Fielding Questions: Plant garlic bulbs in fall for harvest next year

Q: I know fall is the time to plant garlic. Can you recommend any sources for garlic bulbs? -Bruce R. Schumacher, Fairmount, N.D. A: Garlic is a bit unusual as garden vegetables go, because, as you mentioned, it is planted in the fall. Garlic nee...

Q: I know fall is the time to plant garlic. Can you recommend any sources for garlic bulbs? –Bruce R. Schumacher, Fairmount, N.D.
A: Garlic is a bit unusual as garden vegetables go, because, as you mentioned, it is planted in the fall.
Garlic needs a cold treatment to perform well, which it receives underground during winter. In our area, it is best planted within one or two weeks after the first killing frost of fall (so late September or early October).
Rather than actual seeds, the cloves are used. Garlic from the grocery store should not be planted since it’s better adapted to other regions.
Garlic types are divided into “soft-necked” and “hard-necked” varieties. Both have been grown successfully. Soft-necked varieties produce larger bulbs. Hard-necked types are a little hardier. The type called elephant garlic is actually not garlic, but a leek, with pungent aroma but mild flavor.
Some local garden centers handle garlic for fall planting. Territorial Seed Company, Cottage Grove, Ore., has a nice assortment available online. Other sources are listed on a how-to garlic-planting guide published by the University of Minnesota Extension Service. North Dakota State University’s garlic guide is available at .
Both contain good, detailed information about planting depth, spacing and over-winter mulch.

Q: Something is eating our beets. It’s happened two summers in a row. We think it might be mice or voles even though we have a completely fenced in garden. Any suggestions? – Shad and Brenda Thurlow, Fargo
A: We’ve had the same damage on our beets some years. As your photos showed, the leafy tops are mainly untouched, but the beet itself has areas that have been eaten or chewed into. The damage is at the top “shoulders” of the beet close to soil surface.
I’ve caught the pests in the act, and it is voles, which are also called field mice. They cause similar damage to carrots and potatoes. Unfortunately they are difficult to keep fenced out because of their small size and ability to burrow.
I’ve had success with rodent baits from farm-type supply stores, especially the baits that come in small packets that you distribute unopened at the ends of the rows of beets. The voles chew into the waterproof packets and consume the poisoned bait. Our voles have preferred the bait over our beets.
Other recommendations include mousetraps baited with peanut butter and live traps, although I don’t know what you do with a live vole afterward. Please don’t release it down our way.

Q: I just sent an email to all my friends asking them to buy milkweed seeds, plant them and keep the monarch butterfly from going on the endangered list. Are milkweed seeds sold at nurseries, and would seeds available nationally be proper for this area? When should these seeds be planted? – Bonnie Field, Wahpeton, N.D.
A: I think you just might single-handedly save the monarchs! They are fascinating and too precious to lose.
Milkweed is of the scientific genus Asclepias, so look for that name on sources. In addition to seeds, many local garden centers sell several types of the perennial plant called butterfly weed or butterfly flower, which are in the Asclepias group and attract monarchs.
Prairie Restorations, Princeton, Minn., , sells seed of several milkweeds native to our region. National organizations have been formed to promote milkweed planting, and some list sources, but I don’t know their reliability.
Asclepias milkweed seed germinates best if given a cold treatment. By planting in the fall, seed naturally receives this treatment during winter. Plant in late fall just before the soil freezes solid; late October planting usually works well. Barely cover with soil and water well before freeze-up. Seeds should sprout next spring.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at . Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

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