Written by Chandra L. Mattingly
Tuesday, October 15, 2013 7:20 PM
Have you put your garden to bed yet?
We've not yet had frost as I write this, and I picked a nice bag
of ripe sweet peppers and about as many ripe tomatoes this week. The
latter had some bad spots and some bites taken out of them, whether by
turtles or other critters I don't know. But I salvaged the good parts
for a last batch of taco salad to be made with fresh tomatoes and
While some folks have cleared their garden patches by now, ours still
continues to provide leeks, kale, and a few red raspberries and
ever-bearing strawberries. There's a little late sweet corn and a few
green beans, and we have carrots, sweet potatoes and some onions and
shallots left to dig.
But if your garden already is bare, or you have bare areas, they can
be planted now in winter crops to help keep down spring weeds and
improve the tilth of your soil. We're right at the end of the
recommended time for planting winter wheat, but lots of folks plant
turnips or kale instead. It's a little late for the latter, but if mild
weather continues, the seeds may grow enough to provide some early
Garlic also can be planted through the end of October as can
asparagus, a perennial crop. (I still have a few 1-year-old potted
plants for sale if anyone is interested; call me at 812-438-3182.)
Garlic is almost trouble-free; plant it now, harvest it in July.
Asparagus takes a bit more work. You should plant it in a trench so
the tops of the crowns are 5 or 6 inches lower than the surrounding soil
level. Next spring, as the plants grow, gradually fill in the trench,
an inch or so at a time.
Keep the patch well weeded the first few years, or paper with
newspaper or use mulch. You'll be able to pick lightly when the plants
are three years old, and for six to eight weeks or so each spring
thereafter. Asparagus does need lots of nutrients, so plan to add
composted manure each winter.
This is also a good time to plants trees, shrubs, berry bushes and
strawberries. Blackberries and raspberries do well in full sun to light
shade and most soils; blueberries need acidic soil. Strawberries should
be mulched with straw once the ground freezes.
Finally, don't forget the lighter side of gardening: flowers!
Perennial flowers and perennial herbs can be planted through October and
even in early November, but what most people think of in the fall are
bulbs. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocus and other bulbs provide a
rich reward in the spring for a little bit of time planting them now.
And you can pot and chill the bulbs for midwinter blooms as well.
Just don't forget the lesser-known but early-blooming bulbs and
corms. Winter aconite's bright yellow flowers are some of the earliest
blooms, but snow drops with their green-tinted blooms and cheery snow
crocus are early, too. Glory-of-the-snow flowers come a little later,
but are the prettiest blue. And there are all the early wildflowers:
hepaticas, bloodroot, twinleaf, spring beauties and more. And yes, I
will have some of these at my plant sale in Rising Sun come May.
Written by Chandra L. Mattingly
Thursday, October 03, 2013 6:21 PM
Hey, all you folks with sanguivoriphobia, now is the perfect time
to plant garlic!
And even if you're not afraid of vampires, you can plant garlic
and use it for culinary rather than defensive purposes.
Garlic can be planted in early spring, but grows best if planted
in the fall, from mid-September through October in our region. It's
so easy to grow, anyone who loves eating this onion relative should
try planting some, even if he or she isn't otherwise a gardener.
You can purchase garlic for planting from garden centers or garden
supply companies, or plant some from the grocery store as long as it
has not been irradiated. The garlic carried in grocery stores usually
is a softneck variety; softnecks store well, have milder flavor in
general than hardnecks, and can be braided for nifty gifts or edible
Hardneck varieties have more complex flavors and generally don't
keep as long as softnecks. But they also are hardier in colder
climates. You should be able to grow either soft- or hardneck garlics
in our area; just plan to use the hardneck bulbs sooner after
harvest. They will keep a few months stored cool (40 degrees
Fahrenheit or below) and in moderately high humidity. Softnecks
usually keep six to 10 months under the same conditions.
This year I've planted German Red, a hardneck variety, and Italian
Late, a softneck, plus another softneck I grew last year. (Somehow I
missed writing the name of this one down in my garden book. But
sooner or later, I'll come across the receipt. Maybe.)
To plant garlic, separate the cloves, noting which side is down
(opposite the pointed top.) You can soak them overnight to encourage
quicker sprouting, but it's not necessary unless the weather and
ground are exceptionally dry. Garlic grows well in full sun and rich
soil, so prepare the area by mixing in good organic compost. Garlic
has few pests or diseases, but as with all vegetables, it's best to
rotate the location from one year to the next. It does need good
Plant the cloves an inch or two deep and four to six inches apart.
If the ground is moist, you're done; if it's dry, go ahead and water
well, continuing to water as needed through the fall. Keep the weeds
down till the ground freezes, then you can add a light mulch of
Come spring, if not before, you'll be greeted by green sprouts.
Keep them weeded well as they grow, and in late June or so, you'll
see scapes or bloom stalks emerging from the plants. These are edible
and can be used like green onions; cut them about the time they begin
to make their first curl. If you let them grow longer, they will get
hotter and tougher. You can freeze any extras for future use in soups
Or you can let the scapes mature. Your garlic bulbs will be larger
if you remove the scapes, but some folks say the garlic stores longer
if you let the scapes develop. Left on the plant, they will produce
bulblets which can be planted for future garlic crops, though they
may take two years to get to a usable size.
One warning here: if you don't collect the bulblets, the cluster
will shatter and you'll have garlic growing everywhere! At one time
my late Uncle Eddie Probst had volunteer garlic all over his garden;
he dug up every little shoot and swore he'd never try growing garlic
again! The easiest solution if you miss gathering the little bulbs?
Dig up and eat the new plants as you find them.
