Barlow Nurseries

Growers of trees, shrubs and hardy herbaceous perennial garden plants near Newport, Shropshire

Volunteer garlic *

Looking good....

2012 plants looking good....

Our garlic was a disaster last year.

Not one of the (many) cloves we planted made it to bulb status, and 2011 saw not a single meal flavoured with home grown garlic.

It was our own fault.

Garlic needs frost, and we’d left planting it until March; if luck had been with us we’d have had a few late frosts (it must be a sign of the times when post-March frosts can be described as “late”) but last spring was exceptionally mild (and dry) and the garlic clearly wasn’t having any of it. Some of the cloves we planted threw up rudimentary leaves, but that’s all they managed; after a couple of months sulkily doing nothing more, they withered and died.

This year we were determined to get it right, and we had our garlic in the ground by early February. We’ve had plenty of sub-zero nights since, and the 2012 garlic is looking good….but somewhat surprisingly, so is some of the stuff we planted a year ago.

We thought we’d cleared the bed of all the failed cloves, but it was hard to be sure once they’d popped their clogs and disappeared back underground, and we clearly made a pretty poor job of it. You can see from the photo below that quite a few have been quietly biding their time, and are now having a second go at growing. And judging by the number of leaves being thrown up, some of the cloves had made at least a rudimentary attempt at forming bulbs.

2011 sowings looking good too ?

2011 sowings hanging in there

So are we set for a double crop of garlic this year? Have the 2011 cloves really survived 12 months in the soil? Will they make it to harvestable bulbs? Honestly, we have no idea, but we haven’t the heart to pull them up, so watch this space!

* Everyone likes a bit of jargon don’t they? The more arcane the better of course, and if it has no intuitive meaning either, you’re off to buzz-word heaven.

If you’re not a farmer, agronomist, or hobby reader of agrochemical data sheets, you’ve probably never had the urge to refer to any of your horticultural offspring as “volunteers”.

We’re neither farmers nor agronomists, but we have been known to browse the occasional agrochemical manual, and have been entertained by the idea that the remnants of an earlier crop germinating amongst a newly sown one are known (for no immediately fathomable reason) as “volunteers”. The jargon is usually on an agricultural scale of course, and refers to “volunteer cereals” or “potato volunteers”, but we guess they won’t mind us borrowing their term.

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