Dinner wouldn’t be nearly as delicious without plants from the Allium genus. Ornamental Alliums also attract beneficial insects to your garden.
Attracting beneficial insects
Planting Allium in the garden is sure to attract beneficial insects. The convenient landing platform and sweet nectar will bring them in from blocks or even miles around. Allium tanguticum, the Lavender globe lily (pictured), attracts hoverflies. These beneficials look like tiny bees and they devour aphids and mealybugs. Spritely black Trichogramma wasps are also attracted and will lay their eggs in moth eggs, preventing caterpillars, such as the tomato hornworm from attacking your garden. If you enjoy the flavor of garlic and chives, you can always plant Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) another favorite of beneficial insects.
How to grow alliums
These shallow-rooted plants prefer soil that holds a lot of organic material and that means adding compost before planting. They will grow just about anywhere, but our heavy clay soil can slow growth. Allium can be grown in partial shade to full sun. Alliums grow well in raised beds and containers. You can grow chives in a pot on your kitchen windowsill for easy access while cooking!
Growing Allium from seed can be hit and miss. The plants are slow starters and they don’t handle competition (weeds) very well. You can plant seeds in containers or directly in the garden. Seeds should be sown 1/2” deep and 1/2” apart. Thinned plants can be eaten as scallions.
Another way to plant Allium is in the form of “sets”. Allium sets are mature bulbs that can be planted directly in the ground or a container. Follow the package directions for depth and spacing. The only downside to sets is that they tend to bolt. Bolting is the beginning of the going-to-seed process. If you are growing onions, leeks, or garlic, plants that have started bolting should be harvested right away, unless you plan to collect your own seeds.
Garlic and onions are best planted October through January.
Who doesn't love garlic? Add some melted butter and you can make just about anything taste amazing. What's even better - it's easy to grow!
Cousin to onions, shallots, chives, and leeks, garlic is a member of the Allium family. So why talk about garlic in the middle of August? Most of us gardeners are currently dealing with an over abundance of tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers, but fall will be here before you know it.
Rather than let your valuable garden real estate go fallow, you can chop up plant material, as plants end their productive cycle, and use this valuable resource to prepare your winter crop beds. Lay the material on top or dig it in a few inches. By the time October rolls around, the worms will have created the perfect growing medium for your garlic.
How to grow garlic
Garlic can be grown in containers, shade gardens, on balconies or windowsills, or in traditional garden rows. As a bulb, it is a resilient plant that can fit into practically any landscape. While you can certainly grow new plants from a garlic purchased at the grocery store, you are better off buying starts from a reputable grower. Grocery store garlic is safe to eat, but it may harbor diseases that can harm future crops for many years.
Garlic comes in two basic forms: hardneck and softneck. The softneck variety stores better, but the hardneck variety produces bigger cloves that are easier to peel. When you are ready to plant, simply separate the cloves from a garlic and plant them approximately 6" apart and 1" deep, with the root end down and the pointy end up. That's it!
Garlic has been cited as a cure-all and demon-repellant, among other questionable attributes, but science has shown that garlic really does repel aphids, cabbageworms, codling moths, Mexican bean beetles, peach borers, and even slugs and snails. In my book, that makes garlic worthwhile simply as a natural pest and disease inhibitor. Of course, I love to eat garlic, so I would plant it anyway!
Unlike onions, whose leaves are a tube, garlic leaves are flat. When the leaves start to turn yellow and fall over, gently remove them from the ground, dust off the dirt, and put them in a shady spot for a couple of weeks. If you feel inspired, you can then try braiding your garlic crop, but I have found that it's a lot harder than it looks!
Be sure to save your very best garlic for planting in the following fall. Over time, your garlic crop will be become better acclimated to your microclimate and produce even better harvests!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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