Q: I enjoy using a lot of garlic in my cooking, and figured it was high time I started growing some myself. It’ll be a fun experiment, at least, since I’m not practiced at edible gardening. What tips do you have?
A: Now is a great time to plant garlic cloves for a crop to overwinter and be harvested around the Fourth of July next year. Choose a sunny site in very well-drained soil, relatively high in organic matter. You can have your soil tested and amend with compost if results show levels are low or if the soil is compacted and hard to dig. Typical crops fall into either the hardneck or softneck categories, with the latter being the kind usually found at grocery stores. (Don’t plant those grocery garlic cloves, though, since they can be asymptomatic carriers of disease — not harmful to you, but to your valued crop.)
A planting demonstration video and details about cultivation and harvesting can be found on the HGIC website on the page titled, appropriately enough, “Garlic.” Be sure to view its included link to our fresh page on Allium Leafminer, a relatively new pest that is becoming widespread in Maryland which can feed on both culinary and ornamental onions and their relatives (including garlic).
Q: I tend to get ladybugs, stink bugs, and crickets invading my home each autumn. Any tips for preventing this?
A: Just a very thorough sealing of any access points you can find. (For crickets especially, you can also make sure plant debris, like windblown dried leaves, aren’t piled against the foundation.) Start by looking around natural entry points like doors and windows for framing that has cracks or deteriorating wood, torn insect screening, and worn weatherstripping. Replace or repair what you can, and caulk or gap-fill the rest.
Avoid using glue traps to capture any nuisance insects that make it in anyway, since they can ensnare unintended targets like innocent snakes just trying to find shelter (or following a source of food). Freeing a poor snake trapped on adhesive is time-consuming, certainly stressful for the snake, and may still leave it wounded and vulnerable to infection. You’re both better off with it happily roaming the garden as free pest control instead. You can vacuum up insects you find, or capture them and toss them back outside. Avoid squishing the ladybugs and stink bugs, as they have defensive chemicals that have a pungent, persistent odor and which may stain fibers.
University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Extension” to send questions and photos.