Category Archives: garlic

Planting Garlic Between a House and Farm Place

Due to changes in our work lives and a desire to steward a larger piece of land, we will be shifting at the end of this month. However, garlic is meant to be planted around the end of last month. What to do?

Garlic is the only crop that we sell regularly, and when you grow the World’s Best Garlic, it is worth the time and effort. Over the weekend we hurriedly got somewhere over 400 garlic in the ground at the new property. This is how we did it.

We had to transport some of our 3 cubic metres of compost

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We selected a bit of flat land for our market garden.

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We did not have time to convert the paddock into a garden, so we brought in cardboard to kill the grass and topsoil to quickly build a raised bed.

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We have had great success growing garlic on top of sand by using 80 mm of topsoil.

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One key to growing great garlic is to use plenty of great compost. I pull a deep furrow with a hoe and then fill it with compost.

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Nek minit.

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We plant the garlic at 100 mm centres.

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Everyone gets involved.

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After two afternoons of work.

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Peace, Estwing

Growing Great Garlic: A Matter of Design

Eco Design is a large and growing field. Facing a future of rising energy prices and increasingly volatile weather patterns, it is the inevitable future of design thinking as well as the future of business modeling, education, and governance. Those individuals and organizations that embrace eco design as early adopters will be at an advantage and those that put it off will have squandered time and money unnecessarily.

In my experience, eco-design thinking is applied in two distinct ways. The first and most intuitive way involves biological systems. In other words, using lessons learned from observing natural ecosystems to design and build managed ecosystems that serve human needs. The most obvious example of this is an organic garden.

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 The other way eco-design is used is in non-biological systems, which can include buildings, vehicles, energy production, industrial processes, management, and even governance. Our renovation is a perfect example of eco-design thinking applied to a draughty old New Zealand villa. This column and Project HEAT (Home Energy Awareness Training) are attempts to promote eco-design thinking throughout our city.

Today I’ll stick to biological systems with a focus of food production.

Organic agriculture goes all the way back to the dawn of agriculture because there were no synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides back then. Imagine a time before Monsanto!

Organic growers use eco-design thinking to produce as much food as possible while working with nature, not against it. Their ‘toolbox’ consists of a range of techniques, equipment, compost and on occasion naturally-derived pesticides. The vege plots at our home and the organic techniques we use were recently featured in a film profiling super abundant home gardens throughout New Zealand.

Eco design thinking along with a decade and a half of experience have allowed me to produce abundant healthy kai for our family at very little expense of time, effort and money. This is the type of win-win-win outcome that is almost always provided by eco-design.

Although there is no substitute for experience, one good way to leap frog your own experience is by engaging in well planned experiential learning. While I was developing my organic growing skills I took advantage of local farm tours, I enrolled in workshops, and I practiced…a lot – sometimes 14 hours a day while I was market gardening.

Those days are behind me, but I draw on that experience to manage our low-input/high-productivity gardens, or what I also sometimes call “Lazy gardening.” From my experience, one of the best crops for lazy gardening is garlic. Over the years I have grown and sold many thousands of beautiful and delicious garlic. Growing great garlic is all about working smarter instead of working harder. (See sidebar to learn more.)

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Another example of low-input/high productivity food production on our property is the way we grow tomatoes: lots and lots of tomatoes. This year we have enjoyed five months of continuous garden ripened tomatoes from the middle of December through the end of May without a glass house. This abundance was made possible by designing for sun, concentrating fertility, and successive planting. But we’re still three months away from putting tomatoes in the ground so we’ll save that story for another day. Screen shot 2014-06-14 at 7.31.32 AM


Growing Great Garlic Workshops

Learn how to grow the best garlic in the world. Workshops include the world’s best organic seed garlic for you to take home and two litres top quality organic compost. $15.

21st June, 9–10 am

22nd June, 9–10 am

22nd June, 3-4 pm

Registration and deposit essential., 022 635 0868, 344 5013

What’s For Dinner: Tomato-Zuchinni-Chicken Bake

One of the most popular questions we get from people who read the blog or articles is – what do you eat?

They are usually surprised to learn that we don’t have a very strict dietary regimin. We certainly like our cheese too much to be vegan, and after a brief wwoofing experiment with raw food, we decided that wasn’t for us. Our eating principles are as follows, in order of importance:

1. Avoid GMOS

2. Eat Local

3. Eat Organic

We also tend to loosely agree with the Nourishing Traditions folks in the fact that we drink whole fat milk, use butter instead of marg, use real sugar and salt, and eat meat – all in appropriate quantities of course (or maybe silghtly more than appropriate) – and all following the above rules as closely as possible.

Given that information are you still curious about what we are eating for dinner tonight? Well alrighty then, I’ll tell you. But bear with me, because this is my first ever attempt at writing a recipe and my food porn is likely not up to scratch.

After taking a quick look through the fridge and garden and seeing what we have in abundance- it was decided by the head chef that tonight’s dinner would be some kind of Tomato-Zuchinni-Chicken thing.

I headed over to my favorite source of inspiration (for cooking, life, and bad-assery) and found this recipe. That Pioneer Woman, is she real or legend? I think legend. Who has the time to run a farm, take such great photos, and be so damn witty?

I dutifully followed her directions, using our homegrown vine ripened tomatoes, free range organic chicken, and top of the line boxed wine. I added some of that giant zucchini. Because it’s summer, and ever dish gets zuchinni in the summer.


But it wasn’t quite veggie enough for us yet, so I popped out to the garden to grab some green. Fresh herbs, swiss chard (silverbeet), and oh hey, a cute little ripe pumpkin! (We’ll just save that for another day).


