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Goldfields gardens: why garlic is a miracle cure for yourself and your garden pest problems

Garlic (Allium sativum) originated in central Asia thousands of years ago.

The Greeks used it 2500 years ago to treat parasites, respiratory infections and digestive problems.

In Australia, four varieties are commonly grown.

Most bulbs contain 10 cloves, covered by a papery shell.

Garlic prefers a friable loam rich in organic matter, pH 6.5-7. Choose a sunny spot with good airflow.

Practise crop rotation to deter root rot transfer. I dig in mustard greens before planting to prevent nematode root interference.

You’ll need to hurry to plant this season. Don’t use supermarket garlic, often bleached, irradiated, sprayed with maleic acid to stop sprouting, and kept for months in cold storage.

What to plant this week

  • Brussels
  • Sprouts
  • Celery
  • Leeks
  • Borage
  • Basil

Imported garlic must be sprayed with methyl bromide, a biocide (Australian Customs regulations).

Buy planting garlic from a nursery or a WA farm.

Look for firm, well-shaped cloves, unbruised or discoloured with no visible green shoots.

Refrigerate bulbs for a week to break dormancy.

Separate cloves and plant upright, 2-3cm deep and 10cm apart.

Some gardeners soak bulbs in seaweed solution to help root development. You can add a teaspoon of bicarb to prevent fungal growth.

Water in well and mulch lightly.

Tip of the week

  • Basil improves the flavour of lettuce growing nearby while also repelling mosquitoes.

Water again when the sprouts appear, but avoid overhead watering.

Set up a drip-watering system.

Side-dress monthly with a liquid fertiliser. Potash builds bigger leaves and bulbs and phosphorus helps root development.

Stop fertilising when bulbs develop.

It takes six to nine months for garlic to mature.

Stop watering to avoid soot infection when the bulbs are a decent size and you can feel the clove ridges.

Harvest when the leaves start to die back. Dig under each bulb and lift from underneath. Don’t pull up by the stem. Do not wash.

Hang garlic in a light, airy spot for six weeks. Store intact in a cool, dry spot. Don’t store in plastic bags, in the refrigerator, or next to ginger (as it dehydrates garlic). Warmth and humidity encourage mould. Garlic lasts six or seven months if stored well. Peeled individual cloves keep well in an airtight jar in the fridge.

Hold back garlic for next year’s planting. The bigger the clove you plant, the bigger your bulbs will be.

If your crop has mites, do not replant. Your plant has mites if young shoots emerge streaky and twisted, but then develop normally.

You can eat garlic any time from sprouting through to harvest, raw, roasted, braised, stewed or stir-fried.

Garlic is a brilliant companion plant, deterring aphids, stink bugs, red spider mites, thrips and caterpillars, and preventing black spot. The sulphur secreted by garlic supposedly improves the scent of roses.

Garlic spray is effective against pests, fungal diseases, and dampening off of seedlings.

Quick garlic spray recipe: Roughly chop 10 cloves of garlic. Steep overnight in 1 litre of warm water. Strain and use within a few days.

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