The days have grown damp; the nights much cooler. Rogue Valley gardeners are looking toward putting their gardens to bed for the winter. There are still activities that will keep you out in the sun on these glorious fall days as we coast into the winter.
PLANT GARLIC! Garlic adds flavor to many foods. It’s not too late to plant it in your garden. It is also time to clean up the vegetable garden to help reduce problems next spring and summer.
Garlic is an herbaceous biennial of the lily family. It is divided into two subspecies, ophioscordon (hardneck garlic) and sativum (softneck garlic).
Hardneck garlic produces flower stalks and bulbils at the top of the stalk.
Softneck garlic does not produce bulbils but develops larger bulbs with more cloves per bulb. The cloves which make up the mature garlic bulb are used for propagation. Hardneck garlic cultivars do better in colder climates and produce larger cloves that are easier to peel.
In the Rogue Valley, its best to plant garlic in October and early November. Planting and care of garlic is similar to onions, but many gardeners believe garlic is more finicky.
A sunny location with fertile, well-drained soil, high in organic matter, is best. Plant cloves root end down and cover with 2 to 3 inches of well-drained soil. Allow 6 inches between sets. Applying mulch helps to provide winter protection and conserves moisture during summer.
Compost is applied beginning in the spring as side dressing every two weeks until bulbs begin to form. Garlic begins to bulb around mid-summer.
During the growing season garlic needs 1 inch of water per week. Stop watering two weeks before harvest. On hardneck garlic, remove any flowering stalks that form to increase bulb size.
Many gardeners enjoy eating the green shoots of garlic plants but cutting them continuously inhibits bulb formation. By early June, flower stalks appear and should be cut back and discarded so the plant’s energies can be directed toward bulb formation.
Bulbs ripen in mid-July and early August. When the leaves have yellowed, lift the plants and dry the bulbs in a shaded storage area for about two weeks. After drying, the tops may be removed, braided or tied and then hung in a cool, well-ventilated spot.
Another activity for the fall garden is to remove dead tomato plants, cucumber vines, squash plants, and other plant material. If the material is destroyed, then it will not be a source of the disease for next year.
Diseases are not the only things that spend the winter on plant material. Many insects can also be found in dead leaves in and around the garden.
Pests such as squash vine borer, Mexican bean beetle, squash bug, diamondback moth, tomato hornworm and cabbage looper are able to overwinter in the vegetable garden. These insects often make their home in dead leaves and plant material which offer them some protection from the elements. Getting rid of the plant material will lessen the chance that these pests will be able to overwinter in the garden.
Removing the plants from the area and composting them destroys the hiding places for the insects.
Excessive weed growth during late fall and winter can also contribute to pest problems next year. The weeds will provide food and shelter for many overwintering insects, and may serve as sites for egg-laying in the fall. Flea beetles, which are pests on young vegetables, especially sweet corn and egg plant, can find food and shelter in crop residues and weeds throughout the winter.