Monthly Archives

September 2016

Plant Now For Great Garlic

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If you like garlic, now’s the time to plant some in your garden. You’ll thank yourself next summer when you dig up beautiful heads of flavorful garlic.

Garlic is actually an herb that’s a member of the lily family. It may have originated in Central Asia, but it’s so adaptable it can grow just about anywhere.

There are just a few gardening ideas to keep in mind when planting garlic. First, choose the freshest seed garlic you can find at the garden center. Look for large firm and unblemished bulbs without any obvious problems. One pound of seed garlic will yield between 8-10 pounds of harvested garlic.

Second, choose varieties based on how you plan to use your homegrown garlic. Choose from hardneck or softneck varieties.

Hardneck garlic varieties are popular for their flavor, are easier to peel and can be stored for up to 6 months. Hardneck varieties produce a flower stalk called a scape, which can also be used in cooking.

Softneck varieties are the same kind of garlic found in grocery stores. Softneck varieties are usually more productive than hardneck garlic and can be stored for up to a year. Because they’re good for storing, softneck garlic types are often used for braiding. Another difference is softneck varieties don’t produce a flower stalk.

Locate your garlic bed in a sunny spot in the garden that has fluffy, fertile, and well-drained soil. The night before you plant your garlic, separate the cloves from each bulb and soak in Liquid Kelp to give the cloves a good start. Don’t let cloves dry out.

Plant only the largest cloves for the biggest heads of garlic. Place the pointy end up, 1-2 inches below the surface of the soil and about 3-4 inches apart. Cover with about 2 inches of soil, water in deeply and add a thick layer of organic mulch. Straw, chopped leaves or dry, untreated grass clippings will help retain soil moisture.

Keep an eye on your garlic bed over winter and water if the soil is dry and daytime temperatures warm above 40 degrees.

In spring, once the danger of frost has passed, remove the thick mulch from the garlic bed and water deeply. Be sure to keep up with watering so soil stays moist and the garlic doesn’t have a chance to dry out.

Feed the garlic crop with either a composted manure or a well-balanced fertilizer as bulbs begin to grow. Be sure to keep the garlic bed weeded to avoid competition for space and nutrients.

If you planted hardneck garlic, watch for the tall flower stalks called scapes to emerge and cut them while they’re still young and tender (be sure to use the tender scapes in cooking). A good garlic gardening tip is to leave one scape standing. When the curly part starts to unfurl, your garlic is ready to harvest.

Another way to tell if garlic is ready to harvest is to watch for the green leaves to turn yellow. Stop watering and wait for the bottom leaves to turn brown. Use a garden fork to carefully lift the entire plant from the soil. Be careful and don’t damage the soft bulbs during harvest.

Place the fresh garlic in the shade to dry or cure for long-term storage. Once cured, store garlic bulbs in a mesh bag to allow for air circulation.

Then use your fresh garlic to flavor all your favorite savory dishes. And get ready to plant another crop next fall.

Recipe For Perfect Fall Containers

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September signals the changing of the seasons, and one of the best ways to transition into fall is by changing out summer container plantings. It’s time to replace those tired pink petunias with more seasonal offerings.

It’s easy to create a perfect fall container if you follow this simple recipe: Take one part fall flowers in complementary colors, mix in plants with attractive textures and plant tightly in an autumn-like container. Finish your fall container by garnishing with some of the bounty of available fruits and vegetables.

Now, let’s get cooking:

First, choose a color palette for your fall container. Decide whether you’d like a warm look with reds, oranges and yellows or a cool container with purples, blues and whites.

Second, decide on a container. Whether an urn, squatty square container or pumpkin-shaped pot, the most attractive plantings are those that match the look of the container. Choose a container that will fit its surroundings from September through November.

Third, grab a shopping cart and wander around Nick’s. Look for the flower colors of your warm or cool plant palette. Select several varieties of flowering plants in lighter and darker shades of the same color. Look for plants with foliage in lighter and darker variations, too.

A good formula is to select 1 upright plant, 3-5 mounding or filler plants, and 1-3 trailing plants. I like to group the plants together in the cart to see how well they fit together and then keeping wandering!

Here are some favorite fall plants to help you get started:

Mums are the classic go-to for fall because they come in many different colors, and they look great in containers.

Black-eyed Susans are a flowering perennial plant, but these look beautiful in fall containers.

Pansies in jewel tones are always a nice addition around the sides of fall containers. Look for pansies in rich colors like ruby, dark purple, and deep orange.

Ornamental kale is a fall filler plant because of its striking foliage, and kale can tolerant some cooler temperatures, too.

Ornamental peppers are a colorful filler plant. The peppers persist on the plants, and they look good even when they dry.

Rosemary is an herb that makes for an interesting upright plant, as does millet, sedge and different types of ornamental grasses.

Fresh miniature pumpkins, warty gourds, small squashes and other vegetables can also easily take the place of a mounding plant or two. Tuck several into the front and sides of the container.

Foliage plants like heuchera, coleus and sedum add texture to fall containers. Mix and match for the most eye-pleasing display.

