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From Plot to Plate - Garlic - they've arrived!

Two healthy bulbs of Allium Sativum dropped onto the door mat this week. The Solent White variety that the label says originated in France. Well, where else would they originate from?!

And here they are:

Garlic as an ingredient has become increasingly popular during my lifetime. No longer limited to an addition to butter that is then added to a baguette or piece of breaded chicken from Ukraine, garlic has become something that many of us keep in the kitchen and use as part of a multitude of dishes that we cook. It's frequently used in Mediterranean and Asian cooking and rather than buy them in packs of three - when all we might want is one - we grow ours at the allotment.

Follow a few simple rules and you'll find that garlic is an easy vegetable to grow. Grown in a sunny site then we'll get plenty of fat, juicy bulbs which can then be used in whatever way you like - garlic bread or chicken Kiev. or added to a French Cordon Bleu extravaganza!

But before we get too carried away let's pop back to the supermarket - hopefully for the last time if we're talking garlic as soon you'll be harvesting your own. Don’t be tempted to plant garlic cloves from the ones that you'll find in the vegetable aisle. What we don't know is the provenance of them - they might well be ok to eat but that doesn't mean that they're necessarily good to use as seed. Look back at what we said about potatoes and why we always buy fresh seeds: From Plot to Plate - Potatoes - it's time to chit! (

In short they may carry disease and not be suited to our climate.

What are we growing?

There are several different varieties of garlic and having tried a few of them we've always found that the Solent Wight has been the most successful for us - so having found something that works we tend to stick with it!

The bulbs are grown on the Isle of Wight so are used to the UK weather and if looked after properly then we'll get a tasty harvest of large, softneck bulbs during the summer.

The company we get ours from say "this variety produces garlic that has an exceptional bouquet, full of depth and flavour. Kept cool and dry, the bulbs will store for months" and we'd agree with them!

And what's more the Royal Horticultural Society has awarded this variety it's Award of Garden Merit - if it's good enough for the RHS then it's good enough for us!

How do we do it?

Garlic needs a period of cool weather before it really gets going so it's an ideal vegetable to plant now - some varieties can be planted in late autumn or early winter and some in early spring. If your soil is heavy and wet then it's better to start them off in modules in a cold frame before then planting them out in the spring.

We grow ours at the allotment and as you can see here we've worked hard on the plot over the time we've been lucky enough to be the custodian: From Plot to Plate - Muriel Jones (

Now what that means is that the soil is now well drained and every year we add copious amounts of well-rotted organic matter - horse manure from local livery yards. It's a sunny site so we're lucky and we're good to go.

What we do when we're ready to start planting is give the plot a light rake over. Then we carefully separate each of those two bulbs into individual cloves - like we would if we were going to cook with them. Then we simply and gently push each individual clove into the plot so that the tips are about an inch below the surface.

Each clove is spaced about 6in apart and with the size of our plot, the number of cloves we'll get from the two bulbs and by planting each row about 12in apart we'll get two rows.

Now whilst we love hearing the birds and watching them feast on bugs and grubs what we don't want is them pulling up those newly planted cloves. To prevent that we cover them with netting or, if we've been organised enough to get some, horticultural fleece.

What next?

Well the first thing is we'll hopefully be getting ours in this weekend and we'll update the website with photographs with how we do that, and as we follow their journey From Plot to Plate!

We'll also make sure that as they get going we'll monitor the weed situation! Garlic casts no shade as it grows and is therefore vulnerable to being taken over by weeds. Hoeing weeds risks damaging our bulbs so it's best to weed by hand when the weeds are small.

And then when we start to see the weather warm up we'll be getting the watering can under the tap on the butt and start to regularly water the bulbs - particularly during dry spells - as this will improve yields. However once the bulbs are large and well-formed we leave the watering well alone - if we carry on then this might encourage those bulbs to start to rot.

If any flowers start to form then we snip them off - as we want that energy to be concentrated on the bulb itself rather than on producing flowers. And then when the leaves start to yellow we take that sign that the bulbs are mature and ready for harvesting.

And that, for now, is that. Updates will follow as those Solent Whites grow from two large bulbs into what we hope will be close to 50 new, fresh and locally grown bulbs in the summer. There. From Plot to Plate in a few easy steps.

Now where are those Red Baron onions...............

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