When I was growing up we always had a veggie garden, although I have very little recollection about what was grown in it. Tomatoes I remember, and silver-beet and carrots, but not much else. What I’m almost certain of is it didn’t contain any garlic. This is because the diet of the average Aussie kid of Anglo Saxon descent in the 1970s was almost completely devoid of garlic. I say almost because I do have vague recollections of eating garlic bread. Now by garlic bread I’m not refering to a lovely Italian loaf brushed with olive oil and rubbed with garlic. I am of course remembering a French stick (oh so different from your average baguette) sliced, but never quite through, slathered in butter and crushed garlic and then baked. Such a dish (admittedly quite delicious) was usually found on pub menus as part of their ‘counter meal’ offering so I suspect I would have first had it as a ‘side dish’ alongside my pepper steak and salad bowl.
I blame this upbringing for my current failure to grow good garlic. What it doesn’t explain of course are my successes of recent years or indeed my father’s success this year. Looking at the picture below. Which do you think is my garlic? Which is his?
Clearly the one on the left is his, picked early it’s a hard neck variety whose scapes have yet to curl under signifying its ready to harvest. Nice green garlic as opposed to mine (a soft neck which should be well suited to Melbourne’s climate) which kind of looks like a slightly bulbous, particularly weedy, spring onion.
His has started to form cloves and has been used in a couple of dishes. It’s scape I used to make a mint and scape pesto to mix with broad beans and serve on olive bread. It’s cloves I used in a chicken pie. I’ll be lucky if I have anything left of mine once I’ve peeled off the dirty layers.
So what went wrong? Well I could blame it on Melbourne’s mild winter. Or perhaps next door’s eucalypts which shaded it for much of the average winter’s day. But instead I’ll blame it on my upbringing. OK so I’m clutching at straws. If you have a better theory then I’d love to hear it.
Bummer! But I think your theory has a fault. How come your dad can grow garlic if he didn’t grow up with it either and , further, if he denied you garlic as a child by his Anglo Celtic 1970s disdain for the said allium?
And I hate to go further in destroying your theory but, while I’m at it… I also grew up in a non-garlic household and have had a ripper of a garlic year… post to come. Hate to gloat but I am loving my fat drying bulbs!
A good point, but perhaps his mother did feed him garlic. When I was growing up my mother did all the cooking and I imagine she would have followed her mothers culinary traditions. Unfortunately my paternal grandmother died before I was born so I never experienced her cooking. I will have to ask my dad what she used to cook. As I type this I realise how ingrained gender roles were then. I wonder how much they have really moved since…
I’ve never had trouble growing garlic so really have never researched the problems with it. It is so sad though as garlic is wonderful. And sad that you had a childhood without garlic. I couldn’t imagine cooking without garlic. Or onions for that matter. The alliums are such a wonderful family.
I couldn’t cook without them now but as for when I was a kid I guess it was a case of ‘what you don’t have you don’t miss’.
Sounds something like my problem with spring onions.
Were the two lots of garlic planted at the same time?
He grows his in pots first so no they weren’t planted at the same time. I will have to find out when he plants his and mirror it. His climate is different though so even that is no guarantee of success.
Your dad’s garlic is just lovely! I’m waiting with baited breath to pull ours up, I really hope it looks like the one on the left. No offense, I’m sure yours will be lovely too.
I wish I had your confidence but alas I think I will spend the year raiding his pantry. He always seems to grow fabulous garlic.
Don’t feel too bad, my garlic was a complete failure this year to. I don’t know why as I have been growing it for the last 4 years and have always had a good crop.
I too have grown it every year for the last 6 or so and never has it done so abysmally. Perhaps it is an aberration then….
Maybe your garlic is just a late developer… a few more weeks and it will have fattened up nicely. Although mild winter weather and shade probably aren’t ideal for growing perfect garlic. The mint and scape pesto with fresh broad beans sounds fabulous – could you remind me to try it in a few months time please?
I’ve fed it and mulched it so maybe…..it would be lovely to think that it would fatten up. Definitely give the mint and scape pesto a go – I really enjoyed it, the reminder though I can’t guarantee my previously good memory seems to have left me of late….
Not sure how your weather has been, but I know I had my best success with garlic during a La Nina year. In the drier years since I’ve had very little luck.
I wish I could blame that but we had quite a wet winter – having said that I didn’t mulch it properly so it could still have dried out. I will definitely try harder next year.
