Garlic Day

Today is garlic day. Well, it should have been yesterday, what with it being the solstice / shortest day and all, but by the time I got back it was dark. It’s tradition: plant your garlic on the shortest day, harvest it on the longest*:

garlic harvest

Except for certain suppliers, that is. Grrrrrr.

Ordered shallots, garlic, spuds from Marshalls this year, well in time. Time passes. No sign garlic. Ring Marshalls. Oh no, not despatching this particular garlic until the spring (they sent it in winter, and in time, before). Useless for me. Ring round others. Organic Catalogue, bless ’em, have exactly the same garlic, available now. Have already paid for Marshall’s garlic – they’ve taken the money from my card, of course, on order not despatch – so have not cancelled as chaos will doubtless ensue and will end up with no shallots or spuds either. So now I am going to have a garlic mountain, and an interesting test.


This also meant, a little late in the day, that I had to think quickly about the veg garden plan for next year. And that meant that I had, in all the pre-Christmas chaos, to get out my seed tin and work out what I am intending to grow in 2015. Displacement activity? Oh, surely not.

I do love my garlic. I find it satisfying to grow (except this year, when half of it succumbed to onion white rot and fell over, signalling the problem which now means that for the next eight years at least I will be growing artichokes on that particular bed) and even more satisfying to eat. I’m down to my last clove of this year’s crop, which means that I had enough even with half of it collapsing. And next year I’ll have double. Oh well…

garlic drying

So what will I do with all that garlic, apart from ensuring that my house is avoided by every vampire for miles around?  There’s a saying in France that you should never go a day without garlic, and I’m going with it. I will probably not follow the Ancient Egyptian practice of hanging a necklace made from garlic cloves around my neck to deter internal worms, nor will I fasten a similar necklace round the necks of my livestock (only because I haven’t got any) to keep Swedish trolls at bay.

garlic again

I will, however, cook it in absolutely everything, from having it raw in tsatsiki to roasting chicken with forty cloves. Then there are remedies. I’m going to be free of tension (‘macerate a clove in water overnight and drink it in the morning’), won’t have a single head cold and will have perfect digestion. I won’t be troubled by voice loss, whooping cough, dropsy, bronchial catarrh or bubonic plague. And chewing a few raw cloves will give me the same strength and courage it imparted to ancient athletes. Honest.

Nobody will be able to come near me, but that’s OK: I’ll chew fresh parsley, a raw green bean, an apple or some aniseed. And if there’s any left, I’ll make my famous anti-bug spray for my plants by soaking cloves in water for a week, then diluting the liquid and spraying it on. Not on me, on the plants. There are limits.

Right, here goes – let’s get the first lot in!

Organic Catalogue garlic

* Quick tip for harvesting garlic, apart from the longest day: when six leaves yellow. I’ve found that much more reliable, and less dependent on the vagaries of the summer. Or, of course, when it falls over because there’s onion white rot.


14 thoughts on “Garlic Day

  1. Julieanne

    Nice to see a fellow garlic grower/lover. It’s one of my favourite crops (the other being potatoes). I’ve been lucky enough to never get onion rot, so I find it an almost fuss-free crop. I don’t grow onions (allergic) so use garlic in everything and I’ve been saving my own garlic cloves for years, hence I’ve never had bubonic plague 😉

    I didn’t know about planting shortest and harvesting longs days. I tend to plant October/November and harvest July/August, which has always worked, but maybe it’s because I’m growing unusual hardneck varieties, not softnecks like Germidour? I have planted garlic in early January in the past and it’s grown well, so even if you get more arriving later you’ll be ok to plant it then.

    1. kate Post author

      Oh, I adore it – so good to know there’s at least one other addict out there! I always plant garlic and spuds. I’ve given up on onions and concentrate on shallots instead, but then I’m not allergic. And I’ve not had plague either, so it must be the garlic.

      I’ve never planted as early as you, possibly because I don’t get my act together. I tend to concentrate on the soft necks as I’ve had a bit of a problem with hardnecks going to seed (last year I grew one of each, mind you) – and the Germidour were very good. I like growing something new – Picardy Wight and Tuscany Wight this year – but I must return to Germidour. Even though they weren’t even placed at the village show (sigh).

  2. Julieanne

    There are a few of us garlic addicts – I’m always surprised that more people don’t grow garlic, given has easy it is. The ones I’m growing this year are here: (I grew the same in 2014 as 2013). The trick with Hardnecks is to cut off the flower stem the moment you see it. It tends to come up over night – one day not there, the next day it’s 3 ft tall! Cutting the flower stem stops it going to seed and encourages it to put all it’s energy to making bigger bulbs. I had some whoppers this year, particularly Martin’s Heirloom, Susan Delafield and Music.

