Category Archives: garlic

Growing Great Garlic

The keys to growing great garlic are these: start with high quality seed garlic; plant with ample balanced compost; mulch thoroughly; water as needed.

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Bed preparation is similar to any annual vegetable crop: remove perennial weeds; aerate the soil; adjust pH as needed.

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Planting is anytime between the beginning of June and end of July. The go-to date is 21st June. Here are some sprouts under a hard frost.

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Harvest is between mid-December and mid-January. The go-to date is 21st December.

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We grade it into three sizes: seed, sell and eat.

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We tie it into twin bundles of ten for easy counting and easy hanging.

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The Great Garlic Parade!

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We hang it for three to four weeks and then cut off the tops and tails. It stores for up to 10 months.

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Wait six months and repeat the process.

Peace, Estwing

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

Following the flooding of last year most of our time, energy and money has gone into protecting our stream sides from further erosion, which appears to have accelerated since the flood. The process involves fencing off the streams from stock and planting lots and lots of trees, shrubs, flax and native grasses.

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All of that work means I have spent hardly anytime in the annual gardens, except getting all of the garlic in before the end of July. We sold out last year and have about 2,000 in the ground this year. We are establishing new beds on an ongoing basis – converting an old horse property to annuals production is not easy.

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Somehow a few months ago I quickly put some broccoli and cauliflower in the ground. It has thrived in the cool weather with heaps of great compost. Now we are reaping the benefits. This is my favourite variety – Marathon.

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As per my tradition, I also planted Early Girl tomatoes on the 21 of September to ensure ripe tomatoes before Christmas. Can’t wait. These have been interplanted with garlic as a space-saving staggered planting technique.

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Just this week the peach stones have started germinating. They have been in damp sand for about 4 months. We expect around 100 to germinate.

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Here is an example of a yearling Black Boy peach trees, which are selling nicely at the moment. We sold out last year and expect to sell out again this year.

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These were a great surprise this morning. In the years to come we hope to branch out into organic strawberries.

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And these two arrived last week.

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Never a dull moment and never a lack of jobs to do.

Peace, Estwing

Growing Great Garlic

I’ve been growing garlic organically for well over a decade. The product is second to none. We have marketed it as “The World’s Best Garlic” for the last five years. Nobody has disputed the claim.

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There are a few essentials of growing great garlic. First of all, you need the best genetics – ie, seed garlic. We save ours from season to season. After storing for six months, we divide it in the evenings inside where it is warm and dry.

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Another essential component is abundant high quality compost. We make ours by the cubic metre.

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Planting involves generous amounts of compost. It serves to feed the garlic for the six months while it is in the ground as well as retaining soil moisture.

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Once the garlic is up about 150 – 200 mm we mulch with newspaper and hay.

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The mulch suppresses weeds and retains soil moisture.

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The planting design and management relies on these resources: stirrup hoes, newspapers, mulch and compost. See here for detailed description: https://www.fix.com/blog/how-to-grow-garlic/

Harvest usually occurs in late December.

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The garlic is cured and stored…and the cycle repeats.

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We have a very limited supply of seed garlic left for sale. It can be planted up to the end of July. Contact me if you’d like some.

Peace, Estwing

Small-Scale Agriculture: Be First or Be Best

Making it in farming is hard at every level, but especially for smaller producers. My philosophy involves minimising inputs and maximising outputs using good design and management techniques.

But at the end of a growing season there is always the challenge of selling the crop. Here my philosophy is two-fold: be first or be the best. In other words, if you can be early to market before anyone else you can charge a premium. For example, I saw sweet corn selling 3 for $5 this week!

If you can’t be first then be the best. We grow absolutely phenomenal organic garlic. For anyone who likes to eat or cook, little can compare with starting a meal with olive oil and garlic in a pan.

It is nice to see that there is a surge of interest in quality food and local food. It’s especially nice to see that many “millennials” spend their money on good food (and good beer) rather than bog standard consumerism.

I’ve been growing garlic for over a decade and this year’s crop is truly superior. With proper curing and storage we have eight months to sell it – not a problem when you’ve got the best.

Peace, Estwing

More Signs of Spring

The signs of spring just keep coming. What a great time of year. The garlic looks to be a bumper crop with all of the rain and a good blanket of mulch.

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We are also eagerly anticipating strawberries.

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Other residents have different tastes.

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We discovered some overlooked potatoes yesterday.

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Grape vines are growing by the hour.

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The first plums are forming.

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   Although some of the plums look very strange. Any suggestions?    Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 1.34.48 pm

And we really need to start eating more rhubarb.

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Peace, Estwing

More on Housing and Garlic in NZ

 

Editor’s Note: This is my weekly column in the Wanganui Chronicle.

 

I narrowly missed my chance to be “World Famous in New Zealand” last week because I was busy planting garlic.

On Wednesday morning a producer for Duncan Garner’s Radio Live Drive programme invited me to speak with Duncan on the topic of warm, dry, healthy homes. I did not see the email until after Wednesday afternoon’s programme was done and dusted, and by Thursday the topic du jour had changed. So much for my 15 minutes of fame…

Anyone who has been following the news over the last fortnight would be well aware that a number of deaths linked to cold, damp houses has sparked a national discussion about the other housing crisis in New Zealand. I call it “the other housing crisis” because we hear much more about The Housing Crisis in Auckland and to a lesser extent in Christchurch.

