Midway mark for the garlic, onions and leeks

The allium family – chives, garlic, onions, leek – are the slow-growers of the vegetable world, needing six months from mid-winter to mid-summer to mature. As September rolls to an end and Spring is all around, three months of those six are now behind us since garlic-planting took place on the shortest day of the Australian year – the 21st of June.

Onions, leeks and garlic planted three months ago along drip-lines are to be packed around with pea-straw to hold in what will probably prove to be the last of the winter rains.

That the allium bed is in such good shape owes everything to the cook this year; she weeded nettles from the bed when the onions and garlic were small and vulnerable and so gave them a chance to survive.

In the past week we’ve been blessed with 35 mm of rain; today she was out there once more, packing pea-straw mulch between the rows to lock that rainfall into the soil against the coming heat.

Fitting perfectly between the rows, the cook lays blocks of pea-straw mulch delicately between rows of onions. Note the yellow-flowers of a 'kale' plant in the foreground, saved for seed, and the lettuces doing well among the garlic. There's no need to be a purist in a kitchen garden; what grows and has value gets to stay on.

And why is the cook doing this, not the gardener? While it’s true that she’s half my weight, twice as flexible and has four times the stamina, its a matter of logistics – at this time of year, the pressure to get crops in needs both cook and gardener. So there’s a ‘trade’ going on; the gardener is chain-sawing and mulching trees that the cook wanted sorted for her flower garden, so the heavy labour is elsewhere…

And the grapevines planted and mulched last week? Perfect timing for once; the rain soaked through the pea-straw and they’re doing well.

Barely visible against the background of pea-straw mulch, sixteen Isabella table grapevines have struck and are holding their own in the enclosed orchard next to the allium bed



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