Crops & Compost

Garden Established 2021

Gardening for Beginners

We are still very much beginner gardeners, experimenting each year with what we can grow and the best way we can grow it using methods sustainable both by ourselves and by the planet. We are making lots of discoveries and embracing failure.

We’ve started out concentrating on growing food for our family, and in 2023 my focus is on trying to find a balance between growing crops, caring for nature within our space, and living within the space as a family.

  • Homegrown Garlic Plait

    I decided to make a traditional garlic plait from my homegrown garlic this year, because I could think of no better way to show off my efforts in the garden, even if only to myself.

    Summer 2023 has so far been a wash out, and as Bean is set to break up from school today I have had no time to tend the garden due to a month of solid, heavy rain.

    It has been easy to feel despondent at the lack of gentle garden pottering time that has been available to enjoy, but I have still been celebrating small garden wins, such as my garlic crop.

    Muddy homegrown garlic freshly lifted from the ground on a wet day

    I set myself a small wish this year to grow enough garlic to plait and hang in my utility room, and today I have completed the braid for hanging.

    I’m pleased with the growth on the garlic bulbs. They’re a good size and shape, and I think I lifted them at the correct time with the weather we had. Ideally I’d have left them in the ground another 2-3 weeks but after an unusually warm couple of weeks in early June we experienced a solid month of heavy rain and storms, which battered plants and left the ground waterlogged.

    I lifted the garlic bulbs in less than ideal weather, with huge clumps of sticky wet compost and earth stuck to them, but after being left to dry for a day I tidied them up a little to begin the process of drying and curing them for storage.

    Garlic cleaned and ready to begin drying

    It took two weeks for the garlic leaves to dry out and brown ready for longer term storage. As space in my small kitchen is at a premium I have decided to store the garlic in the cool utility room that adjoins it.

    Plaiting Garlic

    finished plait of homegrown garlic

    I looked at a few resources for plaiting garlic ready to store, but actually I disagree with hem all. I started off following the advice, but found a way that worked better for me about a third of the way in.

    I started by gathering three bulbs and tying them together using one of the dried leaves. I think that gives a good foundation to add to. Once I got a few bulbs plaited together, however, I found that the thing that worked best for me was to add two new bulbs at a time, adding the stems to the centre ‘strand’ of the plait, and bringing one of alternating left and right bundles of leaves over to secure it. Once I had made that crossing of the bundles of leaves to secure the newly added bulbs I pulled on the stems of the new additions to the plait to nestle them tight against the body of the braid.

    Homegrown garlic plait

    The resulting braid of garlic is secure and sturdy, the leaves are bound tight and the bulbs sit close to the braid. My initial braiding was looser and less well formed where I was adding just the single bulb per twist, and I prefer the sturdier feel to the braid as I found what worked better for me.

    I finished by continuing to braid the remaining leaves and looping the excess back on itself to secure and to give myself a way to hang it from a hook in the utility room, ready to be admired, at least by myself.

    homegrown garlic plait finished
    Garlic (Allium sativum) illustration from Medical Botany (1836) by John Stephenson and James Morss Churchill.

    Garlic Choice

    The garlic I sowed this year was Solent Wight, purchased from The Garlic farm. It is a soft neck variety (essential for plaiting) and produced good size bulbs. It’s lifted a few weeks after a lot of garden varieties, so might have grown even bigger then the sizeable bulbs I managed if it hadn’t been for the very wet month we have had.

  • Slate Plant Labels

    I made a set of slate plant labels to finish the set up of the new herb bed in the garden and to replace the plastic labels that some of them started out with. As spring arrives and we start to spend some more time in the garden I want to bring our recent additions…

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  • Growing Potatoes

    The potato may be the humblest crop to grow in many a garden or allotment, and though it might not seem like the most glamorous of garden jewels, there is something delectable about unearthing a pile of perfect spuds from the soil, and I’ve been growing potatoes in bags since I started gardening. A couple…

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  • Growing Saffron

    At then beginning of October last year I was browsing online, looking for something to plant and grow in those days when the summer harvests were coming to an end and I wasn’t yet quite ready to embrace the shortening days. Quite by chance I found some discounted saffron crocus bulbs online, and the impulsive…

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  • Garden Planning 2023

    an open clear plastic case, containing 10 visible, smaller, plastic inner cases in different colours is open in the top left corner of the photo. Multicoloured packets of seed (sweetcorn, onions, parsnips and flowers) are next to the case, and it all sits on a scarred wooden table.

    Late January feels bitterly cold, with snow still on the ground and new layers of frost that build upon each other with no relief from a thaw. It’s a time when I want to be out in the garden more as a new year is calling, but the cold this year is a painful one…

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