For many years my brother and I have tended a fairly large productive garden, mainly of vegetables and fruit.  The area was about one-sixth of an acre, and on my retirement (aged 65) it was gradually increased to approximately a half acre.  With the help of freezers, it provided all out required vegetables.  Home grown organic produce takes some beating and the surplus is always welcomed by your friends.

Unfortunately about two years ago, old age struck for both of us, and with periods in hospital, visits to doctors and clinics etc, as well as certain incapacities, these have taken their toll.  The result in the garden is disastrous.  Last year very little effective gardening was accomplished.

It was mainly late March before I was fit to do any effective work, and so expectation of a full cropping was a 'no go'.  I found that practical digging was a non-starter, so had to try something else.

Luckily my soil is easily worked, being officially classed as Downholland silt.  This is silty loam.  The loam soil is on average 2-3 feet deep on clay in some parts and sand in others.  Fortunately a solid plough pan which existed under the cultivated soil has been broken;  most of the vegetable growing areas have had bastard trenching (2 spits deep) carried out in turn within the last few years.  It has had plenty of organic matter in the past in the form of horse manure.

In my next articles I shall deal with my methods of cultivation of various crops, and comment on the result.  I am at present aiming to grow those crops which are our main requirements

I am dealing with GARLIC first.  It is a very important crop as we use quite a lot in cooking meats etc, and also in some chutneys

This was a sole attempt last October to try out my ability for gardening.  Digging was a non-starter at that time, so after choosing a site that was fairly free of perennial weeds and had just previously grown potatoes, I hoed the weeds and carefully raked and removed them to a compost heap.  The bed was then loosened by pushing in a digging fork to its full depth at a distance of about 6" apart, the shaft levered backward to loosen the soil without turning it.  A 6 foot wide strip was treated in this way.  I then worked through the patch with a three-pronged cultivator (a five-pronged type with the two intermediate tines removed), my most used tool, and raked the surface.  The garlic cloves were planted out at 6" apart in rows 12" apart.  The plot was kept hoed and given a dressing of chicken pellets in February, and another at the beginning of April.

Most garlic varieties need planting between late September and mid-November to make a good root-run, and generally need a period of frost before the end of January.  This seems to be essential for a good crop, together with a suitable rainy period occasionally to keep the soil moist.  Contrary to what I read in books, I find that garlic - like onions - requires plenty of organic matter in the soil.  With my method of loosening the soil with the fork it was impossible to include any organic manure.

The garlic never really flourished, but was harvested at the end of June and was just about acceptable.  Many of the plants only produced one fairly large clove.  According to some authorities this is due to the lack of a frosty period.  Possible reasons for the poorish crop:

1               Lack of organic manure
2               Lack of pre-Christmas frosts
3               Lack of water at crucial times
4               Weather conditions generally

Next time, perhaps, with improvements in cultivation methods which are now possible and weather permitting, we may get a better crop.