It’s almost time to plant garlic in the North, but what about in more roasty regions? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss how to grow your own garlic where you live! Plus, your fabulous phone calls.
Question of the week:
I enjoy growing herbs but my husband (who does the cooking) doesn’t use many. He does use a ton of garlic. I know it’s normally grown over the winter, and I’d like to try it this year. My concern is our warm climate in central Florida. Are there specific types that would do better here? Any special tips?
– Nicole in Tampa
Marie from Princeton, NJ planted a lilac bush ten years ago, but only gets about one flower a year. “A planted lilac probably won’t produce a good number of flowers for four or five different years,” says Mike, who had a similar experience when planting his own lilac bush. Once the plant put on some height, however, Mike began to see an increase in flowering. He suspects Marie’ s lilac lacks the proper exposure. “Lilacs are very sensitive to sunlight. They will always bloom their best in absolute, drop-dead, full sun,” Mike says. He suggests Marie plant another lilac this fall in an open area that gets both morning and afternoon light. “That is the kind of condition it likes…they don’t want any kind of ground cover around them or competition,” Mike says. A little bit of compost and a little bit of wood ash, along with a lot of sun, should encourage her new lilac to flower.
Bob from Havertown, PA has twelve tomato plants that have produced only seven tiny tomatoes in total. Since they blossom, Bob suspects that proper pollination is the problem. However, Mike thinks the issue may come from their owner’s overzealous attention. This past year, Bob put epsom salt, starter fertilizer, and egg shells into the holes of plant, sprinkling soil overtop and packing on compost, being careful not to touch the stem of the plant. “I want you to stop putting all this junk in the hole,” Mike says. “The only thing that should go in the hole is egg shell.” Any fertilizer should only be applied to the surface to work with the soil microbes. “You have all the symptoms of someone who has used too much nitrogen, who has over-fertilized,” Mike says. For now, Bob should spread bone meal on the surface of the soil around each plant and cover it with compost. Additionally, he should mix the bone meal with water to use during their next morning watering. In preparation for next year, Mike recommends that Bob dust rock phosphate over his entire garden and mix it into his soil at a low rate. These steps will help combat the high levels of nitrogen that are inhibiting the fruit’s growth.
Lindsay from Dublin, Ireland calls about an attack on her busy Lizzies, which were left with only their stalks. The flowers had vanished to an unknown pest. In the United States, busy Lizzies are called “Impatiens,” and can frequently fall victim to hungry slugs. “Let’s talk about slug control,” Mike says. “One thing that is common in both of our countries is beer.” He suggests that Lindsay put out tiny dishes filled with a few inches of cheap beer in the evening. “If the culprit is slugs, your little dishes will be filled with drunken, dead slugs in the morning,” Mike says. “They are attracted to the beer and are overcome by the alcohol when they crawl in.” Another tactic Lindsay can try is copper. If she puts a line of copper around the top and bottom of her busy Lizzie containers, the slugs won’t be able to crawl up. “When slugs touch copper they actually get an electrical shock,” Mike says. Nemaslug, which is available in Great Britain, could also help our caller combat the pesky mollusk.
Doug from south Jersey has a line of roses along his front porch, which are suffering from a bit of the owner’s admitted neglect. The leaves have veiny holes, a result of beetles from the Japanese, Oriental or Rose Chafer families. “All of these beetles have been very active this season,” Mike says. “What you are describing is classic Japanese beetle damage.” Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get a handle on Japanese beetles after they show up and start feeding. The pests release pheromones that then attract more of their species. For the time being, Mike recommends Doug remove any wood mulch from the area and replace it with a high quality compost, which will protect his roses from disease and strengthen them internally. He should then prune the plants by removing the “hips,” or the fat bulbs where flower heads used to be. Since most damaging action from Japanese beetles is over for the season, deadheading the plant could potentially induce a late bloom. “I want you then to leave the bushes alone,” Mike advises. “Do not prune them in the fall, that’s the other worst thing you can do.” The spring is the perfect time to prune new roses and put down a fresh inch of compost.