Oh dear. I thought some of my garlic was sad! I mentioned in a previous post that some had decided to divide themselves so each clove was morphing into a bulb. I pulled all of those and though I was disappointed, they will still be useful. I then decided on the weekend to pull the rest of my garlic up as I thought they would go the same way as the others but they are fabulous – the best and biggest I have grown. A weird garlic year in Victoria, obviously. Your dad’s garlic is picture perfect. Show off!
Oh yay!!!! Glad someone’s garlic is doing well. It is entirely possible I neglected mine and they dried out too much. I will leave them in for the time being and see if they do anything useful from here.
I never had fresh garlic when I was growing up. I had my first taste of good fresh garlic when I was in college. It was given to me by my girlfriend’s grandmother, who had a small garden in her backyard and always grew garlic. Sadly, the relationship with with my g/f didn’t last, but my love affair with garlic lives on!
Like Daphne, I’ve not really had problems growing garlic here either. Some years are better than others, but it always bulbs up for me. I am guessing that the combination of the specific variety you are growing and your weather are the key. I know, that’s not much help, but if you can find someone with a tried and true cultivar that works in your climate then it should work for you too. For me, wet or dry conditions make a difference in size and quality of the bulbs, but not whether they bulb up or not.
The annoying thing is that I planted cloves from my best performing heads from the year before. All nice and big and lovely. Now I wish I’d eaten them. I will have to buy next years seed garlic so I will be sure to ask some locals what they grow.
The mild winter might be to blame – garlic needs a good cold spell at the beginning of its growing season in order to split and form a proper head. Otherwise you get something that looks like a spring onion but when you slice it through you can see the unformed cloves. I never quite manage to do’plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest day’ – usually get my soft necks in around Feb (Northern Hemisphere).
Wow Feb seems quite late but then I guess its also pretty cold at that time of the year. interestingly some garlic that was planted in my daughters school kitchen garden in late winter is doing really well. I generally plant my garlic quite early – in our autumn but now I think I might be planting too soon. I think next year I will try a bit of an experiment – some planted in May and then some planted on the shortest day and see how I go.
Liz, I feel your pain. When I first read your garlic blog last week I related immediately to your puny garlic exhibit. As a virgin garlic grower I had been eyeing mine off for same months wondering if the leaves were ever going to appear strong, large and happy. In the same bed was Japanese Red and it looked fabulous against the puny softneck (cant recall the variety, note to self must label seedlings) Just harvested the lot this morning and Japanese Red has medium to large bulbs and looks really good. Puny softneck strongly resembles your effort. P.S I’m in Bonbeach.
Right I’m going to seek out Japanese Red for my crop next year. The really annoying thing is that this year I planted my best cloves from last years harvest and have basically wasted them. annoying, very annoying. But as always there’s another chance to get it right next year…
What a difference between the two garlics! Does your father plant from his own seed? We’ve noticed that in the first year from new seed, the garlic is on the small size, but once it adapts, the garlic gets so large we have to adapt down in size. Also matching garlic to conditions seems to make a difference…
Liz I reckon you might just have harvested them too soon. I’m growing both soft and hardneck varieties and the hardneck are quite large but I pulled out a softneck yesterday and it looked just like yours. My memory from the last couple of years is that they take ages to form the separate cloves then form them quite quickly at the end of the growing cycle. Have you still got some more planted? I’d give them another few weeks and then try again.
I have left most of mine in – I only pulled those as they were in a section I wanted to plant with something else and they looked just too pathetic for words. I have fed and mulched my remaining plants so hopefully they will still bulb up. I kind of feel better knowing that your softneck are still tiny too.
I just pulled my garlic, and some of it has done well and some has been pretty average. I grew 4 varieties and despite being grown in the same area there were definitely differences in crop so perhaps its partly that. I grew a mix of soft and hard neck types but there was no clear winner in my garden. I’d be trialling some using your dad’s method and your method next year and see if there’s a difference. I’d be interested to hear what he does as I’ve always just whacked it into the ground around autumn solstice so would love to hear about another method.
He starts his garlic in herb pots in about March and then plants them out at seedling stage in May. His climate is 4 degrees cooler on average and his get full sun all day both of which I think help. I must double check what if any fertiliser he uses on the garlic. I know he usually gives his beds a dose of dynamic lifer before planting but I’m not sure if he does it prior to garlic or not.
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I feel your pain. Two years ago my garlic was absolutely decimated by rust. It was a total bust. Think the Irish potato famine garlic style. The next year I didn’t even bother to try to grow garlic. Last year I grew garlic again and got a decent crop because the weather didn’t favor the rust. Silly me, I going to try it again this year…
A couple of years ago I had a bumper garlic harvest – unfortunately its been downhill since then and at this rate I will never eat it ever again…. except of course that I can buy it.
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