Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Garlic and the Grocer

Traditionally, the first cicada sighting of the season heralds summer's arrival...however 2 days after this beautiful Green Grocer smacked into my arm (with such force, I was looking around for a bird), it was snowing! Crazy spring weather in these here parts but alas, there's no photographic record from me as I was sunning it up in Kilcare. Apart from some massive branches down from the tulip tree, by the time we returned, you wouldn't have known there'd been any freak weather conditions at all.

Funnily enough, my sister and I had been trying to remember all the names for the different types of cicada just the day before. We're talking strictly schoolyard colloquiallism, from the time when it was the height of fashion to arrange a dried shell on your uniform. Green grocers were the most common, followed by the infamous, Dark Prince...I know there were others (rudolph with his nose so bright? a cherry ripe?) but to be honest, I've never seen them and they have become mythological creatures, their names lost in the past.

But I'm hoping the cold snap has an upside. Just before my encounter with the Grocer, I'd planted the lovely cloves you can see above. Depending on where you live, planting should usually be done in the autumn...however, colder regions can also plant in the spring. After Saturday's little episode, surely the mountains count but the Dept. of Primary Industries fact sheet has me worried! Planting this late in the year will probably result in smaller bulbs. C'est la vie, I'll just plant more in the autumn and we can all look forward to my compare & contrast post.

In keeping with companion planting principles, I've placed the cloves between the roses that encircle our standardised cherry. When we first moved in, I planted chives next to a rather sad rose under the Hills Hoist and one season on, both are absolutely thriving. Enough proof for this lady gardener that the relationship is mutually beneficial. Other members of the Alliaceae family include, onions, shallots and leeks, so any of these would be happy enough in your rose beds. However, to have any chance of sucess with a garlic crop, you must buy certified organic as non-organic product is sprayed to increase its shelf life and keep it from sprouting, this renders it infertile. How very appealling!

Firstly, I removed the most papery of the skin, leaving alittle of that closest to the clove. Then, I gave the soil a good turn over. Garlic likes a high level of organic matter and having treated the roses to some blood and bone (which is chockful of nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium) earlier in the month, plus the sugar cane mulch I'd dug in at the same time, I reckon this patch is pretty rich in this respect. I plan to keep feeding the bed with blood and bone until the plants start to set bulbs. Apparently too much nitrogen based product produces bulbs with shorter shelf lives. More of a concern for the commercial operation but still, good to know.

I popped my cloves in at 15cm intervals, 5cm deep then covered my ring between the roses with a light layer of mulch to keep weedy competition at bay. According to the DPI paper, garlic benefits best from light, yet frequent watering. As the shoots brown off or the necks softten, restrain your watering cans as this indicates the bulbs are nearly ready to be harvested and too much water at this time could cause your treasures to rot.

There's not much else to do...except await the autumn and plant more and then wait 'til this time next year so I can test the small bulb prophecy.

This is just one of the videos I watched, there are stacks (honestly, what can't you learn on youtube?) but I post this one for its funky lenny kravitz ripoff intro!

Monday, October 11, 2010

This is the first shot of the Ginko's return. Perhaps it's too early to call it triumphant but I gotta say, I'm feeling pretty damn relieved! Down in the glade, a pre-dawn chorus is singing HALLELUJAH! And I'm talking Handel's full-on choral extravaganza - not pissy Jeff Buckley. In the background, you can see yet more rhododendron love; I think it's a very pretty moment in time when blooms are yet to unsheathe and delicate new foliage is just unfurling...this awareness is at the very heart of my gardening love, these tiny progressions truly warm my heart.