Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A Cautionary Tale of Exhausted Soil ....

Boo - my poor garlic! Last year I grew Parmex carrots in a tub (small, round carrots, designed for pots and grow bags, this year we've progressed to HoneySnack in the ground) After the carrots had gone the tub languished empty over winter. Around December/January I cleared out the veg bed and discovered a couple of heads of garlic I'd forgotton about whose cloves were putting down roots. They couldn't stay in the beds as I planned to dig it over and plant green manure but it seemed a shame to waste them if I could get another garlic crop. More in hope than expection I stuck them into the empty carrot box over winter.

I've never grown veg over the winter, though if the allotment goes through in Autumn that'll change this year, so I wasn't sure how long they'd need in the ground. A week or two ago I also threw some homeless lollo rosso seedlings into the box and I've noticed that although they're alive and looking healthy they haven't increased in size, the garlic leaves were also beginning to look a bit yellowed and beginning to die back. This can be a sign that the garlic's ready to harvest so I poked experimentally around one of the garlic bulbs and was dismayed to discover it was still tiny, not much bigger than an individual clove, though it had an enormous root system.

The obvious conclusion is that this is down to poor soil in the tub. The carrot crop probably absorbed all the nutrients leaving none to nourish the garlic or lettuce. I think the over developed root system is probably a sign of the plant searching for nutrients deeper in the soil.

My plan is to take out the old soil and give it to the chickens to use as a dustbath, replace with new soil and add in a bit of manure too. I'll re-plant the Lollo Rosso and use up the rest of the space with the Basil seedlings who are crowding out of their pots in the mini greenhouse. I may be out of garlic but hopefully a bumper basil crop this year will compensate - now I just need the weather to co-operate.

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