What do aoli, pesto and a good Italian bread all have in common? Garlic. Garlic is healthful, delicious and a key ingredient in hundreds of recipes, and it's easy to grow in the garden and a container. So, let's talk garlic growing.
Garlic should be planted four-to-six weeks before a hard freeze, so now's the time to plant. Select either softneck varieties, used for making garlic braids, or hard neck varieties that grow scapes in early summer. You can find both at your local garden center. Create a raised bed, amended with compost, in a sunny location. Space your garlic cloves four-to-six inches apart. Remember each clove grows into a bulb with six to eight cloves in it. Raised beds are crucial because the quickest way to kill garlic is to grow it in poorly drained soil.
The day before planting, break apart your garlic bulbs into cloves so the basal plate will scar over night. That will help with rooting. Plant cloves a few inches deep in the soil. Cover the garlic bed with a four-to-six inch thick layer of straw and anchor it in place with some boards so it doesn't blow away.
If you don't have room for a garden, but love garlic, try growing garlic in a container. Use a plastic pot or fabric grow bag filled with of mixture of potting soil, compost and granular organic fertilizer. Plant garlic cloves spaced only a few inches apart. Keep watered and place in a sunny location. Once a hard freeze comes, move the pot to a protected spot and cover with hay or straw mulch.
If your garlic starts growing during warm fall weather, don't worry. When the new shoots grow taller than four inches, cut them back and eat the tops. It should be fine for next year.
Now for this week's tip: bring winter squash into a warm shed, garage or room to cure before storing. This allows the squash skin to toughen up and the flesh to get sweeter for eating.