Saturday, May 11, 2013

How to Plant and Grow Garlic

Photo by: byrev

How to Plant and Grow Garlic
Yesterday we went shopping for garden plants. It was a beautiful day, not too hot or too cold. It lit the spirit of gardening in the kids and me. The plants looked healthy, and we couldn't help ourselves as we picked out tomatoes, peppers and everbearing strawberry plants. Then inside the store, we came to the seed packages. We picked out sugar-pie pumpkin, squash, radishes, and cucumbers. We also picked up a package of garlic bulbs. 

The only things we can safely plant outdoors that we bought is the garlic bulbs and radish seeds.This blog post is going to help you to be successful in planting and growing garlic. Now, usually the best time for garlic to go into the ground is from September through March, so I am a few months behind. 

Garlic is a member of the leek, onion, and the lily family. Garlic comes as a bulb or head. Peel away the papery covering on the outside to find the individual cloves. The individual cloves are what you plant.

The older generation gardeners, planted garlic close to the autumnal equinox. Garlic planted in the fall, will have a head start as it develops its root section. This allows the plant to get through the long winter months. In the spring, the garlic will start to grow again. 

Prepare the Soil

Til, dig or plow the ground to a depth of 6 inches or more. For the garlic bulbs to grow and develop, they need the soil to be rich, lose soil. Amend the garden soil with 2 to 4 inches of organic compost. If you have access to some well-rotted manure, include that into the soil.

Photo by: PDPhotos

Prepare the Garlic for Planting

Remove the papery covering around the bulbs exterior so you can break the garlic bulbs apart for the individual cloves. Although each clove will form a head of garlic, pick only the big, healthy ones to plant, leaving the smaller ones for cooking. Larger cloves will produce bigger the heads of garlic.

Mix up a solution of 1 heaping tablespoonful baking soda and 1 heaping tablespoonful liquid seaweed in 1 gallon of water. Drop the garlic cloves in the solution and allow them to soak for several hours or overnight. You can skip this step, but if you soak the cloves in this solution before planting it helps prevent fungal diseases and it gives them a boost of energy to start growing once they are planted. Remove the garlic cloves from the baking soda/seaweed solution and put them in a bowl of rubbing alcohol or 100 proof vodka for three to four minute. This will kill any insect eggs or fungus spores that the first soaking missed. Remove the garlic from this solution and plant them  immediately into the prepared garden soil. 

Planting the Garlic
There are varying reports as to whether or not you need to remove the papery skin around the garlic. It can go either way. Sometimes while handling the garlic cloves, the papery skin will come off, so don’t worry if that happens. Your garlic will still grow.
Form a hole in the soil with a stick or you can dig a furrow. The hole or furrow should be about 3 inches deep so that the top tip is 2 inches under the soil. Insert the cloves with the flat end, or root section, points down into the  soil. Cover them with soil. Lightly firm the soil with your hands so the clove is in firm contact with the soil and to collapse air pockets. Space the garlic cloves 4 inches apart in rows spaced 6 to 8 inches. 


Cover the garlic bed with 3 inches of organic mulch like grass clippings or leaves. The mulch acts as a weed control. It also helps the  soil to retain moisture longer. Pull any weeds that pop through the. mulch, otherwise they will rob the garlic of nutrients and moisture. 


Water the garlic bed to keep it slightly moist, but not soggy. Once every four weeks, when the garlic is growing, fertilize the bed with a fertilizer that contains boron and zinc. If your garlic plants are still struggling, foliar feed them with liquid seaweed based fertilizer. 

As the plants grow, remove the flower head when they appear.  If you leave them on the plant, the energy will go into the flower, and the garlic bulb will stop growing. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Organic Pest Control

Photo by:  Hans
Yesterday, I told you how to keep snails and slugs away from your garden and fruit trees. Today’s blog post will help you rid the garden of other pests such as aphids, beetles, and rabbits using natural, organic methods. 


Marigolds are pretty flowers that look nice in window boxes, planters, or flower gardens. However, some of the older generation gardeners planted them throughout their vegetable gardens. Marigolds have a reason for being in the garden in the first place. Grow some marigolds around the perimeter of the garden or scattered intermittently between vegetable plants as a natural way to repel the Mexican bean beetle and aphids. They also help repel, rabbits, moles and other varmints. When planted by the tomatoes or melons, they can help to boost the tomato and melon fruit production. If you know where you want to plant tomatoes next year, plant some marigolds in the plant marigolds in the garden spot this year. The plants will give you at least 50 percent more in yield. 

Yellow Sticky Tape
Control aphids, whiteflies, thrips, and other insects in the garden by hanging up yellow sticky traps. Reflected light from the plant's surface, or the color of yellow is what often attracts insects. You can either buy yellow sticky traps at your local garden supply store or make your own. To make your own, simply color a piece of heavy cardboard yellow. When the paint dries, spread on a thick layer of Vaseline. The insects make their way to the yellow traps where they become stuck. When the traps become full, throw away the ones you bought. If you made yours, simply wipe away the bugs and reapply the Vaseline. 

Garlic and Onions
Garlic and/or onions growing around your plants will help control aphids. You can mix up a garlic spray and apply that to your plants. An easy recipe for garlic spray is to combine 10 ounces of water and 2 teaspoons of liquid dish or laundry soap into a pot. Add several cloves of garlic, minced fine along with a finely chopped cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil and boil for several minutes. Cool and then strain the mixture to remove the garlic and cayenne pepper, or they will clog your sprayer. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and then spray your plants.

