For those of us hiding indoors as large band of wet weather crosses our Autumn skies, next summer can seem like a lifetime away. However there are a few crops in the allotment which need to go in to the ground now for next year. Early cropping broad beans and sweet peas but also autumn sown garlic.
If you haven’t already got your garlic, then rose wight, from the famous Isle of Wight garlic farm stable is worth a second look. It really is an eye catcher and has a good flavour too.
The only issue that I can see with it is that as it originates in Spain, which has a much hotter and wetter climate than I can offer it. I did have heavy losses over the winter and the bulbs never achieved a large size. However for those of you on the East or South coast this could be a good one to try.
In the kitchen
The main reason for growing rose wight is for its beautiful rose colour which is only on the skins, rather than the bulb itself and makes beautiful hanging bunches for the kitchen. However this doesn’t mean it is a time waster in the saucepan. Don’t let its pretty looks fool you, rose wight picks a pretty hefty garlic kick and can be used anywhere that you would normally use garlic. Try it in flash fried in Chilli Squid, slow cooked in Roasted Pumpkin and Chorizo Soup, or even brave it raw in Nộm Bò Khô – Dried Beef Salad
Yield and plant health
I got about 6 nice sized cloves per bulb although in ideal soils and climate you can get up to 12 cloves. Originally from Spain it probably prefers things a little hotter and drier than my Midlands allotment. Rose weight is an autumn planting garlic to get the most of the growing season. About half of the cloves planted failed to come up for me which was a shame and meant for me it’s yield was slightly lower than my favourite Garlic Solent Wight but it is worthwhile growing as a novelty.
Widely available but also
Garlic comes in a couple of different types, hard neck and soft neck. The difference is the stem that comes up from the bulb. In hard neck the stem is hard, soft neck…soft.
Hard neck bulbs in general are slower growing, have fewer but bigger cloves and do not store quite as well as soft neck.
Soft neck varieties mature faster so can be better in cooler climates, have more but smaller cloves and store for longer than hard necks. Their softer stem means they can also be plaited in to the traditional garlic plaits seen in traditional food markets.
On top of this you also get varieties of garlic that are best sown in autumn or others which can be sown in spring. Do buy garlic bulbs from a reputable supplier to reduce the risk of bringing onion rot on to your site.
Garlic likes a sunny, well-drained site. Before planting dig in some well-rotted organic matter. Break the bulbs in to individual cloves, discarding any that are damaged or small. Plant the individual cloves pointed side up, 2.5cm deep and 15cm apart, leaving 30 cm between rows.
Water only during dry spells in spring and early summer and not at all once the leaves start to turn yellow. Keep weed free by mulching or weeding by hand to prevent damage to shallow roots.
Harvest starts in June/July. The leaves will be starting to brown. Harvest during a dry period by gently loosening the roots with a fork before lifting the garlic. Don’t pull hard or you may leave the bulb in the ground.
Dust the earth off the roots and trim them before drying. The most successful method of drying in the UK is to tie several bulbs together with string and suspend in a cool dark place such as a shed or garage. After several weeks you can either trim the stems or plait and continue to store in a cool dark place.
Garlic can suffer from four main problems Firstly is rust which will appear in warm damp conditions. It makes the plants look a little unsightly and will stunt growth a little but will not affect the bulbs or storage. There are no current rust resistant varieties.
The second problem is allium leaf miner who pupae burrow down in to the follage and can cause rotting. The only organic solution for this if it is on your plot is to cover with insect mesh and do not allow the foliage to touch the mesh and rotate your crops on an annual basis.
If you find your cloves pulled out it is most likely to be birds which may pull out cloves when they are first planted. Give them a check every couple of days and replant.
The final issue you will not spot until it is too late is that garlic bulbs need a prolonged period of cold to split otherwise they tend to produce one giant bulb. This is especially an issue for Elephant Garlic. It is worth before planting your garlic exposing it to a very cold fridge before you plant. This is especially important for any garlic that you plant in spring rather than in Autumn. There is nothing wrong with one giant clove and it can be used in cooking as normal, it is just not what most people are after.