A COLAC district gardener hopes to expand his garlic plantings to a point where he can support his retirement.
Camperdown’s Frank Conheady, Paul Maskell and Steve Wright teamed up to start growing garlic together about three years ago.
Mr Conheady said he started growing garlic in his home vegie garden about five years ago, but said when it came time to harvest he was unsure about the best steps, so he started researching it.
He said he worked with Mr Maskell as a gardener and conversations with the qualified chef inspired the group to team up and grow the popular cooking herb.
Mr Conheady had been a dairy farmer until the end of 2003 when he started studying horticulture and working as a gardener.
He said he had learnt about the effects chemicals could have on produce, which had motivated the group to grow their garlic organically, which posed a problem with last year’s harvest.
“Because we had a bigger area last year we weren’t able to keep on top of all the weeds and we suffered a fair loss in the crop because of weed inundation,” Mr Conheady said.
“We’ll probably feel like weed control is one of our main objectives this year, but we’re also very aware that whatever we do we’re going to have to source it where it’s been grown without chemicals,” he said.
“The other big thing last year was the season being so dry, we had to hand water or irrigate and we just did that with a dripper hose.
“We also monitored natural rainfall and just kept a close eye on the water requirements particularly when the cloves start to segment and start forming the bulb and they require good moisture levels.
Mr Conheady said the group planted about 5000 cloves in their first year, they planted 35,000 in their second year, and they planted between 75,000 and 80,000 last year.
He said he had enjoyed the learning process and they were able to improve their growing systems each year, allowing them to expand.
They now sell their garlic in stores throughout the region.
“I really enjoy it because I enjoy researching and of course it’s good when it’s successful and I’m just passionate about reading and learning as much as I can,” Mr Conheady said.
“It was probably a lot more labour intensive than perhaps I first envisaged and every step if you do the one step right that makes the other step a bit better,” he said.
“At this stage I’m still working in gardens, but I thought if we could earn a bit of money off this as I get older and retire it could be a bit of money on the side.”