Chopped all of that roughly and added some of our world’s best garlic and she was good to go. Image

An hour later our house smelled amazing and Eco Thrifty Baby was anxiously awaiting her dinner. Sorry kid, probably should have started dinner just a bit earlier, but time management is not one of mama’s strongest attributes.


And done. An easy healthy meal plus the chance to use my dutch oven. Sweet.


Making Small-Scale Vegetable Production Pay

Any small-scale organic farmer or market gardener knows it’s very hard to make anything more than a minimum wage unless one has unprecedented access to a population that is willing to pay fair prices for high quality food. Paradoxically, the land values near these population centres are extraordinarily high, basically preventing small-scale farming or market gardening.

For the rest of us, it is a hard slog for the moment. I have three pieces of advice for the aspiring market gardener who wishes to make a fair wage for their skills and time: 1) find a niche product; 2) be first to market with a common product; 3) grow the best of the best of anything.

Finding a niche product, however, can be hard so I’ll focus on the other two for the moment.

Last year I beat everyone to our local market with fresh, local, organic tomatoes by over three weeks. As such, I could charge a premium for being the first, and then drop out of the competition when everyone joined me and prices fell.

Being first to market means planting early varieties and getting them in the ground early.

It also means planting these early varieties in the hottest spots.

I would not call garlic a niche crop, but I will say that discriminating cooks will pay for the best garlic.

We will sell and give away about half, save a quarter to replant, and eat a quarter ourselves.

Peace, Estwing

Upcoming Workshops

Two Workshops, One Day. June 1st, 2013
1:30-3:30 pm. Window Blanket DIY Workshop
4:00-5:30 pm. Growing Great Garlic, Plentiful Pumpkins, and Tomatoes Before Christmas

Window Blanket DIY Workshop.
1st June, 2013. 1:30-3:30 pm. Quaker Meeting House. 256 Wicksteed St.
As effective as double-glazing but at a small fraction of the cost, window blankets are one of the best things a householder can do to make their home warmer, dryer and healthier. In this workshop, you will learn how to make your own custom fit window blanket to take home and install. You’ll also gain the knowledge and skills to make more of them at home.
All tools will be supplied. Either bring your own materials or buy them at the workshop for a small fee.
Space is limited.
Registration essential. – 344 5013
Workshop fee: $20 ($15 unwaged)
Materials fee: $8 – $16
Growing Great Garlic, Plentiful Pumpkins, and Tomatoes Before Christmas

This workshop shares  some lesser-known tips and techniques to enhance the growing of common garden vegetables organically. On our small section in Castlecliff, we grow 400 beautiful garlic and over 100 kilograms of pumpkins with very little effort. Last year we had our first ripe tomatoes on 15th December without a glass house.
1st June, 2013. 4:00-5:30 pm. Quaker Meeting House. 256 Wicksteed St.
Space is limited.
Registration essential. – 344 5013
Workshop fee: $15 ($10 unwaged)

Sun Angles: Winter and Summer

Mid-way between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice we find ourselves in the unenviable position of short days and long nights, and looking forward to even shorter days and longer nights for some weeks to come. Despite this, our renovated, passive solar villa has been performing well – the indoor temperature has not dropped below 18 degrees in 2013. (More on this in subsequent columns.)
The scientific explanation for the change in day length is that the Earth’s axis is ‘leaning’ the Southern Hemisphere away from the sun slightly more each day until June 21st. The way we perceive the sun in relationship to ourselves is that it rises a little further northeast and sets a little further northwest each day, as well as hanging lower in the sky at noon. Mind you, this is gradual. It takes 6 months for the ‘tilt’ to change from the sun’s highest point in the sky – and longest day of the year – and its lowest point in the sky.
A good eco-designer takes his of her lessons from nature. And nature takes his or her lessons largely from the sun. Using the transitive property, you can get the rest.
In the space below, I’ll explain two examples of good eco-design that take full advantage of the predictable behaviour of the sun: one biological and one physical.
 WBG, sold out quick-as.
If you were at Whanganui’s Saturday market for its last session before Christmas 2012, you may have been among the lucky few to have purchased The World’s Best Garlic. There is a lot that goes into growing The World’s Best Garlic besides humility. One important ingredient is timing. When I arrived in New Zealand five years ago I was told: “Plant garlic on the shortest day of the year and harvest it on the longest.” Generally speaking, this translates into June 21st to December 21st.
Please be aware, however, that this has nothing to due with full moons, cow poo vortexes, or Grecian Formula 44. It does have to due with soil temperature and gradually increasing sunlight day by day for half a year.
Also be aware that growing The World’s Best Garlic involves the right kind and amount of compost, mulch, and watering regimen, all of which are highly protected trade secrets.
The other example of good eco-design involves two examples of solar hot water that are dramatically different from one another but each serves its own users most appropriately. One system is set on an acute angle and one on an obtuse angle to the sky. In other words, one system is set up for maximum efficiency in the winter and one for maximum efficiency in the summer.
Solar hot water set for a winter sun. 
The solar hot water system on our home is set for a winter sun angle because we know that there are fewer total hours of daylight in winter, and that our insulated tank loses more heat each night in July than in January. There also tends to be more rain and clouds in winter, so we need to take advantage of every clear patch and fine day.
Even set at this high angle, our system can boil over any given day of the summer if we don’t use enough hot water. This ‘boiling’ water shoots down the gully trap as a safety feature to the system.
Solar hot water set for a summer sun. 
So who, you may ask, would set their solar hot water system for a summer angle when there are plenty of long, fine days. Answer: YMCA Central’s Raukawa Falls Adventure Camp. They get heaps of visitors all summer long, many of whom want a warm shower at the end of each day. But for much of the winter, the camp lays more or less dormant, and a back-up wood-fired hot water system can easily fill in when needed.
As spring follows winter, so form follows function…if the design is good.