It was February when I last posted and the focus was on preparing for the early season garlic crop. It’s now May and we have been planting our mid season garlic. This year we are growing a range of mid season and late season garlic primarily to build up our seed stock for the 2020 planting season. We have planted 3 varieties from the Silverskin group - Wilde Sally, Lokalen and Polvora. Silverskins are a soft neck garlic, that can store well for 12 months or more. The outer layers are off white or satiny white and the clove skins can be white or coloured. This is a garlic best suited for cooking. When raw, the flavours can be aggressive and harsh, but used in cooking it develops depth and holds its garlic flavour well. We are also planting Creoles - Spanish Roja and Roja De Castro; and from the Artichoke group some Australian White. We are continuing to grow Dunganski from the Standard Purple Stripe as our late season crop.
Autumn has seen the continuation of the very mild weather. We have had 7 frosty mornings in Braidwood since the start of our frost season. This is as much as 75% lower than the average number of frosts to this time of year. (Our frost season officially begins on 23rd March and ends on 22nd November.) Usually by this time of year frosts and low temperatures can be having a detrimental effect on plant growth and development, and cold soil temperatures are having a significant impact on seed germination. However with the continuing mild temperatures we are yet to see any detrimental impact. Soil temps are still relatively warm and not limiting seed germination.
While many vegetables, particularly members of the Brassica Family can cope with the light frosts we are currently experiencing, it is beneficial to provide them with some support. Seaweed products (Seasol) can be used to increase plant resistance to frost. Foliar applications take about a week to be effective and can also be helpful when plants are damaged by a frost as these fertilizers stimulate healthy new growth. Regular (weekly) applications of a seaweed liquid fertilizer during our cold months can be a beneficial routine. While the use of seaweed foliar sprays can provide some support for plants during light frosts, to maintain healthy strong plants that keep growing though our extremely cold climate and harsh frost season, yet to come, frost protection fabrics are essential. For further info on frost protection see A snugly Garden is a Growing Garden.
The use of row covers or even very simple low cost plant protection strategies enables all year vegetable production in the low temperature extremes of our cool climate region. To learn more consider enrolling in our All Season Cool/Cold Climate Vegetable Growing workshop in July.
Garlic is a cool season plant and in the Southern Tablelands region, early season garlic is planted in Autumn generally during March & April. This means you need to be getting ready to plant. However before we look at soil preparation, you will note that I have referred to early season garlic.
Like many types of plants garlic comes in many different cultivars. There are 1,000s of cultivars grown worldwide. In Australia we distinguish different garlics first of all by the group it belongs to then the Cultivar within the group. All the cultivars within a group generally have similar characteristics. For example:
Group name: Turban
Cultivar name: Monaro purple, Tasmanian purple, Flinders Island Purple, Glamour, Italian Purple, Ontos Purple, Shandong, White Crookneck, Xian All the cultivars in the Turban group are early season garlics. The are planted in March to April (early to mid Autumn), they are harvested October to November (early to mid spring) and they generally have a short storage life of around 3 to 5 months.
Monaro Purple (early season Turban) is the most commonly grown garlic in our region. This is an Australian species. Its origin is not proved, however, it is believed to have been brought by Yugoslavian tunnel diggers working on the Snowy Hydro Scheme. Its name derives from the Monaro region in New South Wales and in small part of Victoria near the Snowy River National Park.
In Braidwood a local couple Giles Bonin and Victoria Clutterbuck first started growing garlic in the area some 40 years ago. Followed by Carol and Conrad Kindrachuik market gardeners in Araluen. These two local farmers we now call the “founders ” of Braidwood garlic..
There are also groups of garlic that are known as mid season garlics being planted in mid to late Autumn and late season garlics planted in late autumn to early winter, depending on climate. Generally speaking in our region mid Season garlics are planted in late April through May and
late season garlics planted in late May through to June.
Garlic is a great cool season crop to grow in the home vegie garden or as a significant crop in the small market garden. However if you are investing money and time into your garlic crop then you need to consider much more than I have outlined here, particularly the groups and cultivars of garlic you should consider growing.
According to the Australian Garlic Industry Association (AGIA), Only about 20% of garlic sold in Australia is grown domestically so there is significant room for expanding the national crop. A key factor of Australian garlic production is that the majority of garlic grown for the Australian market is from a small range of garlic varieties that are harvested at the same time, (November & December) and only store well for a few months. This generally means that most Australian garlic is no longer available for consumption by April/ May. That is Australian garlic is available for a short season from late November to around April, with the majority consumed by February / March. (This is referred to as the narrow production window.)
If you want to know more about growing garlic; mid season and late season groups & cultivars you can enroll in our online program.