    I’m hoping to grow some softnecks in the future when I have more space. I’d be interested to know how your Picardy Wight and Tuscany Wight grow, they are varieties I would like to try some time. I also really want to try Albigensian Wight, just for it’s name as it’s a period in French history that I’m fascinated with!

    I’ve never had the courage to ‘show’ mine, so at least you tried. Like with everything in gardening, there is always next year 🙂

    1. kate Post author

      How interesting – I must give hardnecks another go (especially as I’d like to grow some whoppers for the show, ahem). You’re so right about the sudden appearance of the flower stems – whoosh and they’re over.
      I grew Albigensian Wight (picked it for the same reason, ho ho – my family come from that area, or did a few centuries ago before they moved northwards, and I’ve been described as a ‘stroppy Cathar’ more than once) a couple of years ago, without an awful lot of success – but it was that terribly wet year and my alliums just rotted in the ground. The shallots were so sad – tiny, tiny, tiny and with no stems to speak of – and the garlic was a complete wash out.

      1. Julieanne

        I’m happy to share some with you. I’ve just sent out the last of what I can share this year, but remind me (in case I forget) to offer you some next year once I’ve harvested my crops. Garlic definitely doesn’t like getting too wet, nor heavy clay, I lost some from these conditions a few years ago during a wet winter in Oxford. I found that my deeper raised beds (at least 30cms) with good drainage made a big difference and varieties that previously rotted in the wet did really well, given it was such a wet Winter and Spring.

        Wow – a connection to the Cathars – how cool!

        1. kate Post author

          I’ve an Italian neighbour who grows her garlic in big deep troughs – probably works on the same basis as the raised beds, though the year they got soaked would have poleaxed anything. Maybe we should set up Garlic Swap? That would confuse the postie even more, but mine is getting pretty much used to my eccentricities…

  3. Anna

    I’m not sure what has gone amiss this autumn Kate but I’ve forgotten to order or plant any garlic! I usually grow ‘Solent Wight’ which suffered from the dreaded rust last year though I did avoid the dreaded rot. I will have to plant in January. It sounds as if there is not going to be any shortage in your household 🙂

    1. kate Post author

      I’ve been really lucky on the rust front, though some of my nearby friends always, but always, have it (I think their garden is trying to tell them something, but they’re not listening). I’m going to be interested to see what difference planting time shake – we got the first lot in successfully yesterday – but I do have to admit that I only woke up to the fact that I needed to do my order in November. So I nearly missed out too…

      I think that instead of being known by my first name plus house name (there are, or were, several Kates near me) next year, I will probably be renamed Kate Dragon Breath. Safe from vampires and trolls, though.

  4. Joey

    Love reading your blog posts … all the way in Portland, Oregon USA. I live in an apartment building with no garden plot; your garden adventures make me smile and long for one all the more.

    1. kate Post author

      How lovely – thank you so much, and happy holidays!

      (PS: If you can find a home for a Welsh collie, the Hell Hound of Harlech will be needing one if she digs up any more of my bulbs. Portland sounds just about far enough!)

  5. Cathy

    Most of the comments are double Dutch to me, Kate, not being a garlic aficionado in any shape or form – but it’s clearly a Most Serious subject 😉

    1. kate Post author

      Hee hee!

      I have come to the conclusion that veg growing can be a bit like train spotting (shhhh)… It’s often done mostly by men, who get terribly competitive (like I don’t, ahem, cough) and who know lots of very minor things about it in great detail. I think it’s catching, mind, which train spotting doesn’t seem to be…

  6. croftgarden

    I’ll just whisper this as I don’t want to hurt your feelings, I planted my garlic 3 weeks ago and the Early Purple Wight soft neck) is shooting nicely. I’m also trying Red Duke (hard neck) which is an Eastern European variety. I’m always late ordering so I tend to grow something different each year!
    I’m growing in the polytunnel again as it ensures that the bulbs mature in June. Outside they tend to get battered by the wind too much. We had a good crop this year so I’m hoping that we will have enough to last until Easter.

    1. kate Post author

      Not listening, not listening. Oh, OK, I am. I tried the EPW a couple of years ago and it was OK, but that was without the polytunnel. Wind is a problem here too… now there’s a thought.


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