GARDENING MINE is probably not a technique which would gain the favour of garlic entrepreneur Colin Boswell but his daughter, Natasha, would undoubtedly approve.
It is a food-for-free way of getting maximum bangs for your bucks out of buying garlic bulbs.
Colin has made his living out of selling garlic bulbs from his family farm in Newchurch while his daughter has researched the various uses to which garlic can be put for her new book, Garlic: The Mighty Bulb.
I like to spend very little on garlic bulbs and put them to maximum use.
My method in recent years has been to buy two of Colin’s fine bulbs and plant the cloves in autumn.
Twelve months later at harvest time, I take all but three or four of the bulbs, dry them and use them.
The remaining bulbs can be left in the ground where they will throw up shoots from each clove.
And, round about now, they can be separated and re-planted in a new spot to start the process again — a sort of gardening perpetual motion, which costs nothing.
For the first time this year, I am re-planting the stems in some free space in the grow-mat I have previously used for onions.
Like its onion and leek relatives, garlic does not respond well to weed competitors for moisture and nutrient and a weed-mat is an excellent way of fighting off competitor weeds.
Those stems which are not re-planted can be used to produce what in Spain is known as spring garlic, which can be chopped and used as a strong-tasting (but mild, for garlic) addition to a stir fry or whatever.
Garlic can be grown in a wide range of soils but prefers a free-draining loam high in organic matter. If well-rotted manure or seaweed is not available, then a generous application of a general purpose fertiliser, such as Growmore, should be raked in immediately prior to planting and again a couple of months later.
Ideally, plant the bulbs six inches apart with 18ins between rows — any closer and bulbs will tend to be smaller.
Natasha’s book concentrates on garlic recipes but includes health benefits, growing tips and the history of this powerful ingredient.
Natasha had garlic coursing through her veins, growing up on her parents’ Garlic Farm at Newchurch.
She is no stranger to the astonishing healing powers of garlic or to its vital role in cooking.
Associated with so many cuisines, garlic has long been established as a favourite ingredient for cooking, so much so that most kitchens would be bare without it.
Study it further and you will discover that alongside its abundance of flavour are vital health benefits.
It is said to be anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, and can strengthen immune systems, reduce high blood pressure and even reduce the risk of developing certain cancers.
Divided into five sections, the main part of the book offers 40 recipes, from classics such as pesto, hummus and aioli, to dishes of oak-smoked garlic dauphinoise, garlic, cumin and beetroot fritters, som tam and Asian fish parcel.
Alongside this are detailed chapters on the origins and cultivation of garlic, the best varieties to grow (there are literally hundreds to choose from), garlic for health and using it in home remedies.
With all your frequently asked questions on garlic answered and plenty of tips, tricks and hints for the best way to use, cook and heal with garlic, this comprehensive and fascinating guide will make us look at this humble bulb in a whole new light.
Natasha was previously the author of The Garlic Farm Cookbook (2010). In 2011, The Garlic Farm won its seventh consecutive gold medal at the Hampton Court Flower Show. Each year it grows 60 acres of garlic — that’s about 200 tonnes or 2.5 million bulbs. The biggest variety is elephant garlic bulbs, which weigh more than half a kilo and measure 15cm across.
Published by Kyle Books, Natasha’s new book, Garlic: The Mighty Bulb, costs £14.99. She is staging a book signing at the Garlic Farm on Saturday from noon to 2pm.
Natasha’s book has a foreword by her father and an introduction by chef, barrister and general huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ type Clarissa Dickson Wright.
Magnificent magnolia’s short-lived burst of colour
JOAN Crosley is rightly proud of her magnificent magnolia.
The plant lights up her Pitts Lane garden at Binstead but, as with all the brightest stars, it does not ‘burn’ longest.
This was a great year for magnolia blooms but a few chill nights and the rustle of a bit of a breeze and within a couple of weeks the lawn was a carpet of petals as leaves took the place of the beautiful flowers.
But, as an early entree to warmer weather, there are few finer sights in the garden than that unusual group which flower in spring before leaves are borne.
I am grateful to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) for this advice.
The RHS says a south-facing planting gives the best growth and flowering, and magnolias thrive in any fertile, moist, garden soil that is not dry and alkaline.
For dry, alkaline soils consider the evergreen magnolia grandiflora and M. delavayi.
On moist, alkaline soils try M. kobus, M. × loebneri, M. seiboldii, M. stellata and M. wilsonii. Both magnolia grandiflora and M. virginiana will tolerate wet soils
Some later-flowering deciduous species, such as M. wilsonii and M. sieboldii, will enjoy light dappled shade
A sheltered site is important. M. grandiflora and M. delavayi grow best on a warm wall.
Grandiflora was a favourite of the Victorians, who planted it against the south-facing walls of homes.
It is shallow rooted and is a choice for planting close to walls because it is unlikely to cause damage to foundations.
But for that reason it is not especially ‘windfirm’ and may need staking when planted in the open, even when quite mature.
Grandiflora is the most commonly grown evergreen, flowering in flushes from summer until early autumn. In warm summers, these can be followed by striking knobbly seedpods from which bright red seeds emerge in autumn.
And this warm winter I heard of several magnolias producing Christmas ‘presents’ — a gift of magnificent blooms.