Les’s Patch: Garlic secret from gardening’s past

Les Foden
Les Foden

I was recently given 12 editions of a gardening magazine from 1926, all in good condition.

On reading through them I found some very useful tips for organic growing. A good example is the use of garlic as a pest barrier.

In those days there weren’t the pesticides available that we have today so gardeners grew a row of garlic, then a row of carrots and a row of beetroot, then more garlic.

This solved the problem of carrot fly, cabbage root fly and any of the pests we have today.

There is an organic product on the market now called Garlic Barrier which is sprayed on to plants to keep pests at bay for a couple of weeks, but don’t worry, spraying cabbages won’t give the produce a garlic taste. I have found it certainly keeps pests off for up to a couple of weeks.

I like to discuss gardening tasks when the time is right for this area. One such task is planting raspberries.

I am puzzled as to why they are not grown more as they are much cheaper to buy than strawberries.

Raspberries are easy to grow and can be picked over a long period and to me they give the real taste of 

There are several new British varieties available, but when choosing a variety make sure to purchase the plants from a specialist grower and also one that is resistant to the various problems.

Malling Admiral is one such variety. The crop is good and the fruit firm and well flavoured. It has a good resistance to spur blight botrytis and soma virus disease.

Malling Leo is a late variety cropping to the end of August and is resistant to raspberry aphids so there is a better chance of escaping virus infections.

When planting, and now is a good time, dig out a trench 2ft (60cm) wind and one spade deep. Break up the bottom with a fork and add a generous layer of manure. Plant 18 inches (45cm) apart and firm in well with your boot.

After planting cut the canes down to leave them nine inches (23cm) long which will encourage healthy young growth from the base.

It’s not a good idea to allow the canes to fruit in the first year, because they are trying to establish themselves and to fruit at the same time would result in the new canes being weak and spindly. Better to wait a year to let the plants settle in.

If you want to fill herbaceous borders with colour year after year go for heleniums.

Sneezeweed is the common name. The raised eyes of the flowers are covered with masses of pollen in July, August and September.

Tap heleniums in flower on a sunny day and it will release clouds of pollen which can quickly trigger a sneeze, but don’t let that put you off. Heleniums are sun worshippers that are easy to grow.

There is a dazzling range of different varieties to keep any border splashed with colour long after other perennials have shut up shop.

Most heleniums have flowers two inches (5cm) across in shades of rich reds, yellows, oranges and browns.

If you already have heleniums which are in need of a leafy background keep an eye out for larger plants of dahlia (Bishop of Llandaff).

The dark reddish, purple leaves and deep red flowers not only add constant colour to a border but make a fine match for all heleniums.

Aim for impact by planting in groups of at least three, allowing 18 inches (45cm) between each plant.

Push plant stakes around the edge of each clump when the new shoots are six inches (15cm) long.

Guide the growing shoots inside the supports which will soon be disguised by the leaves.

Heleniums need to be well watered in summer.

A tip which can be used on any new plant is to make a shallow saucer shaped depression around its base and fill with water. The moisture then soaks around the roots to reach exactly where it’s needed.

Leave the shoots on the plants until they start to turn yellow and die down then cut off just above the ground.

Clean off and store any stakes and supports ready for the following spring.

Keep you eyes open for mice getting into a greenhouse or garage as they devour stored fruit or packets of seeds left around.