Make it a tasty fall by planting your own veggie garden with root crops, garlic and greens | Home/Garden

Now that we are moving into the cooler weather of October, it’s time to start seriously thinking about your fall vegetable garden.

If you don’t keep your vegetable garden productive through the winter, you are missing out on some of the most delicious vegetables we can grow. There is an amazing selection that can only be grown here during the cool season from October to May.

Another reason for putting in a fall vegetable garden now is the mild weather. No matter how much you love gardening, you have to admit that it’s more enjoyable when the daytime highs are in the 70s rather than the 90s. And during the cool season, we generally have fewer insect, disease and weed problems to deal with compared to summer gardens.

Make your bed

Whether you are planting into an existing vegetable garden or starting a new one, you must pay careful attention to bed preparation to ensure success. Before planting, do a thorough job of removing any weeds that may have grown in the bed, or remove existing turf if this is a new bed. Spray existing weeds or turf with glyphosate herbicide to kill the weeds before removing them. Check the label for waiting periods between treating and planting.

Turn the soil to a depth of 8 inches and spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic matter over the bed (compost, composted or processed manure, soil conditioner, grass clippings). Sprinkle a general purpose fertilizer over the organic matter following package directions. For more specific information on what fertilizer to use, have your soil tested through your local LSU AgCenter Extension office. Finally, thoroughly incorporate everything into the soil of bed.

If you prefer to garden in raised beds, which are generally less labor-intensive and easier to manage, kill and remove any weeds or lawn grass growing (use glyphosate) where the beds will be built. Build the raised beds about 8 to 12 inches deep and 3- to 4-feet wide (your choice of materials, pressure treated lumber, brick, cinder blocks, etc.). The length is up to you.

Fill them with a blended topsoil or garden soil mix you purchase in bags from local nurseries or in bulk from local soil companies. Incorporate fertilizer into the soil, but you generally will not need to add organic matter to a typical topsoil or garden soil mix.

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It’s time to plant broccoli into the fall vegetable garden. Related vegetables include cauliflower, kale, romanesco, kohlrabi and collards.

Cole crops

Cole is the old term for cabbage (as in coleslaw — cabbage salad). Cole crops include cabbage and several other related vegetables.

Broccoli is an easy-to-grow and productive fall vegetable. Transplants available at area nurseries may be planted now through late-October, spacing plants 12 to 18 inches apart in rows or beds. The 12-inch spacing will produce smaller heads but total production is greater.

Broccoli heads are harvested when the largest flower buds in the head are about the size of the head

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Kitchen talk: What is the proper way to store garlic?

Do you store garlic bulbs on the kitchen counter or in the refrigerator or pantry? You might want to rethink that.

If you store them correctly, you can keep the cloves fresh and crisp for years, says Ron Stidmon, who co-owns Enon Valley Garlic in Enon Valley, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Rosemary.

Q: What is the proper way to store garlic?

A: Traditionally, garlic is stored in a cellar along with the potatoes and onions. But it also can be placed in a brown paper bag and stored in a basement that is cool and dark with relatively high humidity.

Cool does not mean freezing, and it is important that the basement is unheated. The air should not be stagnant because when there is movement of air, mold won’t settle on the garlic.

Keeping that in mind, the worst places to store the bulbs are on the kitchen counter or in a refrigerator or pantry. The counter space near the stove is too warm. The refrigerator is not ideal because it does not have any air movement, and the humidity is too low. Garlic stored in a pantry or closet is all right for a short period of time but not for the long haul. It will shrivel because the air is dry, and there is no ventilation.

If you don’t have a basement, place the bulbs in a good plastic box and put it in the dirt. The soil has a good temperature that will help to keep the bulbs fresh.

Q: Should I discard any garlic that has sprouted?

A: A garlic with a sprout does not mean that it has gone bad. In fact, it’s OK to eat garlic that has a sprout because a young one is nutritious, even though it can be a little bitter. But do consume the garlic soon because as a sprout grows, the juice is transferred from the bulb to the green part. As a result the garlic will start turning brown and shrivel.

Q: What about long-term storage?

A: One way to keep garlic fresh for years is to store the cloves in a jar along with vinegar. Start by removing the wrapper. Then place the cloves in a 4-quart jar along with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Top the jar with filtered or bottled water, and place it in the refrigerator. This will preserve and not pickle the garlic and also keep it nice and crisp.

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In the Garden: Time to get garlic cloves in the ground for next year’s harvest

There are two foods that really make life worth living: chocolate and garlic. While I can’t grow my own chocolate, I certainly can cultivate garlic. It is really easy to grow, and the resulting crop enhances the flavors of so many savory dishes.

Fall is the time to plant garlic. You also can plant in the spring, but the resulting bulbs will be much smaller.

If you are a first-time grower, you’ll need to purchase “seed garlic” at your local garden center or from an online source. Seed garlic is another name for garlic bulbs, which are certified to be disease-free and are comprised of several individual cloves. Since each clove will grow into a large bulb containing many more cloves, you’ll get a great return on your initial investment. In subsequent years, use cloves from your previous harvest rather than having to buy more.

There are two types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Elephant garlic is a member of the onion family but not a true garlic. Hardnecks have a stiff central stalk and produce four to 12 cloves within a bulb; the cloves tend to have a more intense flavor. Softnecks have a softer stem, produce more cloves within larger bulbs and generally have a milder flavor. If you want to braid your harvest together, grow softnecks. The huge cloves of elephant garlic have a mild taste.

My favorite hardneck varieties are German Porcelain, German Red, Music and Spanish Roja.

Inchelium Red is a very reliable softneck variety for this region.

Loosen the soil of the planting bed to a depth of about 4 inches and mix in a bit of bone meal, which is an organic soil amendment high in phosphorus. Gently split apart the garlic bulbs into individual cloves.

Push each clove down into soil – making sure the pointed end faces upward – until there are 2 inches of soil above the top of the clove. Space hardneck and softneck cloves 6 inches apart and elephant garlic cloves 12 inches apart. Be sure to label your plantings so you remember what they are at harvest time next summer.

Once the entire bed has been planted, cover it with a thick layer of mulch: grass clippings from an untreated lawn, shredded leaves or straw all work well. This insulates the soil in order to prevent frost-heaving during the winter.

The sprouts will begin to emerge in early spring. If you used grass clippings for mulch, move them out of the way as they can mat together and impede plant growth. Other mulches can remain in place. Water regularly and weed as necessary so they won’t compete with the garlic.

In early summer, hardneck garlic plants form “scapes,” those curlicue stems that will develop a flower if left in place. It’s important to remove them so the plants continue developing the bulbs instead of using energy to bloom. The scapes have a mild garlic flavor and make a delicious addition to many dishes.

Harvest garlic plants when

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