The year is flying by and with generally fine settled weather it is hard to believe that we are in the first month of winter and tomorrow marks the shortest day. It is usual here in Whanganui that the weather gets more wintery after the shortest day.
The shortest day is also associated with the planting of garlic.
The month of June is the main planting time for this frequently used culinary favourite.
The old adage is to plant your garlic on the shortest day and then harvest on the longest.
The window for planting and harvesting is in fact a lot longer with plantings being able to be made from April through into July.
This health giving food has become extremely popular in recent years as cooking shows and the like have shown the wide range of culinary dishes that garlic can be used in.
Growing your own garlic at home has risen in popularity along with all other home grown vegetables.
Garlic is easy to grow and suffers very few pest or disease problems and in fact the presence of it in your vegetable garden can actually help other vegetables with it showing to be beneficial when grown in close proximity to lettuce and cucumber plantings.
White garlic is the most commonly available and has a strong flavour. Elephant garlic has a strong garlic (but milder than other garlic) flavour. Interestingly it is not a true garlic but is in fact from the leek family. The cloves grow significantly larger than regular garlic, hence the name "elephant garlic".
Garlic is generally sold as bulbs which then should be broken up into individual cloves for planting. Garlic cloves should be spaced 10cm apart and approx 5cm deep. The soil should be loosened and dug over prior to planting. The soil should be fertile with good drainage. The addition of compost, blood and bone or potato food is advantageous.
Harvest is made in December or January when the tops start to fall over or brown off. At this time they should be pulled from the soil and allowed to dry in a sunny, well ventilated position for one to two weeks. Then they should be placed in a dark, dry, well ventilated location where they will store for up to a year.
June is a busy month in the world of gardening and in garden centres. This first month of winter is the main season for receiving deliveries from production nurseries that specialise in "field grown" plants. Plant lines that are field grown are frequently only seasonally available in stores. The main plants that are field grown in New Zealand include roses, deciduous trees and fruits.
Field grown plants are those that as the name suggests are grown in rows out in a field until they reach the desired size for selling to home gardeners. These plants are "lifted" and potted for delivery through garden centres during June and July. The timing is critical and matched to this time of year when plants are in a slower growth phase or in fact dormant.
The cooler temperatures, reduced sunshine hours and more frequent wet weather all conspire to minimise water loss from the plant. This is particularly important given that the plant's roots will have been cut during the lifting process and will be recovering from being transplanted.
So if you are looking for a rose, wanting to plant a home orchard, or trees for shade, shelter or show, then the next month or so is the best time to be searching garden stores. If you want a wide selection to choose from, then get in quick. Numbers are limited of many lines.
Another aspect of June is planning ahead. One of those plants that requires forward thinking is the planting of bulbs. We have just passed the spring bulb planting season and are about to start the summer flowering bulb planting season. The first of these into stores are the lily bulbs.
Most know the Christmas Lily, though there are many other very worthy colours, shapes and sizes in lilies that can be grown very easily. Lilies are generally classified as Asiatic or Oriental. Asiatic lilies are generally earlier flowering and there is a larger colour range to choose from; most are not scented.
Asiatic lilies tend to multiply much faster than oriental types. While oriental lilies are a bit later flowering, the flowers tend to be larger and scented. Planting some of each will give you a longer flowering season. These are well worth planting for some summer flowering colour.
Lily bulbs are due into store in the next couple of weeks. Planted during July, these will sprout during the late winter then they will grow during spring and commence flowering around December. Lilies are easy to grow and can be left in the ground for a number of years. Each year the clumps of bulbs will increase as will the subsequent number of blooms.
They grow best in a sunny situation with rich, well drained soil. For great results lilies should be fed with bulb fertiliser three times a year - once at planting, once before flowering and once after flowering when the plants are storing energy for flowering the following year. Care should be taken to ensure the fertiliser does not come into direct contact with the bulbs.
• Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre