Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Garlic: A Veggie Bulb

As fall draws near, my Better Half has been asking about planting garlic. He loves garlic. I love garlic. Garlic does not love me. However, after sampling some of Mr. L’s homegrown garlic, I am going to make the attempt to grow it.

Here in Zone 5, it is recommended to plant garlic six weeks before the ground freezes. Bulbs should be purchased from nurseries or catalogs because store-bought garlic is often treated to prevent growth and not a native species. It will not make it through the winter. Thank goodness for Mr. L and his donated cloves!

Each clove can be planted 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Supposedly, in the spring, the garlic will sprout just ahead of the asparagus. At this time, a light feeding of fertilizer (with a high phosphorous analysis) can be given to the plants. Some gardeners will place garlic in the bed near other plants that are bug prone since garlic may be a deterrent.

Aha. We'll see if weevils like garlic.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tick, tick, tick...

With fall setting in and blooming periods winding down, I'm finding myself doing a lot of research on individual plants on our lot. Should I deadhead? Prune? How do I get this plant ready for fall and eventually winter? My most recent research subject is our Moonbeam coreopsis (tickweed or tickseed).

This version of coreopsis is a threadleaf ground cover with tons of small, daisy-like blooms. Coreopsis is a sun-loving plant that works well in borders and poor soil. It is very drought tolerant due to those needle-like leaves. I've read that fertilizing and heavy watering is not necessary and sometimes will lessen the amount of blooms during the season. Just plant it in your bed, mulch and water if the coreopsis show signs of wilting. When pruning spent blooms from this plant, you can shear back the whole plant an inch or two instead of deadheading individual blooms.

I'm going to give our coreopsis such a haircut during this weekend. It has done fairly well, poking up from the ground in the spring and growing throughout the summer. However, I did notice it was less full of blooms than last year. What's the difference? I think last year, it wasn't used as an armrest for the lamb's ear. I think the 2 year-old lamb's ear was so huge and magnificent, it stole a bit of sunlight from the coreopsis. I'll have to be more aware of how these two plants play together next season. If it misbehaves again, the lamb's ear may end up with a panty-hose girdle.

Don’t Bother

The astilbe (false spirea, false goat's beard) in the gate bed has had spent blooms on it for awhile, so I did a bit of research to see how to deadhead it. Apparently, there is no point in deadheading astilbe other than redirecting the plant's energy into root growth instead of seeds. Unlike a lot of other perennials, the plant will not respond by producing more blooms. Other plants with the same mindset are russian sage, siberian iris, tall garden phlox and sedum "autumn joy."

Yet, other plants are not deadheaded because they provide birds with tasty seeds. Such plants include purple coneflower, daisies, sunflowers, zinnias, rubeckia (black-eyed susan) and coreopsis.

When looking for a "how to" in pruning astilbe, I came across what seems like a fairly sound guideline for deadheading perennials. You can usually cut the flower stalk down to the base of the plant. Only woody plants such as lavender could be harmed by this approach.