With the gardening season coming to a close, avid gardeners are rushing to get in that last bit of planting--bulbs! A marvelous bulb that is often overlooked for fall planting is garlic. Garlic is a positively versatile herb.
With the gardening season coming to a close, avid gardeners are rushing to get in that last bit of planting–bulbs! A marvelous bulb that is often overlooked for fall planting is garlic.
Garlic is a positively versatile herb. It adds fabulous flavor to recipes, boosts the immune system and helps with the prevention of diabetes and cancer. Garlic is well-known for its culinary and medicinal attributes, but it is not only advantageous to health and palate–it is equally beneficial to the garden. Garlic acts as a natural insect repellent and aids in plant disease control, offering an ecologically-sound alternative to chemical pesticides and fungicides.
Planting garlic cloves directly in your garden among your plants is one method of improving the fight against bugs and detrimental fungi. Another suggestion is to make up a solution to spray directly on plants, using garlic as its base. For bugs, mix six garlic cloves, three-quarters of a cup each of mint leaves, hot red peppers and horseradish root and one teaspoon of non-detergent liquid soap (to help the solution adhere to leaves) into two litres of water. This makes a fine concentrate which can be stored in a cool place for use in the garden or on houseplants whenever pests emerge. Just add one cup of concentrate to one quart of water to use as a spray.
For a fungicide preventive, blend eight cloves of garlic and eight jalapeno peppers with one quart of water. Dilute one part mixture to four parts water and use as a fungicidal spray.
Garlic is a member of the onion family, but unlike onions, the time to plant garlic is in the fall, as it requires a long growing season (six to nine months). It does best in full sun and well-drained, fertile soil high in organic matter. Carefully break apart your garlic cloves immediately before planting. Plant cloves two inches deep. The plants grow quite large so ensure you plant at least five inches apart. Mulch the bulbs with six inches of straw or other organic matter to help prevent winter injury. Pull the mulch back in very early spring, when the plants begin to emerge. The plants will be ready to harvest in late summer, when the tops turn brown.
Carefully dig the plants, bulbs intact, with a garden fork or shovel. Rub off the dirt (never wash with water) and cure in a warm, dry place until completely dried. The preferable method to cure bulbs woule be to hang them up or to put them on screens in the shade outdoors, or in a warm, well-ventilated location indoors. This ensures the air circulation they require to dry properly. Another way to store garlic is to braid the foliage together immediately after harvest, dry the plants, then hang the braided garlic in a cool, dry area.
Garlic is a herb that shouldn’t be omitted from any garden. Save a few cloves from your kitchen, get them into your gardens and next year reap the benefits of glorious garlic!