Archived Monthly Tips
Winter Sowing OVGC Conservation and Environment Report for January 2022
Winter sowing is a fun “hands in the dirt project” that you can do in January. While you can start many seeds this way, it is an effective way to grow native plants, which are often hard to find at local nurseries. Many native plant seeds have protective characteristics to keep them from germinating immediately when the seeds drop. Conditions may be too hot, too dry, or too close to the winter season for them to succeed. Many require a cold moist period, known as stratification, in order to germinate. Winter sowing in a clear one-gallon milk jug is one way to provide that cold stratification and get seeds off to a good start. (For details see http://www.hamdenlibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Milk-Jug-Wildflower-Propagation.pdf)
For suggestions on what to grow, try the Native Plant Trust plant finder (http://plantfinder.nativeplanttrust.org) to plants native to our Northeastern Coastal Zone Ecosystem.
You can use saved seed or seed obtained from a native seed exchange or seed library. While it is best to collect seed just as they mature, it still may be possible to gather seed from plants that were not cut back last fall and use them now. Native seeds can also be ordered from seed sellers who specialize in native plants.
Growing Garlic Christie Kuriger
The pH of your soil is very important, so aim for a 7.0 by adding lime a few weeks prior to planting as well as organic matter. Plant when the night time temperatures are frosty but before a hard frost. Separate the bulb into cloves and plant with the pointed side up, three inches deep, about 6 inches apart in narrow rows so you can walk between the rows. Water once you finish planting so the roots will get started growing.
Garlic does not compete well with weeds, so be sure to mulch with straw (no weed seeds). Apply the mulch once the ground has frozen so you aren’t creating winter housing for munching rodents. Use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen (5-4-8) and in the spring add fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen (7-2-4) and when the plants are about a foot tall, use fertilizer that with more nitrogen (16-0-0). Garlic plants will need lots of water in April, so be prepared to water unless Mother Nature cooperates. Keep the bed well weeded. Plants will send up scapes that get will longer and curl around. Many gardeners cut these off in mid June to direct all the energy into the bulbs. Scapes, if left on are also edible if harvested in early June. Harvest garlic bulbs once your plants have
four or five leaves left or when you pull soil away and see clove divisions. Use a pitch fork to loosen the soil below the bulbs for easier removal. Use it fresh now or cure it for storage. To cure garlic, leave on the stalks and hang them in an area of low humidity. The wrappers, the skin around the cloves and the cloves will all dry at the same rate for the best shelf life. Now you can use garlic in your favorite recipes or even make your
own garlic powder!
Using Garlic in the Garden
Garlic planted at the base of fruit trees can be beneficial in attracting beneficial insects as well as deterring peach borers. Roses and tomatoes may also benefit by having garlic plant neighbors since they keep pests away. You can also make a garlic fungicide to deal with mildew or fungus. To make the fungicide, puree 5-10 garlic cloves in one pint of water, let it steep for about an hour and strain it and spray it on your plants. Do use caution when spraying since it can also act as an insecticide. To control pests such as bugs or deter rabbits from eating your garden, you can make a spray concentrate. Chop 4 ounces of garlic bulbs and soak in 2 tablespoons of olive or mineral oil for a day or two. Strain, and add the oil to 1 teaspoon of fish emulsion and one pint of water. Stir well and store in a glass jar (no plastic or metal). Dilute the concentrate one part to 20 parts water and spray on insect pests or on greens that rabbits are munching on. Garlic is also the base for some natural mosquito repellants.
Resources: Tips from Gary Cirullo, Garlic Farm owner and Laurie Neverman’s article on Common Sense Homesteading site (2015).
The Benefits of Houseplants Laura Sorensen
Most of us grow houseplants to beatify our homes and bring a little of the outdoors inside. But research shows that growing houseplants can help us maintain healthy homes by cleaning the air of common indoor pollutants.
The four most common pollutants found in our homes are formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene and carbon monoxide. These are released from several household sources. For instance formaldehyde is found in particle board in furniture, in carpets, permanent press clothes and paper products to name a few. Benzene is found in dyes, detergents and gasoline. Trichloroethylene is used in inks, paints, varnishes and adhesives. Carbon monoxide results from combustion in cars, furnaces and cigarette smoke. In the winter, levels of these indoor pollutants can rise in homes that are well insulated and sealed against the weather.
In the late 1980’s, NASA studied low-light requiring houseplants and their ability to filter the air of three trace organic pollutants in a sealed chamber. The results showed that all the plants tested were effective at filtering out pollutants, though different plants were more effective against some chemicals than others. For example, English Ivy (Hedera helix) was found to remove 89.8 % of Benzene from a sealed chamber in 24 hours while Chinese Evergreen (Aglonema modestum) removed 47.6%. NASA found that the plant root-soil zone was the most effective area for removing pollutants. Plants where the soil was left uncovered, that is no pebbles on the surface and surface foliage removed, did a better job of filtering the air. Results also showed that the longer a particular plant in the same potting soil worked to filter the air, the more effective it became. They concluded that over a period of two years, the microorganisms in the potting soil were able to evolve to become more efficient at removing those compounds.
Some of the most effective air cleaning plants tested include, Gerbera daisy, Chrysanthemum morifolium (pot mum), Dracena marginata, deremensis “Janet Craig” and “Warneckei”, and Spathiphyllum ( Peace Lily). A complete list of the plants tested can be found at the sources below.
Sources: Pettinelli, Dawn, Houseplants for Cleaner Indoor Air, 2009, www.ladybug.uconn.edu/FactSheets/houseplants-for-clean-air.php Wolverton ,B.C; Johnson, Anne; Bounds, Keith, Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, Sep. 15, 1989, https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077.pdf