Hand Picking

Japanese beetles, potato bugs and other beetles are often a problem for the home gardener. The best method to get rid of those beetles is to pick them off by hand. Do this early in the morning or late in the evening when the day is cool. Beetles cannot fly unless they have a body temperature of 73° Fahrenheit. Pour several inches of hot soapy water into a gallon pail or other bucket. You can also use diesel or gas for this purpose. Pick the beetles off and then drop them into the bucket where they will drown. Place the lid on the bucket or pail and leave it in the sun. If you use diesel fuel or gas, do not spill this in your garden, as it will kill your plants. 

If picking bugs makes you squeamish, cover your plants with mesh cloth. If you have beetles bothering the flower garden, plant dark colored flowers. Beetles don't like them as well as the light colored flowers.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How to Control Snails and Slugs Naturally

 Photo by: SteveR-

How to Control Snails and Slugs Naturally 
The gardening season is just around the corner. Small greenhouses are being set up in store lots. People are busy getting their gardens ready for planting. You know who else is getting ready for gardening? Snails and slugs. This year, instead of grabbing the chemical sprays, why not try eradicating those pests by natural methods. It is safer on the plants and environment and for your consumption. Slugs and snails are more active during the nighttime hours, or when the days are cloudy.

Pick Them Off

Slugs and snails love the garden almost as much as you do. They can’t resist the moist environment that your garden offers. If you only have a few snails or slugs, you can pick them off by hand and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. 

Slug or Snail Baits

We often pour some beer into a low-sided saucer and bury it so it is almost level with the ground. The snails can crawl into the saucer, but are unable to make their way out again. Another alternative is to dissolve one package of yeast, 1-teaspoon salt, 1-teaspoon sugar in 2 cups of warm water. Pour this into a jar. Plan to fill one jar for every 6 to 7 feet of your garden space where slugs are a problem. Dig holes in the garden soil to bury the jars up to the mouth. It should be just about level with the soil. Check the jars daily and remove the slugs that have gone inside. You can substitute the yeast or beer with grape juice or cider vinegar. 

Diamactaceous Earth

Sprinkle egg shells over the garden soil around your plants. They will cut the bodies of soft-shelled insects. Food-grade diamactaceous earth works the same and is very safe to sprinkle throughout your garden. It looks like talc powder, and it is made of fossilized marine phytoplankton. As the snails make their way across this substance, it cuts through their exoskeletons like razor blades. Diamactaceous earth not only kills slugs and snails, it also kills fleas, ants, and bed bugs. 

Copper Foil

Snails or slugs on fruit trees or in planter boxes are controlled with copper  foil. You will need a length of copper foil that will fit around the diameter of your fruit tree with an extra 8 to 10 inches. Cut vertical slits along the length of the foil on one side, but do not cut all the way through. When you are finished, it will look like fringe. Wrap the copper foil around the trunk of the tree. Attach one end of the copper foil to the tree or planter box with a staple. Overlap the ends and fasten it with a paperclip. This will allow the copper foil to slide as the tree grows. Bend the vertical flaps so they are at a 90-degree angle. 

Natural Enemies

Introduce natural enemies to the garden area that will eat the slugs. Birds, toads, and beetles will keep the slug/snail numbers down and many other insects as well. Decollate snails will only eat small snails, so they would be great to use at the start of the gardening season. 

Whenever possible, it is best to use natural methods to control insect. Chemical pesticides and insecticides will kill the insects, but they are non-selective. They kill good and bad insects.  The chemicals can also go into the food that you eat.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Best Time to Pick Vegetables

Picture by: harry22

Everyone wants their vegetables to be full of flavor and bursting with juicy goodness, when they harvest them. When you pick the vegetables is just as important as how you store them after harvesting. This article will give you some helpful tips on picking and storage.  

Sweet Corn
Pick sweet corn when you have the water almost at a boil on the stove. Only harvest the ears of corn when the husk is green, but the silk is dry and brown. You can test the corn for maturity by pulling the husk down to reveal the kernels. Press your fingernail into the kernel. If the kernel squirts juice when you puncture it with your fingernail, then it is ready to pick. 

The key to sweet corn is to only harvest as much corn as you want for your meal. Clean the corn by removing the husk and silk. The best place for this chore is outside where you can toss the husks and silk straight into the compost pile. Once you have the ears cleaned, they are ready to go straight into the pot of boiling water. Sweet corn is naturally sweet, but if you add a teaspoon of sugar into the water, the corn will be even better. The corn loses its natural sweetness and flavor ten minutes after you pick it. This is why the corn you buy at the store never tastes as good as fresh picked. 

Early Morning Harvesting
The best time to harvest the other vegetables, like peas, broccoli, radishes, cabbage, and leafy greens is early in the morning. It is during the cool part of the day that your vegetables will be full of juice. They will stay crisp longer and their storage time increases. This is especially good for people who sell their produce at the market, or those who want to can during the day.  

Afternoon Harvesting

Vegetables harvested during the heat of the day or early evening, are under stress from the day. The sun removes vitamins and minerals out of the plant’s leaves. So if you pick them during that time, they will quickly wilt and become limp. Sometimes we can’t pick things early in the morning. If this is the case, wait until the evening, when the temperatures cool down. This gives your plants time to replenish what the sun took away.

If you are picking vegetables for canning, you need to pick the produce and store them correctly. Harvest early in the morning. If you cannot take them into the house right away, store them in the cool shade as you pick more. 

Prepare and use the vegetables as soon as possible. Keeping the vegetables for later use is possible if you store them in the dark place  like a root cellar, or basement where it stays cool. You can also place the vegetables in a paper bag. Close the bag and store it in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

Harvest tomatoes early in the morning, but store them differently. Line some flat boxes, (the kind that beer or pop comes in) with newspapers. Place the tomatoes in a single layer and store them in a cool location until you can use them.

 Harvest onions any time of year. Dig them out of the ground, and brush off the excess soil. Lay them on a screen in the sun to air dry. Do not leave them out if it is raining or they will mold and rot.