For many years I have grown garlic and have had good success and always get excited at harvest time to see the size of the bulbs getting bigger each year. Unfortunately two years ago I had a failure, small bulbs and just not healthy garlic; still not sure what happened but think it was a combination of weather, growing conditions etc. Any way last year I managed to get my hands on some nice organic garlic cloves and whilst they grew ok I got rust, which I have never had, so time to take action.
I have read various peoples blogs, articles, information and also used my knowledge from training at Biological Husbandry Unit at Lincoln University and have come up with my version which I share below and we will see what happens.
I have always planted my garlic July/August but it looks as if this might be some of the problem and I should have been planting earlier. I know many recommendations are to plant in June but it looks for me in Selwyn District of Christchurch I have been planting too late and should be planting April/May.
By planting earlier it will give the garlic time to grow whilst there is still warm in the soil and get a good start - not sure why I have not thought of this before, it makes total sense but you just do what you do until it goes wrong!
I have always prepared the planting beds pretty well with good covering of compost but that’s about it, but after reading Cornilia’s blog from Korukai Herb Farm I have done a bit extra this year.
I have a bed which is in a sunny position where I have had carrots growing and doing well. I have removed the last of the carrots into a false bed to be used up in the next few weeks.
The bed has got rather low in growing matter so I have put plenty of compost into the bed so now it is approximately 15 cm deep, so this should make a big difference. Then I have dug a trench the length of the bed and emptied out my Bokashi bucket out into the trench. (I will talk about Bokashi in a Composting Blog/Article). As an after thought, I need to clean out my chicken coup so I will scrap back the leaves and add another trench and fill with the contents of the chicken coup so hay/chicken manure and some herbs that need cutting back and composting.
By adding this fresh matter which has not broken down yet it will break down in the trench over the season adding good bacteria and fungi to the soil and earthworms will come and help this process and microorganisms spread through this area and thus gives the garlic a great food source whilst growing.
After adding this matter I have closed in the trench and have sprinkled over worm castings from my worm farm and then added a layer of mulch, which in this case is autumn leaves which are plentiful at the moment and organic as no nasty sprays used in this garden! The leaves will break down and give more goodness to the soil but also will not be too heavy for the garlic to push through.
Finally I have watered the leaves to help the process of breaking them down and to keep them in place as well as adding a solution of molasses mixed up in a watering can. Molasses contains many nutrients, potassium, calcium, manganese and iron as well a sugar. By adding as a liquid fertiliser it will feed the microbes in the soil.
I will leave this bed for about two weeks before planting out well sourced organic garlic and we will see what happens!