How to Grow Garlic

garlic

Now is the time I start planting garlic. According to the search stats finding my blog recently, the topic of how to grow garlic seems be quite popular. Planting times, growing and harvesting garlic appears to be causing confusion to some, so I thought I’d put this guide together. I’m not an expert by any means, but it might be useful to those searching the internet looking for information.

When to plant garlic:

I tend to plant garlic during November or December, but you can plant from October right up until early spring, if conditions are right. Reasonably well-drained soil is perfect for autumn planting, and this gives your garlic a longer growing season to produce bigger bulbs. If your soil tends to be too claggy for autumn planting, try starting garlic off in small pots of compost instead, leave them outside your back door or anywhere they won’t blow away! Plant your pots of sprouting garlic out in early spring once soil conditions are right.

growing garlic in a raised bed

Where to buy garlic:

Ideally you should use seed garlic for planting, and this can be bought from many places nowadays. It’s not actually little seeds that you are going to plant, but pre-grown bulbs from disease-free stock. Seed garlic usually come in packs of 2 or 3 bulbs. The usual way to purchase seed garlic would be via a seed merchant catalogue or specialist websites (more choice with varieties), but many more places offer what we need to grow our own, such as DIY chain stores (B&Q for example) and local garden centres, even supermarkets such as Waitrose are recognising the increased interest in kitchen and allotment gardening.

planting garlic

How to plant garlic:

An open sunny site with free draining soil is best. Split the seed garlic into individual cloves before planting, each one of these cloves will grow into a new bulb. I space each clove by stretching my thumb and forefinger apart and place the clove on top of the soil, it’s a rough planting distance but it works for me. Once I’m happy with my rows I make holes with a dibber and place the cloves in the holes, pointy end upper-most. Cover over with soil, the garlic tips should be hidden just below the surface.

Newly planted garlic can be disturbed by birds. To combat this problem I cover my raised beds with wire mesh frames, which simply sit on top and prevent anything from gaining access to the bed until lifted. The frames are easy to make from scraps of wood and chicken wire.

veg frames for raised beds

When to harvest garlic:

Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow, this is usually early summer, depending on planting time and variety. Lift from the ground using a garden fork. After I harvest my garlic I lay the bulbs over the side of a raised bed to allow worms to free themselves from the roots and drop back into the soil below, before dark I take them in from the garden and place somewhere dry to complete the drying process, such as a greenhouse or a shed.

drying garlic bulbs

How to store garlic:

Allow the bulbs to fully dry out before storing, when the bulbs are fully dry they’ll be papery white and rustle when touched. Now you can plait them together if you wish using the stems, or place in a net bag for storing. Trim excess roots.

garlic plait

I store my bulbs in an unheated greenhouse over winter, bringing bulbs to the house when needed. A cool, dry shed or garage would do.

Work Starts on The New Kitchen Garden

chickens in the garden

Our little gardeners

We started work on the new kitchen garden recently, mainly clearing up, cutting back and deciding where everything will eventually go kind of work. And the chickens got involved too, especially the two rescue hens who’d rather be by my side than exploring with the others. Chickens are great at scratching and turning over soil with their enthusiastic feet, and excellent pest control too.

chickens

It’s been almost 2 years since we moved house and left our productive kitchen garden behind, container gardening and our plot at the allotment providing us with seasonal produce ever since. The very bottom of our new garden was earmarked early on to be the spot where the new kitchen garden would go, and now, after watching where the sun rises and sets, identifying sunny and shaded areas throughout the seasons, we’re ready to start putting our plans into action. The section of garden we’re working with is a good-sized space and will easily accommodate a number of raised beds for vegetables and soft fruits, a bed near the compost bin has now been dug over and cleared for our new rhubarb patch.

chickens in the garden

Chickens helping to dig over the new rhubarb patch

Before winter takes a firm grip we’re concentrating on clearing perennial weeds, old woody shrubs, bramble roots and large stones from an area in front of the fencing (which will probably become a gravel path), the rest will be easier because it’s lawn, and that’s where the raised beds will go. On rainy days and when the weather turns bitterly cold I’ll gather inspiration and design ideas from my Pinterest board.

The area isn’t very interesting to look at right now, I’ll take photos once the raised beds go in, probably during spring.

Pumpkin and Raisin Cake

pumpkin and raisin cake

With plenty of pumpkins stored away I’ve been looking for recipes to make something a little different with them. I found a scrummy recipe for pumpkin and raisin loaf cake that appealed to me, particularly the spicing which would be pleasantly warming now that colder weather has finally arrived. I realised I lacked a loaf tin so I decided to use a cake tin instead. Which is perfectly fine, but the cooking time would need to be reduced a touch.