Once your fall container is planted, add natural adornments like curly twigs, gnarly branches, vines with dried berries, and colorful leaves for the perfect finishing touch.

When To Harvest Your Vegetables

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It was late summer a few years ago when one of my gardening friends asked what sounded like a silly question. “How do you know when it’s time to pick green tomatoes?”

She was talking about the tomato varieties that are naturally green, like Green Grape, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, and Green Zebra.

It’s easier to time the green-tomato harvest if you know what to look for. Green tomatoes are ripe when they turn from bright green to a deeper color of green with hints of yellow or amber.

It’s important to know when to harvest fruits and vegetables for several reasons. If left on the plant too long, fruits and vegetables will become over-ripe and lose their fresh flavor. Another reason is when fruits are left on the plant too long, the plant starts setting seed and stops producing new fruits.

For example, one of the common mistakes gardeners make is waiting for homegrown eggplants to reach the size of the ones we buy at the grocery store. But the best time to clip eggplants from the plant is when the fruits are young and the outer skin is still shiny. Waiting too long means the fruit gets seedy, tough and bitter.

Here’s how to tell when it’s time to harvest some of the most popular fruits and vegetables from your garden:

Cucumbers are ready to harvest when they’re firm, green and the right size for the variety. The tastiest cucumbers are picked while small and tender, and before seeds start to mature. Clip fruits from the vine and leave a bit of stem to protect the end.

Leafy vegetables, like kale or chard, are best enjoyed when the leaves are young. Snip the greens from the outside leaves to the inside. Keep the growing tip intact so the plant will continue to send out new leaves.

Peppers can be clipped from their plants as soon as they’ve reached their full size for the variety. All peppers will turn color if left on the plant long enough, but that takes time. If you want a continuous harvest, keep harvesting the peppers, and plants will keep producing.

Tomatoes are ready to pick when they have their deep, mature color (whether red, yellow, orange, black or green) and the right size for the variety. Tomatoes should be slightly soft with shiny, smooth skin and a nice tomato aroma. Use clippers to snip tomatoes from the plant to protect the vines.

Winter squashes need to stay on their vines until the rind is dull and hard enough to resist a fingernail pushed into it. Use pruners to cut the squash from its vine and make sure to leave a handle. Winter squashes need to be cured in a warm place for a week or more to allow for longer storage in a cooler spot.

Zucchini and summer squashes need to be harvested while fruits are still small, about 4-7 inches long. Smaller is better for round squashes and patty pan squashes, too. Keep an eye on your squash plants because fruits can be ready to pick 7-10 days after flowering.

What To Plant In September

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If you’re wondering what to plant in September, the better question is what can’t you plant this month?

September is an ideal time for planting trees, shrubs, perennials, vegetables, herbs, and even some annuals. There are a few plants that will grow better when planted in spring, such as fall-blooming and heat-loving plants. You may want to avoid planting evergreen trees, too, because their needles can lose too much moisture during the winter causing problems when trees start regrowing in spring.

Here are some planting ideas to make the most of your September garden:

Buy spring-blooming bulbs now for planting through fall. For a long-lasting display next spring, buy bulbs with a range of bloom times. Crocuses and snowdrops usually appear first, followed by early varieties of daffodils and tulips, and then hyacinths. If you want to feel especially springy next year, plant mid-season and late-season bulbs, too.

Plant perennials while the weather is cooler. Black-eyed Susans and coneflowers are just two of the many perennials that can add a bit of color to gardens now and then return next season.

Add something new to the garden, like hops, a vining perennial. Plant along a sturdy trellis and water by hand to help the plant get established. Vines can grow quite long over time, and start flowering in the second or third year.

Improve the landscape for fall with colorful mums, violas and pansies. Look for hardy pansies in a range of colors to carry you through fall and then wait for them to reappear next spring.

Buy fall vegetable transplants to fill droopy annual containers or to fill in empty spots in the garden. There are plenty of good options for the fall harvest including beets, spinach, lettuce, mesclun mixes, mustard greens, chard, arugula, and much more.

Sprinkle grass seed to fill in bare spots in the lawn. September is a good time to either start a new lawn or add grass seed to help thicken areas in a tired lawn.

Look for a new shade tree to add to the landscape. Be sure to read the tree’s specifications to make sure there’s enough space for the tree when it reaches maturity.

Add a shrub or two to enhance the front or backyards. Take your time to find shrubs that offer more than one attractive feature. For example, look for shrubs that bloom in spring, offer fruit for wildlife and provide a blast of color in fall.

Revive container plantings by removing tired annuals and replacing them with new plants for a more seasonal look with mums, ornamental kale, and orange and black pansies.

Plant onions for overwintering in your garden. Fall-planted onions can start to grow while the ground is still warm, spend the winter in the garden, and then start growing again in spring. For the best results, buy onions that are known for overwintering in our area, plant autumn planting onion sets or look for multiplier onions. Add winter protection, like a low tunnel or thick layer of mulch.