Have you planted your garlic yet?

Cover: Garlic, The Mighty BulbI’m hoping that maybe you haven’t planted your garlic yet… We were getting ready to do this, and then luckily saw the weather forecast before we made firm plans. I think if we had gone ahead, our garlic might have been washed out to sea in the deluge and may have decided to swim to Australia to seek some warmer weather!

Everyone seems to have a different idea about when the best time to plant garlic is. The first time we planted it was on the 21st of June several years ago. It is an easy date to remember, being the shortest day, and because we had good results we’ve always aimed for that date (weather permitting).

I love planting garlic, mainly because there’s not really that much that you can do wrong. It just seems to need a sunny spot, a bit of moisture, and away it goes. It is usually ready in about 6-7 months, which is conveniently just in time for the barbecue season, and there’s just something so satisfying about growing your own. It looks great when it is braided too, although I seem to end up with more of a knotty mess myself.

Anyway, this got me thinking that I must check and see what else I should get ready to plant over the next few months. We always seem to plant the same things, so I really need to branch out (pardon the pun!).The Good Life

There’s always the Yates Garden Guide of course, which is great for practical gardening advice, but I decided to check our catalogue for inspiration, and The Good Life caught my eye. Having watched the Good Life TV series when I was growing up, the title evoked some great memories and it just sounded too good to miss!

It is hot off the press, published earlier this year, and a quick flick through it suggests that it’s just the ticket. It is divided up into seasons and I’ve instantly spotted a couple of recipes that I’ll be keen to try, including pickled garlic, and pickled nasturtium seeds (otherwise known as poor man’s capers).  There look to be some good tips in there which I’ll soak up – gardening just seems to be one of those areas where you are continually learning. Maybe that is part of what makes it so much fun!

The only downside to this book is that every time I pick it up and see the title I hear the theme song for the Good Life TV series in my head!  Just in case you want a dose of nostalgia, you’ll be glad to know that we have the Good Life TV series available at our libraries on DVD.

If you have any experiences about planting garlic or about your own good life that you would like to share then we would love to hear your comments.

Gardening and the Bibliophile

CoverAt this time of year – particularly with the weather we’ve been having – it’s rare to get a sunny weekend day to spend in the garden. So what’s a librarian-gardener to do but curl up with a few good garden books and plan ahead for the spring and summer months?

I always know I’ve met a really, really good book when I find myself gripped by the (occasionally socially inappropriate) desire to seize upon anyone nearby and say “You must read this!” One author who consistently provokes this reaction in me is Michael Pollan. He is better known for his thought-provoking books on food politics The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defence of Food and, most recently, Food Rules: an eater’s manual (which is far more amusing and engaging than it sounds), but his earlier memoir Second Nature: a gardener’s education is not to be missed.

His gently humorous, wise descriptions of his own gardening experiences – and the way we as a society see our gardens – had me alternately laughing out loud and pausing in that middle-distance-y kind of thoughtfulness that a really good read occasionally provokes. It’s a lovely book for a gardener to curl up with on a winter’s night and ponder how the garden, as concept and reality, enriches, educates and (occasionally) humbles us.

The occasional sunny winter’s day, however, inevitably makes the gardener itch to get out there and do something. One thing you can do in the garden now, despite the weather (providing your garden isn’t completely waterlogged) is plant garlic. Garlic is incredibly easy to grow from cloves and traditionally gets planted right about now. Just make sure you buy seed garlic or organic garlic, as most of the other stuff has been treated with a sprouting retardant.

By the way, tradition tells us to plant garlic at midwinter and harvest at midsummer, but really there’s a bit more leeway than this. You can plant your garlic at least a month either side of midwinter (the key thing to remember is that garlic likes frosts but hates being waterlogged) and if you want your garlic to store you’re actually better to leave your garlic in the ground until around late January – early February in Christchurch. I tend to think of the traditional guideline as being more about the actual coldest and hottest parts of the year rather than the calendar solstices.

I recently came across the beautifully illustrated Complete Book of Garlic in our collections and I’ve now read more than I ever thought I didn’t know about the history, cultivars, growth and use across the world of this pungent bulb. My three varieties of garlic cloves have been planted with enthusiasm and I’m now looking forward to the coming summer’s tasty crop!

For more inspiration about things to do in your garden in winter, check out our newly updated Winter Gardening Guide. You might also want to take a look at our digital audiobook lending service, Overdrive, for an electronic copy of The Botany of Desire.