Sunday, November 15, 2015


Photo of my garlic harvest.

This year I grew a small crop of garlic for the first time. I decided to grow my own for a couple of reasons, one for a fresher taste and two because it would be organically grown.

As I understand it there are two types of garlic you can grow, hard neck varieties and soft neck.  The hard necks, I'm given to understand do not store as long as soft necks, but are ready sooner.  

I chose a hard neck variety  which I bought from my local nursery and planted out in early autumn. I believe garlic likes a  well drained soil. I prepared the ground before planting by digging in compost and well rotted manure and let that stand for about a month. In the meantime I stored my garlic in a brown paper bag in a dark cupboard.

A little trick to discover when your garlic cloves are ready to plant is, to slice one open and if you can see the green shoot forming in the middle, then the cloves are just about at the right time to plant. I divided up the cloves from three bulbs and only planted out the biggest of these, pushing them into the soil around 1 - 3 inches (2-7cm). Then I watered in and fed them fortnightly with a liquid feed.

I watched these bulbs grow all through autumn and winter and well into spring. In November they produced the curly flower stems and their bottom leaves had died off. I read that they are ready to harvest when they have three or four green leaves left.

I was delighted with my crop and the bulbs harvested varied from very large to small. These I laid out on my  deck, in the sunshine to dry. The gaps between the decking boards allowed a good air circulation. After two weeks the outer skin was dry and the dirt could be brushed off, but the bulbs were not completely dry.  

I did a little research into storing and drying hard necks and came across some information that said to cut the stems off leaving around 3 inches. It said if your crop was a small one, which mine was, to place the bulbs in a net bag to allow the air to go through and hang in a dry place.

As you can see from the photo this is exactly what I did.

These are hanging from the roof of my deck and I will leave them there for at least another two weeks, before checking to see if they have fully dried.  When they do, I will store them in the net bag in a cool cupboard and hopefully have some delicious garlic to use over the next few months.

If you've never tried growing garlic, why don't you give it a go. The taste will be superior and you'll know that they are organically grown. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Summer Means Beans! - Growing Tips

As the summer months approach the gardener's thoughts turn to what variety of green beans to grow. After all, what would summer be without the taste of lovely fresh garden beans? 

In Australia our summers can be long and hot and we have several varieties suited to our climate, such as Purple King, Blue Pole, Brown Beauty, but my heritage comes from England and I cannot resist growing a couple of varieties of Runner Beans. This year I'm trying out Scarlet Runner, it has bright red flowers, and Painted Lady with its red and white flowers. Both these varieties are very ornamental and delicious to eat, but you must remember to pick those pods while they are young and tender. 

Scarlet Runner & Painted Lady Runner Beans -
Photo by Helen

Because our summers are hot, I've already got these plants in at the beginning of spring, so that they get a good start and possibly provide me with an early crop at the end of spring and another in the cooler months of autumn. I will provide some shade for these plants and when the days become too hot, I'll spray the flowers with water to help them set and prevent the plant dropping them.  For those not familiar with these plants, they are an heirloom variety that are known as climbing beans. I provide a teepee  made out of strong poles for their support. 

As you can see from the photo they're already making good growth. 

However, I've also planted climbers more suited to our hot climate, down  at my patch in the community garden, in order to ensure a supply over the summer months.  Again I've grown these up a teepee of poles. The variety I chose for this is Blue Pole.  

Bush Beans Brown Beauty - Photo by Helen

Back in my home garden I've got the summer months covered with some bush beans called Brown Beauty. This is a very reliable variety that provides a good crop of tasty beans and stands up to the hot weather very well.

Now what do beans require to give you a good crop? Well, it's really quite easy. First of all you need to pick a site that has full sun and dig in some lovely compost and well rotted manure or blood and bone as a fertiliser. Try to do this a least a couple of weeks before planting. Beans don't like heavy soil, so make sure it drains well. When you plant, water in and then mulch around each plant. I like to use pea straw, this will help retain moisture and keep your beans nice and snug. Remember to not let your bean plants dry out and to water more frequently during hot spells. A couple of days after I have planted them I like to give them a weak feed of an organic liquid fertiliser and from then on to give them fortnightly to monthly feeds.

There's nothing hard about growing beans and the reward certainly out weighs the small amount of effort it takes. So why not this summer, grow yourself some tasty green beans!