Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Growing Garlic – Try it this year!

If you’ve never tried growing garlic, make this the year! It needs light soil, an open sunny site and can be planted from early October to late December. Don’t plant until spring on heavier soils, digging in grit or planting it on ridges or temporarily in pots of loam based compost then transplanting outdoors in spring. They need a period of one to two months from 0-10degC (32-50F) to ensure they produce decent sized bulbs so I’m putting mine in the fridge for a while, just to make sure! Make sure the ’blunt’ end is at the bottom and the tip is just below the soil to discourage curious birds from pulling them out. There are ‘hardneck’ and ‘softneck’ varieties, ‘hardnecks’ are gourmet garlics with fewer larger cloves, but they don’t tend to store well, so most gardeners go for ‘softnecks’.

This year I’m growing ‘Spanish Roja’ an old variety that is quite rare that is a regular winner in taste panels in USA and is regarded by many connoisseurs as the ‘King of Garlics‘ let’s hope that it lives up to the title. It is a ‘hardneck’ but stores better than most in this category. There’s also ‘German Red’ which is vigorous with lush green foliage and bulbs formed from good sized cloves which are said to be easy to peel that is hot, spicy and perfect for dishes demanding plenty of garlic! It‘s ready to harvest from early July and will store up to the end of the year and ‘Oswego White’ is a ‘softneck’ with large bulbs that are mild tasting and good roasted. If you’ve never eaten roasted garlic, it’s absolutely delicious! Softnecks are not as hardy but are better protected with cloches during very cold periods or on an exposed site; ‘hardnecks’ are very hardy.

On the first of November there’d still not been a frost in my part of Hertfordshire – strange times indeed! Most of my tender container plants have now been moved into the greenhouse for winter protection in frost free conditions. As you see from the image, Impatiens tinctoria, was determined to finish the season with a flourish and was still flowering. Even though it’s related to the ‘Busy Lizzie’ this is not your average ‘Impatiens’ with wonderful orchid like flowers and is found in mountain forests and shady gullies from Eastern Sudan to Ethiopia and Uganda. In milder areas it can be overwintered under a thick mulch if planted by a wall or near a greenhouse in rich free draining soil. Alternatively, in cooler areas or on heavy soils, treat it like a dahlia and over winter in a cool greenhouse.

There’s plenty to do in the garden this month, clear leaves regularly from the lawn to stop the grass from dying, raise containers on pot ‘feet’ to prevent waterlogging, cut back cluster flowered and hybrid tea roses back by one third to prevent wind rock. Finally, remember to build your bonfire for ‘Guy Fawkes’ night as late as possible to prevent hedgehogs from taking up residence and use the opportunity to burn any debris that doesn’t compost readily.