Weeding onion and garlic patches

Weeding onions and garlic patches is something I tend to put off during the winter months.

When I grow onions or garlic over the winter months, I usually plant the bulbs around October/November and I usually forget about them until the weather starts to pick up in the spring. I then complain about how small my onions and garlic are when it comes to harvesting them. I know the reason why I complain – it’s because I couldn’t be bothered to weed my patches early on in their growth.

I’ve read that onions generally don’t like too much competition from other plants, so keeping the patches relatively weed free should help the bulbs access water, space and nutrients a lot easier. It also helps give the onions and garlic a head start when other weeds do start to grow.

So, a couple of weekends ago now – I said to myself that this year of growing winter onions and garlic is going to be different and that I’m going to make the effort to try and keep everything as weed free as possible.

The temperature was low but the sun was shining, and it wasn’t raining so for the first time in 2018 I got on my hands and knees and meticulously weeded through my onion garlic patches, which hadn’t had any TLC since I planted them. They’re gone through torrential downpours, frosts and dried out by prevailed winds – so I was glad that I could actually get there and carry out the first weed of 2018.

It’s really important to keep your patches weed free, but it’s a job that you either love or hate. I would say that I’m somewhere in the middle when it comes to weeding. I haven’t made up my mind on whether it’s something I enjoy doing or not. Weeding is a job that is really quite boring but needs to be done – but on the other hand you really do get a great sense of gratification and hard work when it’s been done.

It took me around two sessions at the allotment to do both patches, which felt like quite a long time. That said, I’ve paved the way now for the rest of their growing life in the fact that I can probably get away with hoeing in between the plants every so often to minimise future weed growth.

I’m also doubly happy that I weeded the onion and garlic when I did because the Beast from the East is currently covering the UK and other parts of Europe in a blanket of snow. I’m not too worried about snow covering my onion and garlic sets. Snow can act as insulator to hardy plants for hardy onions and garlic. I’d be more worried of thick frosts wiping out the green tops!

Let’s hope I get a decent crop of troy and red winter onions as well as germindour , cristo and thermidrome garlic 🙂 wish me luck.

Do you enjoy weeding at this time of year? Please do let me know! 

Planting Garlic: Germindour, Cristo and Thermidrome

Planting garlic is one of the easiest of foods to grow, and one that gives a great return.

Garlic is one of those food stuffs that I’m constantly buying from the shops – we use so much of it at home, practically with any dish that uses a diced onion. Garlic, for me is one of those ingredients (much like the bay leaf) that you don’t notice when it’s there, but you notice when it’s not there – it really can take a meal from A to B in terms of flavour.

I hadn’t grown garlic for over a year, and when I did I grew Casablanca – which is the variety you’re more likely to see in garden centre post Christmas.

Richard, author of Sharpen Your Spades has outlined a brief history of the humble bulb that’s been transforming meal times since the ancient Egyptians – definitely worth a read!

I’ve chosen to grow three types of garlic this autumn, each with their own promises and characteristics – with a view to harvest between June and August.

Germidour

Garlic Germidour is a soft neck variety that originates from France and is said to be well adapted to British conditions. The most striking thing about this particular bulb are the streaks of purple that smear the outer shells. They really do look like the type of garlic that will keep the vampires at bay! The purple stripes are typical of garlic that comes out of the Midi-Pyrénées region of France.

Cristo 

Cristo or, ‘Wight Cristo’ as it’s sometimes referred to is often recommended because of the reliable, bright white uniform crop that you’re rewarded with. The ‘Wight’/’white’ is a play on words and indicates that this garlic originates from the Isle of Wight. The origins of this garlic variety are illusive and even Wyevale Garden Centres claim that this variety is of French origin. ‘Cristo’ translates to Christ – so I’ll be interested the hear the back story if anyone out there knows more than I do. Cristo certainly had the strongest smell of the three I grew. Cristo is a soft-neck variety.

Thermidrome

And we’re back to France with Thermidrome garlic! Again, the origins of this soft neck garlic variety is sketchy at best. The only thing I can find online is that they come from Drôme in Southeastern France. That accounts for one half of the word – and ‘therm’ is the Latin root for temperature or heat, a little odd seeing as the climate is in Drôme doesn’t get that hot. Drome is the Latin root for running… I’m not sure where that comes in either… So, much like the Cristo, if you know the origin of this variety, please do leave a comment.

Planting Garlic

When you purchase your garlic, you’ll find they’re in bulbs of three or four, so you need to break them up into individual cloves. I chose to plant the cloves in a diamond formation so that you make the most of the bed that you’re growing garlic in. Ideally you need to allow around twelve inches between cloves so that each plant has a fair access to water and airflow and about three inches into the ground.

Tip: As a guide, twelve inches is about a trowels length. 

Finally, it’s common for birds to peck out the cloves, so a neat trick I learnt to help combat this was to make an X across the border with some string – the birds don’t like walking over beds with the string in place. I also do this for onions as well.

And that’s all there is to planting garlic, it’s very simple really! If you’re growing a different variety I’d love to know what type and your experience with them.