In any case, I love cake.

The recipe is from All Recipes, I’ve tweaked it a little to suit my own taste and included the measured quantity of uncooked pumpkin and the method I used to make the puree, to make it a little easier for those who’d rather make their own.

Serves 12

Ingredients:

250g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

200g dark brown soft sugar

75g butter

2 eggs

250g pumpkin puree

4 tablespoons milk

100g raisins

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4.

For the pumpkin puree I measured out 800g of roughly chopped pumpkin (skin and seeds removed) and placed in a pan of boiling water, simmer for 20 minutes or so until the pumpkin pieces are soft (test with a fork). Strain water and place cooked pumpkin pieces into a fine mesh sieve, try to remove as much excess water as you can by pushing down on the pumpkin pieces with a fork to strain. Scrap the contents from the sieve into a bowl and use a hand blender to puree. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, spices and bicarbonate of soda. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in eggs, pumpkin and milk. Stir flour mixture into wet mixture until just combined. Fold in raisins.

Pour into a 23 cm cake tin and bake for 35 – 40 minutes (test middle of cake with a skewer).

cake mixture

Although you can’t taste the pumpkin, the puree keeps the cake moist. After working in the vegetable garden or the allotment, enjoy a slice with a cup of hot tea. Lovely!

How To Hollow Out a Pumpkin The Easy Way

pumpkin collageEach year I grow a couple of extra pumpkins to carve for Halloween. Instead of scooping out the insides myself, I give the chore to my chickens. But I guess it’s not really a chore to them, considering how eager they are to help.

chickens eating a pumpkinEach pumpkin is hollowed out in record timing, flesh and seeds vanish (I’m careful to remove the pumpkins soon after, otherwise they’ll eat the whole thing before I get the chance to carve crazy scary faces). This saves me a bit of time and the hens get a healthy afternoon treat containing a natural wormer.

pumpkin hollowingUncooked pumpkin seeds contain Cucurbitin, an amino acid that can eliminate parasitic worms such as tapeworm and roundworm.

chicken eating a pumpkinEven more reason to get your flock involved with pumpkin carving!

Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain x

Chicken in a Bucket

chickens dust bathing Ok, it’s actually chickens in a garden trug, not a bucket. I just couldn’t resist the blog title. The muddy young pullets taking a dust bath are the chicks my broody ex battery hen adopted in June. Oh how they have grown. They are Lohmann Browns, a sex link hybrid commonly found in commercial egg farms (all types of management ie caged, barn and free range) for their high egg production.

brown chickenFirst up we have Binky, she appears to be the boss of the group and started laying super early at 15 weeks old. She’s a deep glossy brown and very vocal. Oh and she likes her food. Greedy she is.

garden trugBinky and her ‘sisters’ broke out of their shells in a hatchery supplying pullets to caged farm systems, at 2 days old they came home with me in a tatty shoe box and I tucked them up safe and warm in the soft feathers of a broody hen.

Pictured below is Cheska, the blonde bombshell of the group. She’s a light buff colour that I’ve seen only once before in ex battery hens I re-home. She’s quite stocky with a shorter neck and smaller head than her sisters, not quite Buff Orpington stature but similarities are there.

garden trugMillie is laying too, her big head-gear an indication. She’s heavily patterned across her back and quite leggy ( anyone spot the name theme going on here yet?).

garden trugLast up we have Phoebe-Lettice, I just call her Phoebe. She’s very fond of my shoulder or the top of my head and hitches a ride every morning as I drink my morning tea.

garden henNow that they’re all grown up their mum doesn’t wish to roam with or raise them anymore, she prefers her own company as she did before going broody. I’m grateful for the experience of watching the chicks learn from her; how to eat crumb, scratch the ground, bathe in the dirt and catch flying insects mid-air. How she called them when she sensed danger and how they disappeared in lightning speed into her feathers for safety, their little faces peeking through her feathers to see if it was safe to come out. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

hen and chicksPumpkin did a fantastic job of raising them, I could see how much she enjoyed the role of being a mother. I’m happy she had the opportunity to fulfil yet more of her natural instincts, strong buried instincts denied to her throughout her time as a caged laying hen.

Easy Butternut Squash Soup

butternut squash soup

A thick, rustic soup, bursting with autumn goodness! Perfect for a quick light lunch or warming snack, this recipe is super easy to make, particularly if you’ve never made soup before.

