Friday, 4 March 2016

Garlic GIY Ireland news

The garlic requirements of an average family can be easily satisfied by even the smallest of vegetable patches. This is a good thing indeed because most of the garlic available in supermarkets is imported from China (over 5,000 miles!) and not of great quality. If you were to take any bulb of garlic, break out the cloves and stick them in to the ground spaced about 4 inches apart, each clove would eventually turn in to a bulb of garlic. That’s the magic of it. However it is recommended not to use supermarket garlic for this purpose as it can bring disease in to your soil (if you are going to do this, sow the garlic in containers). Better to buy certified disease-free garlic from a garden centre or online seed supplier. Garlic is easy to grow (although sometimes the wrong weather conditions can result in smaller bulbs). It stores really well - if you manage to grow 20-30 quality bulbs they will hang happily in your kitchen through the autumn, winter and spring of the following year.

It is also incredibly good for you. For over 4,000 years of human history garlic has been used as a health food. In 1858, Louis Pasteur documented that garlic kills bacteria, with one millimeter of raw garlic juice proving as effective as 60 milligrams of penicillin. Science tells us now that its healing powers come from the presence of hundreds of sulfur compounds, including allicin – which gives garlic its aroma and flavour – making garlic the world's most powerful antioxidant. The vitamins A, B and C in garlic stimulate the body to fight carcinogens and get rid of toxins, and may even aid in preventing certain types of cancer, such as stomach cancer.

Most GIYers sow garlic in early winter (Oct-Dec, but before the shortest day of the year – Dec 21st). Some varieties however can be sown in spring but they won’t grow as big as garlic enjoys a prolonged 4-5 week cold spell in the soil. Pick a sunny site, with good fertile, free-draining soil. Apply an organic fertiliser before sowing. Sow each clove just below the surface, about 4-5 inches apart, in rows 12 inches apart. If soil is very wet, sow in module trays and transplant when sprouted. If you don’t have a garden, garlic will grow happily in containers or pots.

As with onions, garlic hates weed competition so keep the bed weed free. Hoe carefully around the bulbs every week or so. Water occasionally in dry weather but don’t over-water.

Harvest once at least half to two-thirds of leaves on each plant are yellow. Autumn sown garlic will be ready in early summer and spring-sown ones a little later. Do not allow them to go too far as they lose flavour. Lift carefully and dry on racks in sun (or indoors if wet weather) for two weeks before hanging in plaits.

Recommended Varieties
Solent Wight, Early Purple Wight, Printanor (spring planting)

Rust can affect leaves but it shouldn’t affect bulbs. White rot (as per onions) is more serious as it attacks the root. No remedy – do not grow garlic in that soil again for 7 years.

GIY Tips
• Sow garlic before shortest day of year and harvest before the longest day.

• Remove any flowers that form on stems while growing

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