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September 1st, 2011

How to Grow Garlic

When is the best time to plant garlic?

blog-dougIn most parts of the United States, garlic is planted in fall—about 6 weeks before the average date of the first fall frost in your area. Southern gardeners also have the option of planting in late winter.

Because garlic sold in grocery stores has often been treated with chemicals to inhibit sprouting, purchase untreated garlic from a farmers’ market, garden center, or mail-order retailer. Separate the garlic bulbs into individual cloves, then plant them 2 or 3 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Add a few inches of loose straw as a winter mulch. The cloves will likely send up tentative green shoots in fall, then go dormant with cold weather. Growth reappears in full force with the warmth of spring. The garlic will be ready to harvest next summer when the foliage yellows and topples over.

There are two basic types of garlic: softneck, the typical grocery-store garlic that stores well and is favored by Southern growers; and hardneck, which offers larger cloves that are easier to peel and edible “scapes,” or flowering stalks.  —Doug Hall

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May 17th, 2011

Debunking a Pest-Control Myth

dougWill planting onions, garlic, sage, and marigolds in a vegetable garden keep insect pests away? That’s a question I was asked by a gardener at the Rodale Institute’s spring plant sale on Saturday. I had joined John Torgrimson, the executive director of Seed Savers Exchange, for the question-and-answer session. Our audience had lots of good questions, many from gardeners who were interested in learning the basics.

The questioner had seen books and magazine articles by authors who stated that certain strong-smelling plants, including herbs and onion relatives, repel insects from a garden. I’ve heard the same claims, but my experience doesn’t back them up. While the garlic, herbs, and marigolds may remain pest-free, other plants just inches away may be riddled with insect damage. The repellent qualities don’t extend beyond the pungent plants themselves.

But whip up some garlic and marigolds in a blender, strain the liquid into a sprayer, add a drop of dish soap to make the solution stick, and you can spread the repellent qualities of those plants throughout the garden.  —Doug Hall

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