Bruce and Jeannette Dodds’ Georgian Fire garlic. (Mary Lowther photo)

Bruce and Jeannette Dodds’ Georgian Fire garlic. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Garlic mould forces big move

Lovely bed, three feet wide and 60 feet long that gets lots of sun

By Mary Lowther

I hate to admit this, but I had to buy seed garlic this year. After 14 years of growing garlic in this yard, my soil became contaminated with garlic mould and I had to harvest the crop in June before it all got rotten. I had planted a third of the crop in September and when it got mouldy in June, I yanked out all the garlic, even the ones I had planted in October before they all went mouldy.

The garlic was pretty small and we’ve eaten it all. The garlic seed I had been growing out into small garlic bulbs still looks good, but I can’t risk contaminating a new bed with mould spores that might be clinging to these bulblets.

So I’ve had to buy more garlic bulbs. These should be OK in their new digs down the road where David bought too much land and now I’m having to garden way more than I had planned on in my old age. The land is in full sun, the soil is sand clear through to China but we have amended it for the past two years with cover crop that David had to buy a tractor to cut down and till in. It’s OK though, because although he’s an old dog and this is a new trick, he’s a smart old dog and has figured out how to manipulate the machine. Not me though, because a wise woman knows her limitations, and I have a lot of them.

We bought Georgian Fire garlic from Bruce and Jeannette Dodds in Lake Cowichan, but it was their last batch. This stuff is beautiful! Bruce has been growing it for 40 years and it’s still great. Bruce digs a hole six inches deep, drops a bit of bone meal into that, then the garlic clove, covers it up and sprinkles kelp meal over the soil. Then he covers all that with three inches of mulch, either chopped leaves or straw. Bruce gets great tips from the Rasa Garlic Farm in Lumby, B.C. Here’s their website: http://www.rasacreekfarm.com/resources/rasa-garlic-growers

David bought a ton of composted chicken manure and used some of it to make a lovely bed, three feet wide and 60 feet long that gets lots of sun, so all I had to do was go down the bed and poke holes every six inches in three rows about 10 inches apart. Then I took apart each bulb and dropped a clove, root-side down into each hole and raked over the soil. It’s too late to put bone meal into each hole, so I’ll add some to the soil along with some kelp and scratch that in. Then I’ll mulch the bed, even though in the past I haven’t mulched anything over winter. Hey, you can’t argue with what works.

Once new growth appears next spring, I’ll sprinkle organic fertilizer down both sides of each row and scratch it in with a hoe. If it’s a wet spring like this year, I don’t plan on watering at all, but if the garlic leaves look parched, I’ll water them with soaker hoses for half an hour every four days until mid-July. I’ll continue to fertilize every three weeks and spray with compost tea every two weeks. Come to think of it, I didn’t use compost tea spray this year because I was too busy with the land down the road, so maybe the tea helps prevent the mould. I’ll pray to the Garden Goddess too just to cover all my bases.

My small bed of garlic in the back yard going mouldy was not a disaster, but 60 feet of it would be a different story so I must make sure these ones turn out great. OK, I’ll settle for good enough.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Columngardening