As is the case with many important issues, a quantity story often outweighs a quality story. Quantity stories are easy to understand: just do the maths. But quality stories are nuanced and require more research, more careful consideration, and are best presented from a holistic perspective.

On Monday, Chronicle Editor Mark Dawson asked the question: “How many bad houses in our city?” Leave it to a seasoned journo to get both quantity and quality into one headline!

At the end of Dawson’s editorial he ruminates “about the condition of Wanganui’s states houses,” and “how many of them are substandard.”

The second of these is the easiest to answer: in all probability 100% of all state houses in our city are “substandard.” If the current New Zealand Building Code minimum is “the standard,” then by definition anything not built to that level is “substandard.”

The bad news is that the NZBC minimum would be considered by many nations as substandard in and of itself when it comes to warmth and energy performance. In other words the code sets a low bar for insulation, windows and design.

The other bad news is that Housing NZ homes are probably better than the majority of rental properties in Whanganui, and better than hundreds if not thousands of privately owned dwellings. Put another way, Housing NZ is one of the better landlords in our city. Depending on your perspective, this may be good news or bad news.

In the guts of his editorial, Dawson addresses the concept of a rental housing warrant of fitness. Last May, the Wellington based He Kainga Oranga released a report on a pilot WOF scheme that assessed 144 rental properties in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga and Auckland. Eight passed.

The takeaway: we have a large quantity of low quality homes in New Zealand.

As would be suspected, there is significant pushback from property investors and landlords against the WOF scheme. There is also the question of who would administer the scheme and who would pay. Central government would benefit from the scheme, which would lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in savings to the health system, but local governments would be the most likely bodies to shoulder the burden.

The takeaway: not likely to happen anytime soon.

In the meantime, the best thing for tenants to do is their homework. Seek out information from the EECA EnergyWise website and ecodesignadvisor.org.nz.

Don’t take landlords’ or agents’ word when they say a property is “fully insulated.” Look for yourself.

Ask the agent to bring a hygrometer to measure indoor humidity when you go to look at a potential rental.

Don’t rent a property without one of the following heaters: flued mains gas; heat pump; wood burner; pellet burner.

Don’t use unflued LPG heaters.

Make and install window blankets and/or secondary curtaining.

Draught-proof doors and windows.

The list goes on.

I’ve been thinking carefully about what renters can do to improve their living conditions for over four years – ever since veteran journo, Paul Brooks, challenged me on the issue. I gave him a handful of suggestions at the time, and now have a bucketful. That’s one reason Garner’s people contacted me.

I may have missed my chance to be World Famous last week, but at least I’ve got an early crop of the World’s Best Garlic in the ground.

 

Peace, Estwing

Good Design & Great Garlic

When it comes to housing and garlic, good design is more important than hard work. In both cases, the core decisions that ensure quality can be counted on one hand. Everything else are details.

In the case of housing, we can look around the world and observe examples of low energy and high performance homes. For the most part, the design principles are universal with the exception of the tropics where important tweeks must be made compared to other regions.

For example, the main goal of good tropical house design is passive cooling that relies on cross ventilation. From this perspective, homes should be rectangular with the long axis running north-south to catch breezes. For almost all other locations around the planet a home should be rectangular with the long axis running east-west to catch the winter sun and exclude the summer sun. In all cases the basic design objective is a passive structure that heats and cools itself as much as possible using natural energy flows.   Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 8.12.51 pm

Beyond passive design, another wise choice to make with housing is to place fixed heaters on internal walls rather than external walls. Placing a heater close to the centre of a home and surrounding it by living spaces would appear to be common sense until you take a trip around Whanganui and see the preponderance of chimneys built on one extreme end of long rectangular and L-shaped homes. It appears there was an era in our city where both common sense and good design were sorely lacking when it came to home building. Some would argue it continues.

Fixing bad design is more expensive than engaging good design from the start, but the good news is that in Whanganui it is far more affordable to buy an existing home and do it up rather than build a new home. For example, our renovated villa ticks the boxes for good design for less than half the cost of building new.

Similarly, growing great garlic can be more a matter of good design than hard work. Again, the principles can be listed on one hand: good seed; great compost; plenty of moisture; minimal weed competition. Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 8.12.59 pm

Like racehorses and livestock, genetics matter with garlic. Buying high quality seed garlic is the best place to start. I was in a big box discount store recently and noticed the so-called “Garlic Seed” they were selling and had to stifle laughter at both its size and price. The best seed garlic is local and organic.

Compost provides multiple benefits to garlic while it is growing, including feeding, moisture retention, and microbial activity. High quality living compost is always better than a sealed 40-litre bag that probably lacks helpful aerobic soil organisms.

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Garlic, like all alliums, grows better with more moisture. A combination of generous compost and heavy mulch can ensure soil moisture remains high even trough extended period without rain. Mulch also doubles as a weed suppressant and encourages worms to be active closer to the soil surface.

For more information on Growing Great Garlic, come along to a workshop on the 21st of June at 3 PM. Registration essential. 06 344 5013; 022 635 0868; theecoschool – at – gmail.com