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped

200g butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and chopped into small chunks (150g if you prefer a thinner soup)

1/4 pint of vegetable stock (use chicken stock if you prefer)

2 tbsp milk

Black pepper, freshly ground to season

Fresh coriander leaves to garnish

butternut squash macro

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the chopped butternut squash and fry for two minutes. Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil, simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender. Add the milk to the pan and season with black pepper, set aside and allow to cool slightly. Using a food processor or hand blender, blend the butternut squash mixture (for a rustic soup small lumps are fine!). Warm through when required and pour into a warm bowl, garnish with coriander and serve with a chunky slice of bread.

Bugs and Bees

ladybird

My allotment plot and garden welcome many species of beneficial wildlife, such as hoverflies, lacewings, bees, ladybirds, butterflies (yes, butterflies are very welcome on my plot!) and lovely little mason bees. I grow plenty of flowers throughout the year to attract them, and my organic approach to gardening ensures there will always be food in the form of juicy aphids.

ladybird in a bug box

Providing bee and bug boxes in your garden helps to attract the good guys too, these safe hidey places are essential for surviving cold winters and reproduction with certain species.

bee on salvia flower

Lacewing

Mason bees visit my plot to use the bee boxes as nests to reproduce, I find it fascinating to watch females carrying mud to seal the entrance to a nesting tube. In turn, they pollinate my fruit bushes and most probably my plot neighbours too.

Comma butterfly

Some of my boxes were purchased or gifted, and some were made using scraps of wood nailed together to form a box and filled with hollowed out bamboo canes. Online gardening shops and garden centres sell bee or bug boxes, I recently picked up a couple of nice examples from Waitrose and Poundstretcher stores.

bee and bug box

I re-painted the Waitrose bee box (pictured above right) using a tester pot by Cuprinol Garden Shades (country cream).

bee and bug boxes collage

I’m planning to make a bug ‘hotel’ using stacked pallets and other materials inserted into the gaps between each pallet. Now is a great time to provide some shelter for our helpful beasties, they’ll repay your favour by munching on the bugs you really don’t want on your veg. And, if you’re really lucky, you might just see mason bees nesting in your boxes from late April onwards.

Allotment Shed Bunting

vintage bunting, bunting

The bunting I sourced for my very loved allotment shed has arrived, and I’m really pleased with it. The bunting images are prints of vintage seed packets, I chose particular vegetable images to complement the colour that will eventually go on the inside of my shed.

allotment bunting, shed bunting

There were many lovely images to choose from, and, quite honestly, I could have gone completely overboard with my selection. However, I had to make sure the bunting would fit easily inside my little shed so I stopped at 7 pennants.

I got my bunting here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/KettleOfFishDesigns from Kettle of Fish.

October Allotment Photos

allotment

I spent a lovely afternoon at the allotment yesterday. A dull and chilly day but I didn’t feel the chill working on the plot. It was a day of weeding, harvesting (carrots, potatoes and a few pumpkins) and generally mooching around in the shed, tidying up and sipping hot tea.

allotment, allotment shed, pretty allotment

allotment flowers, blue allotment shed

We’re almost half way into October and the plot still offers plenty of Cosmos for wildlife and picking, the flowers just keep going and going until a hard frost arrives.

allotment, raised beds

I have a couple of rows of potatoes still to lift and I’ll get that done before the ground freezes.

harvest potatoes

I’m very pleased with my carrots, they’re a lovely size with straight roots and the best I’ve ever grown. Putting rabbit fencing around the plot certainly helped matters. As much as I enjoy the comedy value of pulling misshapen carrots (you do get some strange and wonderful shapes), I was determined to grow some decent carrots this year. And I did, yay!

sunflower seedhead

Sunflowers hang their heads, ripe with seeds, I’ll cut the heads soon and lay them flat for birds to help themselves.

pumpkin october 14 0945 BLOG

This lovely pumpkin will be used for carving at the end of the month for Halloween! I finished painting the inside of the shed door before I left for home, I’m so pleased with the colour, it looks stunning against the colour of the Cosmos and pumpkins don’t you think? I’ve decided to paint the inside of my shed ‘Country Cream'(Cuprinol) and add a few finishing touches, some of which I sourced from artisans including lovely bunting which I just can’t wait to put up. I just need the paint and away I go!

More Reasons To Visit My Allotment

allotment tea collage resized My dad cleared out items of his old fishing equipment recently, he doesn’t go anymore and his shed needed a sort out. He gave me his little gas camping stove to use at my allotment, I let out an excited squeal because I was all set to buy one. You can buy these gas stoves easily enough but mine is old (works perfectly), which I love. camping kettle So far I’ve used my gas stove with my camping kettle to make a mug of my favourite Mao Feng green tea when I feel the need, it’s really refreshing and warms me up when I’m feeling a bit cold or achy. Dad informs me he cooked quite a few hot meals and snacks on the stove, I’m looking forward to trying out a bit of allotment cooking now that chilly weather is upon us.

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