While we are currently in the grip of a mini-arctic chill wind, winter is loosening its grip and my miniature daffodils are in full bloom, a welcome sight.
Given the cold, I'm slightly behind where I would like to be at this time of year, so need to get on with the early plantings. First up, garlic. As a keen vegetable grower, I sometimes find it surprising that people generally do not know how to grow garlic, so here's a handy guide to planting garlic.
First, terminology. A garlic bulb is the large thing you buy in shops, garlic cloves are the small pieces which make up a bulb. You should not plant a whole bulb! Instead split the bulb into the cloves, they will be different sizes depending on where on the bulb they have come from but this is normal. Getting the right variety is also important, using a mediterranean variety in northern Europe is unlikely to produce well. And don't try supermarket garlic. Best to pick a variety grown for the area, in the UK a lot of garlic is grown on the Isle of Wight and this has given its name to a few varieties.
The one I use is Picardy Wight which tends to do well for me. If you're planting garlic for the first time, the next thing you need to know is which way up - pointy end top, flat end bottom. The roots grow from the flat end. Some of my cloves had just started to sprout from the top so they were ready to go in now. If you plant it pointy end down or sideways they will still grow but may be a bit delayed as the plant has to right itself, and they will also be more vulnerable to the stalk rotting underground.
In the picture at the beginning you will see a long metal dibber, this is what I use to make the holes for the cloves to go in, they need to go in a few centimetres down with the pointy end up.
I buy three bulbs which gives 45-50 cloves which should grow into 45-50 garlic bulbs. I make all the holes first, they need to be a good distance apart, at least 15cm. I did 2 rows, popped all the cloves in and then raked the surface to fill the holes gently, if you compact the soil it will be harder for the plants to break through. Any decent soil will grow garlic, just don't use freshly manured ground.
Once planted, I put a cloche back on (it had been on for a week before planting) to keep the cold and wet off the bulbs. In a few weeks I will also do an early sowing of rocket and lettuce along the edge of the garlic under this cloche. They will stay under here until late April, depending on the weather.
Fifteen years ago I planted a loganberry which then proceeded to do absolutely nothing until last year when it put out a lot of shoots and produced some berries. I noticed that I have even more flowering shoots this year, they flower on shoots grown the previous year. So I have tied these in along the wall. As the wall is drystone, I put some old canes in between the stones and tied them on there. Once they have settled I will snip the canes off a bit so I don't poke my eyes out! This wall gets a lot of sun and so they should ripen well.
Everywhere I went today I was accompanied by the bird I am starting to think of as "my" robin. He either perched on a branch above me or bounced around my feet looking for easy pickings. I do hope he finds a lady robin, it will be nice to have a nest of robins on the plot.
Last job of the day was to pick up the litter thrown over the wall during the winter. This year we have a broken car mirror, some wire wool, some tin foil, an empty packet of Aero bubbles, a beer can and a wine bottle!