Mike McGrath advises listeners in when to harvest pomegranates, tips and tricks for growing a healthy green lawn, troubleshooting running shoots, how to prune and care for fruit trees, and when and how to harvest your garlic. Plus: Author Emma Marris talks about living in a “rambunctious garden.”
Question of the Week:
I love your show and listen religiously. You’ve done such a good job teaching me how to grow garlic that I harvest 100 nice sized heads every year! My problem is that I can never get them to last; the heads get dried out after about four months. Is there a way to make the garlic I’ll soon harvest last until next summer?
— Michael in Doylestown, PA
Related: How to Braid Garlic
Christy Wilhelmi shows you how to braid garlic easily. Grow your own and display it in your kitchen.
Highlights from show for July 6, 2013:
Amy in Brady, Texas wants to know the right time to harvest and enjoy her plentiful pomegranates, preferably before the birds and the bugs beat her to it! Unfortunately, pomegranates stop ripening as soon as they are removed from the tree, and split pomegranates indicate that they are past due for harvesting, so she needs to find the right timing to pick them. Since the pests in her garden only seem to be going after the fruits when they are ripe, they can be used as “secret agents” as to when the best time to pick them would be. Just be ready with your baskets, Amy!
Growing an even lawn
John in the hidden gem of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware had some field dirt put on top of his lawn and wants to know whether he should leave it as it is or add a type of compost to it. “I want you to water that and I want you to really keep an eye on it and if we start to see plant growth from that area I want you to hoe it out while the plants are young. This is called creating a stale seed bed,” Mike explains. Since John has a cool season grass that fills in its own empty patches, it can be given some compost put directly on top-but not mixed-of the soil. Come the holidays, the entire lawn should be filled in and looking great.
Eliminating root runners
Elaine in Jeffersonville, Pennsylvania has a tree that was taken out of the lawn only to have tons of little tree sprouts coming out along the path of the old root system. Ruling out hickories, Mike is convinced that these sprouts are nothing more than the tree sending out adventurous “suckering” shoots. “The good news is every one of these suckers is using up energy from the root system. So if the suckers are prevented from leafing out, you can imagine the enormous expenditure of energy without any reward from photosynthesis. If the suckers are allowed to leaf out, then they can reenergize. Cutting the suckers just as they’re about to leaf out maximizes the stress on the root system,” Mike says. When it comes time to cut some of them down, she should try to snap them as opposed to pruning or simply cutting to maximize efficiency.
Leave your grass clippings where they lie
Bethany from Johnson City, Tennessee wants a nice green grass without the use of any harsh chemicals in her new property. “Here’s the deal: The most important thing about organic lawn care is that the lawn never be cut below three inches,” Mike says. “You always want to leave your clippings on the lawn. If you go through a drought, give it one deep long soaking a week, don’t water it everyday for short periods of time, and then when we get to the fall if it still looks decent, what you want to do is give it a good organic feeding.” The best idea would be to give it an even pile of compost over it in late August to help even more.
Photo by Flickr user Peter Patau
Special Guest Emma Marris
Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden, joins Mike in the studio to talk about her book and invasive plants. “Of course a plant doesn’t know where it’s supposed to be, it’s just growing. What has been troubling to me is when plants that are not necessarily causing any harm are targeted for removal just because they are nonnative. That seems to be to be too purist,” Marris explains. It all depends on the goal for your land, whether it be to grow a certain plant or to care for whatever occurs there. Letting nonnative plants grow in a garden actually increases the diversity in that area. Of course, plants don’t know where they are supposed to be, they just grow, and it is because of the simplicity of this fact that every gardener knows that they are not in control. “The book is about coming to terms with the mass of human influence on the planet and learning how we can move forward and still have a relationship with nature that is good and positive and there can still be lots of diversity even if we cannot go back to pristine wilderness,” Marris says.
“Of course a plant doesn’t know where it’s supposed to be, it’s just growing. What has been troubling to me is when plants that are not necessarily causing any harm are targeted for removal just because they are nonnative. That seems to be to be too purist.”
Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden
Purchase Emma Marris’ book Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World on Amazon »
Improving the health of fruit trees
Vern in Akron, Ohio has noticed that right after his crabapple tree blooms, the leaves turn brown and fall off. “You need to get on a twelve step program,” Mike says, “you should feed your lawn naturally in the spring and in the fall. Because the tree is so close to it the feedings that you give your lawn are going to affect the tree so you want to try to keep cheap chemical fertilizers away from there.” In addition, mulching trees more often than not only causes problems. If anything, Vern can spread a thin layer of compost around the tree. “Accept the fact that flowering apple trees are not four season trees, you get those beautiful blooms and then it is not unusual for them to be the shame of the neighborhood for the rest of the summer,” Mike says.
— This week’s post was written by Jolie Higazi, You Bet Your Garden Intern