Pre-freeze postscript

Aside

I’m new to the finer points of this companion planting business. It was only after I hurriedly stuck the garlic cloves into the container with the snap peas that I read that garlic and onions apparently have a negative effect on the growth of peas.

I think I’ll keep them there; those peas weren’t doing that well anyway, and may be finished after tonight.

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Before the freeze

It’s going to get really cold tonight (for here), and possibly snow a bit, though not enough for the kids to miss school (hurrah!). The schools often cancel classes at the slightest suggestion of snow, so I’m proud of them for holding off. For now.

A bag of garlic sits on my kitchen counter, patiently waiting for me to plant it.   Unfortunately, I don’t have ground prepared properly for it, and life, as it so often does, reprioritized things for me so that I never got the containers I planned to use to grow it.  I am interested in companion planting and in mixing ornamentals and vegetables in the same garden beds, though, so I ran out as it began to almost-sleet to pop in some of the garlic by Rosa ‘Sophy’s Rose.’ Five cloves, six inches apart, right in front of the shrub. I  write this to help me remember they are there, because in spring I expect their greenery to be mixed in with lots of other green bits. Already I realize that the garlic is likely mixed in with the pale pink Chionodoxas I planted but forgot to mark.

I planted one fat clove in a crowded container with Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ before realizing there wasn’t room for more. Roses are said to combine well with alliums and their relatives (onions, garlic, and chives): gardening folklore, if not science, advises that alliums repel borers, aphids, moles, and black spot.  Half a dozen cloves went into the container with the snap peas, and a dozen cloves in with the mixed herbs and sorrel. I still have half a head to go. Maybe this is not the time to order shallots.

Growing garlic at home

We at the MHM household run through tons of garlic. Between heavy habits of Italian, Mexican, and Asian foods, and our semi-regular practice of roasting a whole chicken stuffed with lemon and garlic, I could probably grow an acre of it and still wish I had a bit more. But we must start somewhere.

‘Somewhere’ means half a pound, two weeks late. I meant to order my garlic several weeks ago, when I spent a rainy day picking out attractive starter packs from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalogue. I forgot that I was not the only one interested in starting some garlic. When I placed my order first thing this morning, I had to settle for my fourth choice, as my top three had sold out.

Garlic planting season begins October 15 for me, and runs through the first of December. Garlic likes fertile, well drained soil rich in organic matter (who doesn’t?). Individual cloves planted two inches deep in the fall develop substantial root systems before winter–all three weeks of it–sets in. Increasing warmth and light in the spring cue the plants to fatten their bulbs. At this time the gardener should ensure a steady supply of moisture, or suffer puny bulbs come harvest time. I promise that it is worth the trouble of watering regularly. Little is more disappointing than to seize a handful of garlic greens, intent upon unearthing one’s own weight in pungent, papery glory, and come up with little more than what was planted six months prior.

I ordered a half pound of Red Toch softneck garlic, an heirloom variety originating from the Republic of Georgia that performs well in the Southeast. The catalogue promises “spicy fragrance and consummate flavor.” I am considering interplanting some of it in my perennial beds, partly because I don’t have adequate space to dedicate to vegetables, and partly because I am intrigued by the lore of companion planting and want to discover if any benefits can be observed. We shall find out next spring.