Garden Tip of the Week: 19


. . .Summer bounty at the Penticton Farmers Market

Planting and growing garlic isn’t difficult; however, attention to a few critical details will help ensure a good harvest. You can find lots of info online of course, but the best tips I’ve ever had on growing garlic were learned at Brenda Lende’s course at C.URB last year.  I planned to attend this year’s again but couldn’t make it.  (Maybe you were there?)

Here are the main points:

Softneck garlic heads (thin necked varieties) store longer than hardneck (thick neck) types.  Plant your own cloves or buy seed.  Garlic bought in the grocery store, which has been shipped from afar (i.e. China) is often irradiated and will not sprout, so avoid those for planting.

Mix compost into your soil a week or two ahead of planting.

Separate the garlic heads into individual cloves, being careful not to break or remove the papery skin from each clove.

Plant individual cloves a foot apart, or in a 10” grid, staggered. When garlic cloves are planted  too closely, they will stop growing as soon as their roots touch the next plant, so give them lots of space!

Pointy end up! (That’s the end of the clove that sprouts  to form leaves . . .)

Plant 2 inches deep near frost, or 1 inch deep earlier, when the soil is warmer.  Mid to late October works well in the Okanagan.

Put one teaspoon of bone meal in each planting hole. Fill hole with soil and cover your new garlic patch with straw or leaves.  Water lightly.

In the spring, keep the patch weeded and watered.

I’ve grown garlic in past years, but this summer’s crop had the biggest heads ever after following the above planting instructions!

Garden Tip of the Week: 18


(. . . Where did summer go?)

So you’ve successfully grown a crop of winter squash (Butternut, Buttercup, Delicata, Kuri or other varieties) and are wondering when to harvest them. Winter squash are ripe when you can’t pierce the skin with your thumbnail. They benefit from ripening further on the vine and even a light frost, however, so leave them until the vine begins to die back. Cut through the woody stem at least an inch above the fruit. Clean them, if necessary, with a damp cloth, and allow them to cure for two weeks in a warm dry place out of the sun. Store winter squash in a cool, dry place, dark if possible, and check them every few weeks for signs of spoilage. If you see some, cook and freeze the good parts.

Note that Acorn squash belong to a different family. They need to be stored in cooler, moister conditions (e.g. the fridge) and don’t last as long as the other varieties.

Garden Tip of the Week: 13

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Oops!  The post is late this week, sorry!  I’ve had my head in the canning kettle.  It’s that time of year again, when we preserve the garden’s rewards for the winter months ahead.  Still, your vegetable patch requires some work!

If your wax or filet beans are flowering but not producing beans, now is not the time to give up and pull the plants!  Beans become stressed in the heat, and they may sulk for awhile.  Keep watering them and they’ll produce again when it the air is a little cooler.  Continue to pick them (don’t let them go to seed) and they’ll reward you with a longer harvest.

Garden Tip of the Week: 12

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Let’s talk tomatoes (and peppers!) this week.  Happy to see the “Good Toms” above, ripening!

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Big, fat “Scatalone” heirloom tomatoes waiting their turn to redden in the sun . . .

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Other varietals enjoying the heat in Penticton

Epsom salts are a great mid season fertilizer for tomatoes and peppers.  Epsom salts contain magnesium, a primary nutrient for plants.  Magnesium deficiency can result in poor fruit set, brown leaves, weak stems and in tomatoes and peppers, blossom end rot.  Sprinkle 1 tbsp of epsom salts around the base of each plant or mix 1tbsp of epsom salts with 1 gallon of water and use as a foliar spray.  Be careful not to overuse epsom salts as Magnesium is motile in soil and can leach into water systems.  I usually find that one application in July keeps my plants looking their best for the rest of the season.

PS:  Thanks to all who are reading,  “liking” and sharing these posts!

Garden Tip of the Week: 11

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The time to harvest your garlic crop is when approximately half the leaves have turned yellow.  This usually happens mid to late July. Pull the plants, and gently brush any soil off the bulbs.  Be careful not to break the papery skin that encases the bulb.  “Cure” the bulbs outside on a tray out of direct sunlight for a few days to harden the outer skin for storage.  (Do not separate the individual cloves.)  Store in a cool, dry, dark place such as your  basement  pantry.

A garden tip on planting garlic will appear in early autumn.  Until then, enjoy your harvest!

A reminder: be sure to check out our “Courses” page, for summer and fall course offerings and instructions for registration!

Garden Tip of the Week: 10

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After you’ve cut the main heads from your plants, fresh broccoli enjoyment can go on and on! To prolong your harvest of broccoli, use mulch to protect its roots from hot sun.  Keep on harvesting the side shoots after you cut the main heads.  And be generous with the broccoli’s water supply, because tough stems are a result of not enough moisture to the roots.

If you didn’t grow your own broccoli this year, try it next spring.  It tastes a lot better than the stuff that comes from far away, and you’ll be impressed at the brilliant green color when it’s cooked and on your plate.

Garden Tip of the Week: 6


Last week we talked about cool nights causing basil to suffer. Cool nights can have a slowing effect on other growth, too. A number of you have expressed concern about the small size of your tomato plants. They particularly don’t like those cold winds, and the drops in temperature after rain storms. When I plant my tomatoes out in early to mid-May, I put a plastic wall about two feet high around each one. In my location, the main purpose is to shield them from cold north winds, but the plastic also holds in a little of the day’s warmth. Now, in the third week of June, the plants are peering above the plastic, and I can safely remove the walls.