Take garlic to the next level: this week’s garden tasks – Stuff


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JANE USSHER/NZ GARDENER/StuffSmoking garlic in a hot smoker.Take your garlic harvest to the next level Smoked garlic lends a delicate, subtle flavour to simple dishes, especially pasta, risotto, sauces and dips. It’s easy to smoke garlic yourself if you have a smoker. These instructions are for a hot smoker. If you have a cold smoker that’s even better as it will impart a stronger, smokier flavour to the garlic. If you don’t have a smoker, adapt an old electric frying pan. Line the base with tin foil, add a shallow layer of smoking chips and top with a small cake rake and the prepared garlic. Plug in and heat on high until the chips smoke. Do this outside and don’t leave it unattended. To smoke garlic, take whole bulbs and remove the papery outer layers of skin, leaving the thicker skin on, so the bulbs stay intact. Set the smoker up for about a ten-minute smoke time. Place the bulbs on the rack inside the smoker tip down so the smoke can penetrate the insides properly. Leave the bulbs to smoke gently. Allow the bulbs to cool on the rack inside the smoker before removing them. During the smoking process the oils inside the garlic will have converted to sugar, which sometimes sticks as it runs. Squeeze the smoked, now softened, cloves from their skins and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Prepared smoked garlic will keep for up to month if covered with oil in a glass jar. READ MORE: Recipes: Slow-roasted tomato passata Organic apple orchard gears up production of cider and vinegar The whakapapa of soil PIXABAY/StuffLettuces grow better and are less likely to bolt in cooler weather. Vegetables to sow and transplant in March Summer crops will still be cropping but no matter how warm it feels where you are, they’ll all be over soon! As you pull out your tomatoes, peppers, beans and eggplants, fill any gaps with veges for winter and spring harvests. Remember to protect all brassica seedlings from cabbage white butterflies which are still on the wing looking for places to lay eggs. Cover them with a physical barrier such as a net curtain or horticultural mesh. Seeds to sow in the north/frost-free areas: Beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots, Chinese cabbages, kohlrabi, leeks, all types of lettuces, New Zealand spinach, radishes, silverbeet, spinach and spring onions. Seeds to sow in the south/cold inland areas: Beetroot, bok choy, carrots, kohlrabi, peas, silverbeet and turnips. Punnets/seedlings to plant in the north/frost-free areas: Broccoli, cauliflower, celery, coriander, lettuces, New Zealand spinach, rhubarb, spinach and silverbeet. Punnets/seedlings to plant in the south/cold inland areas: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflowers, celery, lettuces and spinach.How to grow cover crops, aka green manure, and why you should. Fill any other gaps with green crops A Canterbury study found that green crops, also known as cover crops, need to be sown as early as possible to maximise their effect on the soil. The type you use depends on what you’ve been growing and what you plan to grow. Mustard is a brassica, for instance, so don’t use it as a green crop in a bed where you plan to grow cabbages and broccoli. Green crops keep down weeds, add organic matter to the soil, help retain water and can also be used to “sterilise” your soil to a degree if you’ve had a problem with a soil-dwelling pathogen – mustard and daikon radishes both have a natural biofumigant effect (although be aware they’ll kill any good guys in the soil too). Daikon are a good choice if you want to break up compacted soil – leave them in the ground to rot and they’ll leave behind the holes they have drilled.PIXABAY/StuffHarvest passionfruit when the skins turn purple. Have you got a bumper crop of passionfruit? Passionfruit are ready to pick when dusky purple, fragrant and easily pulled free from the stem. Tradition has it that they’re not properly ripe until wrinkly, but this is more a sign that they’ve been off the vine for a while and are starting to dry out. They sweeten as they shrivel, but this doesn’t always equate with good flavour. Scooping the pulp into ice cube trays and freezing it is one way of storing a glut, but there is an even easier method if you’ve got spare space in the freezer. Freeze the fruit whole, skin and all. When you want them, just cut them in half and scoop out the frozen flesh. Don’t wait until the skins thaw. Cut them straight away to avoid a big purple stain on your chopping board.MIANSARI66/ WIKIMEDIA/StuffWhip up a batch of harissa paste with homegrown chillies and coriander. Grow coriander from seed Coriander is a great shoulder season crop as it is less likely to bolt in a matter of days now that cooler weather is on the way. Sow in succession – a few seeds every week over autumn. If you have old plants that have bolted, then harvest the seed – just place a paper bag over the seedhead and shake, then allow the seed to dry. You can plant it; but the seed is edible too. It’s used in curries, rubs for grilled meats and vegetables. For the best flavour, toast over a gentle heat in a small frying pan until aromatic and starting to pop. Watch carefully and shake the pan occasionally so the seeds don't burn. Grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Coriander seeds and leaves are essential ingredients in harissa paste, along with chillies, garlic, cumin, salt, mint and olive oil. Harissa adds a tasty kick to soups, eggs, couscous, bean dishes, grilled veges and meat. There are many recipes online. Read more: PIXABAY/StuffCompost is ready to use when it looks dark and crumbly and has an earthy smell. Water your compost heap A compost heap needs moisture during dry, hot weather just as much as garden beds. All the minibeasts and creepy crawlies that work there, along with fungi and bacteria, need water in order to survive and operate effectively. Compost can get so dry that it becomes hydrophobic and repels water instead of absorbing it. Watering from the top may not be enough to dampen the whole heap as water will just run straight through. Turn the heap and dampen each layer as you go. Add some dolomite lime, sheep pellets or blood and bone between each layer to kick start the heap back into action. Make room for the bounty of autumn leaves that will be coming soon. Any compost that’s ready to use can be spread over garden beds as summer crops are taken out. Dig it in if you must, but I prefer to leave the soil undisturbed and let the worms and soil microbes do the job. Gardening by the moon On March 4 do odd jobs and get ready for the fertile period ahead. Cultivate, apply fertiliser and tackle weeds before they set seed. From March 5 to 15 plant fruit trees, take cuttings and plant leafy veges such as kale, kohlrabi, and spinach. Gardening by the maramataka We are approaching the autumn season. Officially, the new moon falls on March 3 and the windy equinoxal period (Tamatea phase) from the 8th and lasting several days. Support your plants and crops if they are vulnerable. Following the Tamatea phase, you can begin to collect kākano (seeds) to save for the next season. The winds of Tāwhirimātea (the god of weather) will have ensured they are at the appropriate dryness for storage. For shorter term crops, you can collect seeds at your leisure. This month has an emphasis on harvest, especially the root crops such as kūmara and taewa. Prepare your crops for the hauhake (harvest) through reduced or even no irrigation, and clearing top growth for promoting skin quality. You need to also be preparing the storage facility – a place free of pest or disease, and has an ambient and settled temperature – for both produce and seeds. They need to get through winter without negative impacts on their quality. Dr Nick Roskruge
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