last few days and I noticed a few of the giants had toppled. It’s one of those plants where harvesting is crucial for long term storage and rain at this stage can mean mouldy heads. I adore garlic and I’ve been building up our stocks over the last few years, to the point where I might have enough for more than six months this time!

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The start of this years’ garlic crop!

Note the pencil – these babies are huge! And this isn’t elephant garlic, but a particularly pungent local variety I’ve been growing for the last five years or so. The laundry smells amazing tonight, by the way!

I’ll be pulling the rest tomorrow and once they’re cured for a few days, I’ll be trimming the roots off and plaiting them for hanging in the kitchen 😀

Do you grow garlic? If so, how do you store it? Please leave a comment below.