January 27, 2010
This morning I talked to a client about the beauty of alliums in the landscape. We discussed the idea of a sun ray garden with each bed radiating out from the center and containing a different allium in each section. Alliums are a genus in the Liliaceae plant family that include edibles such as onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, scallions, and chives. Edible alliums can be harvested throughout the seasons for eating, but they can also be left to flower in the landscape. Alliums may produce white or purple flowers on an upright, stiff stem that stands proud and beautiful in any garden. With their spiked, straight and elongated leaves, alliums are fabulous low border plants for ornamental or vegetable gardens. Even if you don’t have a vegetable garden, you can scatter onions or garlic throughout your landscape and enjoy their beauty and utility. Alliums deter many of the pests that prey on our food crops so plant as many as you’d like and leave them in the ground as long as you can!
You can find onion sets in most nurseries around town. Onion sets are one of the easiest ways to grow onions since they are already started. For bulbing onions, you simply set each individual onion in the ground about 4-8 inches apart and about 1 inch deep. Be sure to prepare the soil first by loosening it at least 12 inches down and adding plenty of compost. Once the onion has flowered and at least half of the leaves have died back, it is time to harvest. Of course, like most bulbs, if you leave them in the ground and take care of them throughout the summer, they will re-sprout and grow again in the fall.
January 6, 2010
We use purple top turnips as a cover crop in our winter garden. These hardy root crops are fabulous soil builders. They help break up compacted soil and add valuable organic matter if left to decompose in the ground. We broadcast-seed turnips in the fall and then just let them grow. Beginning in January, we start to see the purple tops swelling just above the soil. We then pick out certain turnips for eating (both the greens and the tubers) and leave the rest for soil building. This method allows us to keep the soil covered in the winter, eat a few turnips and build the soil for spring crops all in the same place and at the same time!