Living in an apartment with a terrace in the inner city is a joy for many reasons. There is one dilemma – the edible garden. There is a tiny community garden on the nature strip close by that is lush, green and from which I occasionally pinch some sage. However there is nothing like having a few items on your terrace that you can gather mid cooking and impress your friends (or just yourself) with “this was growing 30 minutes ago”.
This year I planted garlic for the first time. Garlic seemed to be the right thing to plant. I put garlic in practically everything. Last year for Christmas my father gave my sister and I each a plait of garlic (the leaves are plaited and heads emerge at the end) from his garden. Even though he is 90 years of age, he is still an avid gardener. He wisely told me to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest day of the year. He gets his love of gardening from his nonna (probably born in around 1870), who had a huge garden filled with beans, artichokes, tomatoes, parsley and of course garlic, in Pola (Italy back then, now Croatia), near the famous arena from Roman times.
Armed with ancient garlic growing knowledge, and not to be daunted by my 4m x 4m terrace, I set about planting garlic in June. My husband Mark made a planter box out of recycled wood; I lined it with pond liner (which I had perforated for drainage) and filled it with soil rich in worm castings. I planted 16 bulbs. “Make sure it doesn’t get too much water” my father warned me.
Harvest time in December yielded 5 tiny heads of garlic. They were very tasty though I would have hoped for more! I blame the excessive Melbourne rain and the poor drainage (I need to re-think the pond liner or perforate it more perhaps). The largest head had 4 separate and fragrant cloves and the whole lot went into a rather delicious chicken and pork terrine I made for Christmas lunch.
Next year I am hoping the ancient wisdom from my nonna-bis (great grandmother) in Pola will guide me to harvest 16 beautiful heads of garlic grown on my inner city terrace!