Fall Gardening

    • Tulips can paint the spring garden with almost any color you choose. Plant them now to enjoy their bright flowers next April.
    • Plant cover crops in areas of the garden that have finished producing for the summer. Crimson clover and fava beans will grow over the winter and enrich the soil for next year.
    • Divide overgrown water lilies and irises. Repot using heavy soil with no organic matter or the new, bagged aquatic planting media.
    • Compost your leaves as they fall, don’t burn them! Leaves make wonderful compost that breaks down into rich humus by next summer.
    • Seed slopes with annual ryegrass to prevent erosion and improve the soil for later plantings.

Growing Great Garlic

Garlic is a staple in the kitchen, turning ordinary food into gourmet delights. And it should be a staple in the garden as well. Homemade garlic oil spray makes an effective deterrent for many garden pests. Garlic interplanted with other crops will help repel some insect pests.

Garlic grows best in deep, rich soil, well-drained and full sun. Bulbs will not develop to their full size if it is shady. It should be planted in the fall as close to the autumnal equinox as possible. This gives the bulbs time to develop some roots before winter. Garlic likes cool weather, so it is a good winter crop. Garlic is ready to harvest around the summer solstice.

Newly planted garlic should be watered twice a week until the rains start. A garlic bulb is separated into cloves and each clove is planted 4-6 inches apart and 1-2 inches deep. Weeds are garlic’s biggest enemy so weed the bed regularly. Gophers love garlic so protect your crop with gopher wire or traps.

One pound of garlic plants a 25-foot row or a bed 4 by 6 feet at 4-inch spacing. For most garlics, you can harvest 10 pounds for every pound you plant.

In the early spring, encourage vigorous leaf growth by fertilizing the bed. Use fish emulsion every two weeks or a foliar spray of seaweed or fish emulsion. Stop fertilizing as soon as you see the base begin to swell as the plant begins to form a bulb.

Keep the plants well watered during the last few weeks when the bulbs are forming. The extra water and fertilizer will result in large bulbs. Sometimes flower stalks will start to grow. It is important to cut or break them off as soon as you see them or they will reduce the size of your crop.

Garlic is harvested in late June or July. The leaves will turn yellow and then brown when the garlic is ready to harvest. Let it dry on the ground for a day or two. You can braid the dried stalks and hang them on a wall where they will be decorative and handy.

There are hundreds of kinds of garlic grown throughout the world. They can be divided into two groups: hard-necked garlic and soft-necked ones.

The most common here is California Early White, which is grown commercially around Gilroy, California. It is vigorous, productive and has a pungent flavor. It is the easiest to grow and seems to be less fussy about growing conditions than the others. It is a softneck variety.

Late Pink garlic has smooth bulbs and pinkish cloves with a fairly strong flavor. It has a soft pliable neck that lends itself to braiding and stores for 6 to 8 months in proper conditions. It matures late and is usually the last garlic to come out of the ground.

Spanish Roja is an heirloom garlic with rich, spicy flavor.  This large hardneck variety has a blushed pink-red color with bulbs usually over 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The bulbs have thin bulb wrappers and 7-10 easy-to-peel cloves per bulb.

Elephant garlic is a very large, easy-to-peel garlic with a mild flavor. It is a good keeper and full-sized bulbs weigh up to 1 pound. Plant the cloves 3 to 4 inches below the soil surface and space them from 8 to 10 inches apart in the row.

Grow yourself some great garlic by planting it now.

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