Back in February we bought three garlic bulbs for £5 at Seedy Sunday in Brighton. My hubby did a great job of planting them, watering them and working out when they were ready to harvest. We also had a little assistance from the garlic farm cook book, which tells you about the different types of garlic, when to grow them, when to harvest and how to store them once harvested as well as providing some recipes using the garlic.
I can't seem to find any photos of our garlic growing, but I got very excited about the thought of plaiting and hanging garlic so took loads of photos of that.
There are lots of varieties of garlic, but they all fall into one of two categories - hard neck and soft neck. I wasn't really sure which was which until I started plaiting them at which point it became really obvious. The softneck ones are easy to plait as their stalks are floppy once ready and the hardneck ones are stiff, so you can't plait them.
So with the soft neck ones you plait them to hang them to dry and store. I started off following instructions, but then made the plait up as I went which is why it looks a bit messy.
With the hard neck ones you need to use string to tie them up - a technique called grapping. You tie a knot around one neck to start off with. Then you tie two together and wrap the string round and so on (it explains the technique much better in the book!)
Once you have tied several of them together, you wrap the string round close together at first and the further apart as you go up the stalk. At the top you tie it off and make a loop of string to hang your garlic up with!
There is a bit of hair on the bottom of the garlic which the book advises you to chop off like this:
The best way to dry and store garlic is hanging in a light area, as if you put it in the dark it will start to sprout. You might notice from the picture that the hardneck garlic has round things at the top of the stems. These are like mini bulbs of garlic. Apparently if we had chopped them off when they had first formed we would have had much bigger cloves of garlic, but we can use them as mini bulbs of garlic anyway and now we know for next year.
My hubby planted these garlic bulbs back in March/ April time I think, but September is the time to plant the next lot of garlic. We are trying to work out if we need to buy more garlic for planting or whether we can replant some of the garlic we have just grown - anyone have any ideas???
Our garlic harvest totalled 24 bulbs of garlic plus 10 garlic top bulbs from 3 original bulbs. I'm not sure that the original bulbs we bought were organic, they were British though and they were grown in organic compost without the use of pesticides or fertlisers. 3 bulbs of organic garlic currently cost around 90p in Sainsburys (and non-organic garlic is a similar price) so we would have spent around £10 (counting the 10 smaller bulbs as 3 larger ones). We saved ourselves around £5 which isn't huge bucks, but we have the pleasure of fresh homegrown garlic with low food miles and full control over the growing process. Obviously the more we grow the more savings we will make and although it isn't big bucks, when the saving are combined with other foods we are growing at the same time it all adds up!