Gardening with Kitty: Grow Your Own Garlic

IMG_20141029_101636Garlic is a pretty low-maintenance crop. It chills in the ground for ten months or so and then rewards you with pungent, juicy cloves that you’ll be tempted to snack on right out of the ground. They smell that good. And they taste even better…

Notice the paws in the picture above? This post was meant to be about planting garlic in a container. But when I went out to my porch, my cat followed me outside to see what sort of hijinks I was up to. And then she proceeded to poke her adorable kitty nose into every shot.

So now this post is about planting garlic in a container and entertaining your cat in the process. For our cat, a morning spent on the porch planting funny, smelly things was great entertainment. If you have a cat, may I suggest including him or her in the fun?

IMG_20141029_101727 IMG_20141029_101456794 IMG_20141029_101416544

Garlic can be planted from early October to early November. And for those of you in apartments or condos like me, you don’t have to forgo this succulent allium, it’s all in the soil prep.

Alliums can be susceptible to fungal issues. However, if you provide sufficient drainage and healthy soil, you will be in good shape. Don’t be tempted to dig up some soil from outside. Regular garden soil will compact in a container and hold too much water.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • A container apx. 1 foot wide and 1.5 feet tall, with holes in the bottom for drainage
  • A good lightweight potting mix, if you can find one with coco coir- it is an excellent ingredient that won’t hold too much moisture
  • Seed garlic from a reputable nursery or online seed source- Yes, you can buy it at a grocery store, but it may very likely harbor disease. Also you will need to choose between hardneck or softneck garlic. (I like the hardneck varieties because they tend have larger cloves and be a bit more flavorful. However, the softneck varieties store better and braid nicely.)
  • A good even-numbered organic fertilizer. You don’t want to push too much growth early on here, but garlic likes fertile soil, so you want it to be there when your garlic needs it. And YES please use a complete organic fertilizer. It provides micro-nutrients and secondary macro-nutrients besides the big 3 (Nitrogen-Phosporus-Potassium).

IMG_20141029_101825 IMG_20141029_103503


Fill your container to 2″ from the top. Then poke little holes in the soil about 4″ apart, and a couple inches from the edge of the container.

Take apart your cloves, and try to preserve the papery covering. This will help protect the cloves from rot. Now place them in the soil about 3″ down, and cover back up. Remember, pointy side up!

At this point, following the application rates on the container, you can mix some fertilizer in. And, if your container is somewhere under cover, you want to water a little and keep it evenly moist. (Moist not wet) For those containers on open decks/patios, you will probably have plenty of rain to keep your garlic happy.

And now you’re finished until Spring…


On Fertilizing and Be-Heading:

In the spring, you can start feeding your garlic with a high-nitrogen liquid organic fertilizer every few weeks. I like to side-dress it with a little blood meal or bat guano as well. If you’re growing hardneck garlic, be sure to cut off the scapes when they form. This will re-direct energy back down to the bulb. And besides, scapes are delicious! Around this time, early summer is when I lay off with the fertilizer.

When Do I Make Pesto?

Okay, how to know when the garlic is ready. This is important, if you leave the cloves in the ground too long, they will lose that awesome papery covering that’s so great for storage. But you don’t want to pick too early, or your cloves will be too small. When the leaves start to turn brown, contain your excitement. Wait until there are oh, about six or so green leaves left on the plant. Then you can dig up your garlic and enjoy!

Any questions? Have you grown garlic in containers before? Any hot tips? I’d love to hear about them. Please do leave your thoughts in the comments below…


Plant an Autumnal Patio Pot


Recently I planted a fall container for our patio. This time of year nurseries are full of brightly-colored foliage and sweetly blooming violas. After awhile it was just too hard to resist.

This planter combines my two favorite seasons, autumn and spring. I love them both for their cool sunny days, ideal gardening weather. And also for the sense of renewal that comes with each of them.

burlap wrap

The Container

I re-purposed an old nursery pot from work. This is quite a big pot, which can be expensive, so if you go dumpster diving at a nursery, ask permission before hauling away any of these big pots. Oftentimes, nurseries will keep them for their ball and burlap trees in the spring.

I used an old burlap sack to line the outside. You can actually plant directly into burlap sacks, however since our patio is quite wet throughout the winter, I thought it might rot through. After folding it inside the top of the pot, I tied it off with some hemp twine.


I did drill several holes in the bottom of this pot. It didn’t have adequate drainage, which is important especially during out wet winters, and most especially because I planned to add bulbs to this container.

The Plants

plant names

I wanted a variety of foliage color and shape. And of course, since this is an autumn to spring pot, I chose evergreen perennials.


My first pick was Heuchera ‘Crimson Curls’, I love the pinky underside of the dark foliage, and its luminescence in the late-afternoon sunlight. A time of day that we often sit on our patio.

There are so many gorgeous Euphorbias. Like Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ or the red-tipped Euphorbia ‘Rudolph’. Based on the heuchera I’d chosen I decided to go with on of my current crushes… Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’. Brightly variegated leaves, as well as purply-red tips that I thought would be nicely highlighted by the deep-purple of  ‘Crimson Curls’.


Lately, I can’t get enough lime foliage. And Calluna vulgaris ‘Wickwar Flame’ boasts that plus a wash of orangish-red in the winter months.

heatherAnd you’re probably thinking that’s quite enough foliage for anyone, but what about succulents? I thought the ghostly shade of this sedum made it remarkably appropriate for a autumn palette.

…And after years of lusting after this plant and gifting it to others, I finally bought one for myself. Lack of hillside to tumble down be damned!

Hebe pimeloides ‘Quicksilver’. The arching black stems with delicate silver leaves reminds me of a line from The Raven

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me–filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before.

Perhaps not the bit about terrors, but the thrilling and the silken sad uncertain rustling most definitely. Can foliage truly be this evocative? Just take a look.

hebeThe best thing to pair with such startling foliage I felt, were violas in antique shades.  They bloom a bit more than pansies, which are also a great choice for winter containers. Don’t be tempted to toss them after a freeze. Their leaves will lie down and look very limp, but they are still alive and will perk up as soon as the temperature rises.

violasTo put some ‘spring’ in my container, I decided to include a few bulbs. Generally when planting a layered bulb pot, you wouldn’t plant things with woody roots over the top like euphorbias etc. You’d just do pansies or groundcovers. I wanted to give it a try anyhow and I went with daffodils and tulips which I thought might have pointy enough stems to poke through.


One thing to keep in mind, if you plant a layered bulb pot. Put the largest bulbs on the bottom. Also include a good organic fertilizer with some bone meal in it, in each layer.

I’m not sure how these bulbs will do with the cold Bellingham winter, so I will probably add a layer of bubble wrap between the burlap and the pot for extra protection from cold.

Of course, since it’s October. I had to add a few gourds/pumpkins for embellishment.

gourdsHere’s what my pot looks like after a couple weeks of growth. As you can see, the violas are taller than the euphorbia!

container2How about you? Are you doing a fall container this year? What sort of things will you be planting?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...