Tuesday, 17 January 2012

My first harvest of garlic...

I was so excited upon my return from overseas to see that the tops of my garlic had died off…what does that mean? They are ready! So I got digging and found the most amazing site. What I had planted as just a tiny clove had become a whole bulb! I am continually amazed at how remarkable nature is. So it started when I got my hands on some organic garlic seedlings at a market, I have never grown garlic before and basically I just stuck it in the ground to see what would happen and I have been very pleased with the results.
It is very worth growing your own garlic and I am going to put in even more this year. Garlic is grown globally, however, most of the production belongs to China. So that garlic purchased in supermarkets looks ‘clean and perfect’ it is often bleached using chlorine or benzoyl peroxide. Gamma radiation is also used to inhibit growth (Gamma radiation is not allowed to be used in Australia but it does not prevent foodstuffs effected to enter the Australian foodmarket). Australia also requires that conventional garlic must be fumigated with methyl bromide; a colourless gas and potent chemical used as an insecticide, fungicide and herbicide. This chemical has been banned, however, there are exemptions in place for quarantine purposes. See:  http://www.apvma.gov.au/products/review/completed/methyl_bromide.php

So, have I scared you enough to start growing your own garlic? Here’s a helping hand on how to do it:
Autumn is usually the best time to put it in, now it will take a while to harvest the bulbs but it is definitely worth it and it can also be grown in pots if you don’t have the space. Purchase some organic garlic, break the bulb up into the cloves and pop it into the ground or pots. They don’t need too much room but remember, they don’t like acidic soil so if this is your problem, add a splash of dolomite (bag available from nursery, hardware store). I pretty much neglected my garlic, feeding it occasionally and getting water when the rest of the garden did. Too easy. DO IT! 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Joys of Composting

Holy crap…how exciting is composting! I feel so satisfied every time I dig down deep into my compost bin to find delicious, rich, dark, nutritious compost, ready to go straight into the garden to feed my plants. I love the cycle of composting the scraps of fruit and vegetables (some of which I have grown) to make compost which I can then use to help grow more vegetables. I was constantly astounded when I worked at my local nursery to discover the amount of people that would buy compost in [plastic] bags and when I asked if they had their own bin or compost pile pretty much 99% would say no. WHY? Why pay $10 a bag for compost when you can make your own…what crazy people! Customers would always seem slightly embarrassed and exclaim, ‘oh I haven’t had the time’ or whatever other excuse people wanted to come up with. Now I don’t want to get all critical or high and mighty about it but really, if anything, compost has got to be one of the easiest and most simple things you can do, even if one is not a gardener.
There are a few approaches one can take. Simply purchase a compost bin from any hardware or nursery store OR better still, contact your local council; some will offer them for free or give them out at a reduced rate. Start a worm farm by purchasing a ready-made one or create your own from a recycled fridge or styrofoam box (see here) http://www.simplethings.com.au/build-a-simple-worm-farm
Dig a hole in your backyard to bury your scraps or find an area where you can create a compost pile. A great ingredient for a compost pile is grass clippings. You have to be mad to put those grass clippings into your green bin. Create a pile for them and after a few months, I guarantee, you will have the most beautiful soil underneath.

On a recent trip to Indonesia, I visited a few organic gardens that all had innovative composting and recycling methods, here is some inspiration. Recycling an old bathtub and filling it with grass clippings, leaves and other green matter. Pick one up from a clean up or ask your local plumber (who often discard them at the tip).

OR go all out and create a composting/recycling extravaganza! This space had a couple of areas for compost, recycling of paper, glass and plastic plus the treatment of fresh pig manure. How awesome is that and it all went back into the amazing vegetable garden which serviced the retreat’s kitchen and restaurant. I must say, I felt incredibly inspired.