As part of our series of members blogs, Ingrid Glendinning from Dunfermline shares with us what she’s been planting in her garden this last week….
This is the perfect time of year to plant your garlic cloves, Japanese onion sets and winter lettuces. Garlic requires a long growing season and won’t be ready until July next year. It needs a good 4 weeks of temperatures below ten degrees Celsius to split into cloves and planting it around October time should ensure it gets this, but also that it develops a good roots system whilst the soil is still reasonably warm.
There won’t be much top growth, the shoots will just start to grow, but nothing more until spring arrives. If it doesn’t get the cold period, it will simply grow into one big bulb and not split into cloves. You can plant it in January or even as late as February, and it may still get this cold period, but for me it works best planted in the autumn so the roots get time to develop before the winter.
Did you know that most garlic sold in supermarkets is imported either from Spain or as far away as China, when in fact it’s one vegetable that is very easy to grow locally in our cool Scottish climate? It is originally from Central Asia, some sources claim was first found in Siberia, where it gets a lot colder than in Scotland. I am originally from Transylvania, in central Romania, and like to think that my love of garlic might have something to do with a certain famous vampire legend that has its origins there. According to the legend, garlic was used to ward off vampires.
In the case of onions, the reason for planting now is that they – like garlic – will have time to develop a strong root system and grow short shoots, but in the spring they will start growing fast and can be harvested as spring onions, when not much else is ready. Alternatively, they can be left until June of course, to grow into large bulbs. I am planning to do both next year – keep some for spring onions and leave some to grow large. These onions are very hardy and have survived some very cold winters up on the hill where we live, so are ideal for autumn planting.
With garlic, you can save your own cloves after the harvest for the following year’s planting, but be aware that this can only be done once or twice to avoid the build-up of disease. I did this once last year and the crop was fine but I did buy fresh bulbs this year.
Both garlic and onions need a well-drained, rich soil. And, you will probably know about the health benefits of both garlic and onions, but especially garlic. It’s delicious rubbed on toast or you can mix it with butter and spread on homemade French bread for garlic bread. The French love their garlic in very large quantities. One such recipe is Chicken with 30 cloves of garlic or Garlic Soup with a whole bulb of garlic (imagine the smell…).
I always get a good crop of garlic, even if some bulbs are small, but they have always split into cloves with the above planting method.
It’s also time to sow/plant any kind of winter lettuces. Varieties like Winter Density, Lobjoits Green, Lamb’s Lettuce and Miners Lettuce can all be sown this month (and planted out late October) or planted out if you have sown last month. If planted under cover, you should get a crop in the winter, but if planted outside, it will be about April/May time next year before they’re ready.
I planted one crop in August and have lettuces almost ready to pick now, when summer varieties are almost finished and another batch of seedlings waiting to be planted for spring harvests.
Of course, as with all vegetables, good crop rotation and feeding the soil with organic matter is crucial to avoid the build-up of pests and diseases.
All of these vegetables are relatively easy to grow with minimum experience and taste infinitely better than any supermarket bought ones. The garlic bulbs, onion sets and lettuce seeds can be bought from the Organic Gardening Catalogue or a good local nursery/garden centre.
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