October has heralded some glorious spring weather. We have had the best rain for nearly a year, mild temperatures and no frosts for weeks. Our frost covering have been lifted for a month and now we have started to remove the cloche frames. Even if we get a late frost now, it is unlikely to be hard one and the plantings we have in the garden should not be affected.
While the temperatures have been mild and without frost for a few weeks the soil is fairly cool. In our garden this week the soil temperature has just reached 16°. This is still quite cool for the germination of the majority of summer seeds. See attached file
Beans will germinate at 16° but pumpkins, chilies, peppers, eggplants… all require warmer soil temps for good germination. The summer seeds we started in the cold frame and under plastic particularly the cucumbers and pumpkins are ready to plant out and consequently bed preparation is our current highest priority. Our early October potato plantings are just starting to germinate and we will continue potato plantings up to early December. We will be moving the hot house within the next week and well established plantings of tomato, peppers, eggplants, chili and basil seedlings will be in the ground, in the hot house by the end of November.
This time of year is also when the garlic (early season Turbans) mature. Bulb development commences around 8 weeks prior to harvest. The only way to check whether bulb development has commenced is to move the dirt away from the stem down to the roots. If you do this gently you will not cause any damage to the plant. The appearance of the scape indicates that harvest is only 2 to 3 weeks away. If you would like to know more about when you garlic is ready to harvest you can purchase our mini guide.
We are looking forward to the first garlic of the season.
I hope you enjoy the photos of our garden at the moment
In the last few years demand for Australian garlic has been growing and so has the garlic growing industry. From its fledgling beginnings in the 70’s the industry grew steadily until the mid nineties when deregulation of our agricultural sector saw the importation of cheap Chinese garlic and resulted in the virtual collapse of our own garlic industry.
However over the last few years our garlic industry has been bouncing back and at the same time demand for garlic at farmers markets and supermarkets has been surging ahead. This has coincided with the general increase in demand for local Australian produce, increased awareness of Country of Origin, a love of fresh food, a desire to reduce food miles, unnecessary handling, and a general increase in home cooking.
Most of the garlic grown in Australia has been early season varieties, Monaro Purple is one of the local early season garlics grown in the Capital region and across the Southern Tablelands. Early season garlics are planted in March / April and harvested October / November. A key factor of Australian garlic production is that the majority of garlic grown for the Australian market is from a small range of garlic varieties that are harvested at the same time, (November & December) and only store well for a few months. This generally means that most Australian garlic is no longer available for consumption by April/ May. That is, Australian garlic is generally available for a short season from late November to around April, with the majority consumed by February / March. (This is referred to as the narrow production window.). After that we are forced to turn to imported garlic which is heavily fumigated on entry into Australia. We know little about how these imported products such as Chinese garlic is grown and no idea of farming practices, use of chemicals or anything else about how the product is treated before it leaves for our shore. But, things are changing!
Over the last few years the industry association has been helping garlic growers to understand the different garlic groups and varieties; their different planting and harvesting times and correct curing and storing approaches, to ensure a year round supply. This means that instead of a once a year garlic planting, potentially growers can have 3 plantings a year and 3 harvests a year: very simply:
Braidwood has had a garlic growers group since 2012. I love growing garlic and I convened the group in 2012 as a community to share knowledge and experience of garlic growing and encourage new growers to enter the business. It was fairly clear that Braidwood could have a broader agricultural base than it currently has which could create jobs and bring income into the town. The group has participated in a project over the past two garlic growing seasons to “demonstrate the potential for garlic as a crop to enhance economic resilience, agricultural profitability and sustainability” All garlic grown as part of the project has been grown using organic principles. A key part of the project has been to develop grower knowledge of the different garlic groups and their different growing requirements. With the aim to see the Braidwood region position itself as a key producer of the late season garlic varieties that store well for 6 to 12 months. By growing these different varieties of garlic Braidwood should able to put garlic in to the market when little Australian garlic is available.
Over the weekend the wind up meeting for the garlic project (not the Garlic Growers Group) was held and the growers decided to move towards the development of a cooperative with the support of the Farming Together Program. This may well be the first garlic growers cooperative in Australia. Exciting garlic times are ahead.
All this talking about garlic is great but it's the garlic growing that counts. We are planting our mid season garlic this week, perhaps a little late, delayed by too much talking! If you too are thinking about planting a late season garlic crop or have already planted your early season garlic you might want to enroll in our online garlic course just to stay informed and have your garlic growing questions answered as they come up. Happy garlic growing.
If you are just thinking about eating delicious Aussie garlic, don't despair. In the next few years you will be able to get good Australian garlic from April to November if all goes well.