Growth in the Braidwood Garlic Growers

A workshop was held in the Braidwood Services Club on Friday 20 February to start up the 25th Anniversary Landcare Grant project to Grow the Braidwood Garlic Growers. 49 people packed the room. Experience ranged from decades of farming and garlic-growing, to garden-plot novices. Many had specialist experience with different varieties, techniques or markets. 

The workshop focused on explaining the project, describing how to participate, and what participants  will get from the project. Given the late start this season, the project will run over the 2015 and 2016 garlic seasons, with the focus this year on developing our local stocks of quality seed garlic. The big project opportunities for land managers are collectively sourcing seed, wholesale marketing and sharing information. Soil tests will be available, along with biodiversity assessments and support for native biodiversity plantings alongside garlic crops. 

Upper Shoalhaven Landcare Council gave out a project workbook to explain the project in detail and help growers to work out how much garlic they could plant, harvest and sell. Growers were encouraged to complete the workbook and use their results to sign up to the project. The sign-up form in the workbook enables growers to order seeds and to identify other resource needs that could be met collectively. Mulch, weed mat or other resources could also be bought in bulk.

Wholesale marketing issues were a hot topic, with many people wanting to work out the profitability of growing garlic. Wholesale markets are paying anywhere from $5-$35 per kg of garlic, so growers were keen to know how to get high prices. Timing and variety are not currently the big issues. The best prices are for garlic that is good looking, not cracking, clean and uniformly graded. 

Gilles Bonin and Carol Kindrachuk were two of the long-term local growers who attended, sharing tips and suggestions. Gilles made a case for growing just one variety, and recommended the Italian Purple Hardneck, which already does very well in the region and sells well. There are about 6 other garlic types also being grown locally, although most of us don’t know the exact garlic type in our plots. To identify your garlic, let 10 garlic bulbs grow out completely this year. Some project resources will be used to identify specimens once they have flowered and seeded. 

There is one serious garlic disease present in the local area and it needs to be controlled from the start. White Rot is a fungal disease causing leaves to yellow, die back partially and wilt, and the roots to rot. White rot sclerotia can lie dormant in soil for 20 to 40 years, waiting to detect the scent of a growing allium root to break their dormancy. These sclerotia are not wind or water borne, but are most frequently relocated by farmers moving onions, garlic or contaminated soil or tools. It is essential to wash down equipment thoroughly if moving it between sites. Project organisers are currently arranging biosecurity information sessions to help prevent white rot. 

Some upcoming project dates are as follows. Seed must be ordered by 5 March, for pick-up on 11 or 12 March. More information, including biosecurity tips will be available at the Landcare stall at the Braidwood Show. 

The project website is http://www.uppershoalhavenlandcare.com.au/44-2/growing-the-braidwood-garlic-growers/ and the Braidgarlic forum allows growers to share information easily. Email upper.shoalhaven@gmail.com for more information, or to join the forum.

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