Ah, garlic.

For years now, I’ve been trying to set myself up as a supplier of heritage seed garlic. Over that time, I’ve had very little success, and discovered a number of problems with that idea.

Firstly, I live quite far north – near Kerikeri – and it seems anyone who lives south of me is not going to get the same results from my seed garlic that I do, even on a good year.

Secondly, I keep getting hit with rust. The garlic-grower’s curse. At least in New Zealand. I’m not alone in this struggle and it’s so very frustrating.

I’ve experienced good years too. I’ve learned heaps about garlic. But this year’s harvest is probably one of the worst, and I just don’t know if I can do it again.

Last week I lifted my three turban varieties. We got some small bulbs, but many of them had split.

Split garlic without its outer wrapper.

The good news is these are still edible. I’m still deciding exactly what I’m going to do with them though.

About 3% of the stock has either a neck rot or basal plate (the bit between the garlic cloves and the roots) rot. It’s a lower number than in previous years, but it means I’m spending my weekend peeling and freezing the cloves I can save.

We have got some good garlic too – but it’s small (2cm-4cm), and there’s not a lot of it.

There’s still two varieties in the ground – Ajo Roja and Takahue. My hopes aren’t high for them if I’m honest.

In an ideal world, they need another month in the ground, but the rust is really taking over. I don’t know that they’ll get it.

So far, I haven’t seen a single bulb that’s made me think “oh, I’ll save that to grow next year”. They’re all very disappointing and I think I’m just at the end of my tether with this whole idea.

So I’m planning to take next year off, say goodbye to the collection, and give the garden a break from garlic.

I’ll focus on soil improvement for a year or two, then get some new stock from one of the several suppliers of heritage seed garlic I’ve found in the years since I began.

Te Mata Garlic, Koanga Institute, Setha’s Seeds, Blue Terrace Garlic, and Gourmet Garlic are all great places to get your seed garlic.

In future years, I’m sure I’ll come back to garlic. But it’s not working now, and the results are actively getting worse. So it’s time to quit, at least for a little bit.