In any case, once the bulblets have matured, or, if you've cut the
scapes off, you can dig up your garlic bulbs once the garlic leaves
disappear,. That's usually late July in our area. Spread the bulbs
out in a shady spot to cure, then store. And if you've not cut the
scapes, you can braid the softnecks.
Elephant garlic is more closely related to leeks than garlic, but
it also is best planted in fall, placing the individual cloves three
or four inches deep in fertile soil and about a foot apart. The plant
may produce a single “round” rather than a bulb of cloves, or it
may produce a clump of five or six cloves. If rounds are replanted,
they will produce a bulb of cloves the following year.
If the plant flowers, you can harvest the bulb after the flowers
begin to dry – or you can cut off the flower stalk when it's a few
inches tall and end up with a larger bulb. The plants rarely set seed
in any case. Dry elephant garlic in the shade for about a week before
storing. Bulbs keep up to about 10 months. The flavor is somewhere
between a mild garlic and a leek.
By the way, the origin of the word garlic is the Old English
g?rl?ac, from g?r 'spear' because a garlic
clove's shape resembles the head of a spear, according to the online
Oxford dictionary. The second half of the word, l?ac 'leek'
comes from that milder member of the onion family.
Written by Chandra L. Mattingly
Friday, September 27, 2013 8:33 PM
In a previous blog, I mentioned fogging my honeybee hives with
mineral oil to suppress mites. SIBA member Joan Chester, Independence,
Ky., has started fogging her own hives with mineral oil to which she has
added mint oil and asked me what I do. So here is an explanation.
Mattingly photos: Beekeeper Chandra Mattingly applies mineral oil fog
to one of her beehives. The plastic bag atop the modified super will be
used to plug the hole once the fog spreads down through the hive.
first, a disclaimer. When he spoke to the Southeast Indiana Beekeepers
Association in February, Purdue entomologist Dr. Greg Hunt said studies
have shown fogging with mineral oil has no effect on mite populations.
All I know is that all three of my hives survived last winter with
strong populations and that I've had the same strain of honeybees since
at least 2001. I can't say I've never lost hives over winter since then,
but it's been a rare occurrence, and only with hives I knew were weak
going into the winter. (I just hope I'm not jinxing my bees by writing
Stop spraying and plug the hole in the super when the mineral oil fog starts coming out the entrance to the beehive.
fogging method comes from Aurora beekeeper John Griffith some years
back, and my equipment courtesy of my spouse per John's instructions.
Take a super, cover one side with plywood or another material and cut
a just-over one-inch hole in one side. Purchase an insect fogger and
unscrew the spray end. Drill a hole just large enough for the spray end
to fit through in the solid end of a one-inch diameter copper cap. The
cap should fit into the hole in the super. Slide the copper cap over the
spray nozzle and re-attach the spray end inside the cap. Put food-grade
mineral oil in the fogger's container and light the fogger. Tuck a
plastic bag or piece of cloth in your pocket.
closeup shows the one-inch-diameter copper cap attached to the insect
fogger. To attach, unscrew the nozzle, drill a hole through the copper
cap wide enough for the nozzle and re-attach.
you're ready to go! In your apiary, remove the cover and inner cover
from one of your hives and replace with the modified super. Apply
mineral oil fog through the hole – it should come out in great puffs of
white smoke and the super will leak some of it. In just a few minutes,
you will see the fog seeping out the hive's entrance. Plug the hole in
the super with the bag or cloth from your pocket. Wait about 10 minutes
before removing the modified super and replacing the inner and outer
covers, to allow the oil fog to disperse through the hive.
insect fogger has been modified with an attached copper cap for fogging
beehives with mineral oil. Never use insecticide in a fogger you plan
to use on bees.
We've made two modified supers, both from comb
honey supers, so I treat two hives at a time. I “oil” the hives every
two to two and a half weeks from March or April through the warm weather
in the fall. The idea is to hit each brood cycle.
Afterward, I see bees cleaning the oil off themselves. I don't know
if the oil actually suffocates some of the mites – I would think it
might work that way on tracheal mites – or if the cleaning it stimulates
induces the bees to bite and remove Varroa mites. All I know is I've
been doing this for a number of years, have never done a mite count, and
the bees seem to maintain strong hives. I do wonder if vegetable oils
would work as well.
Last Updated on Monday, September 30, 2013 5:44 PM
Written by Chandra L. Mattingly
Friday, August 02, 2013 7:16 PM
This summer may be a better year than most for honeybees and other
insect foragers. Not only have we had plenty of rain, but weather
forecasters indicate adequate rainfall should continue, along with
cooler temperatures. As long as the temperatures don't fall below the
50s, and pop up in the daytime, they shouldn't slow our honeybees
In my last blog entry, I indicated some concern about two of my
six hives which felt light when slightly rocked. I was able to work
those hives a week later and was pleasantly surprised to find honey
stores in both, about a half of a medium (Illinois super) and four
deep frames, which also had pollen, in one hive; and two-thirds of a
medium and a couple deep frames in the other. Still not a lot, but
sufficient. Some of the honey was capped, so predated the week of
rain that concerned me; and some appeared to be new stores, possibly
nectar gathered in the week after the rains or honey carried down
from the cappings I'd fed them.
More recently, I “oiled” my hives: fogged them with mineral
oil. I know the Purdue expert says that doesn't work, but I watched
bees cleaning themselves afterwards and either this method does
minimize the mites by inducing self-cleaning, or my strain of bees
are super mite resistant. I've not treated them for mites in any
other way and I've had this strain of bees since at least 2001.
I will be adding some small hive beetle traps to the hives this
weekend, however, as I spotted them in three of the hives July 28.
There seem to be less of them this year; Kevin Fancher said his hives
have been mostly beetle-free this summer, but he also is salting the
ground around the hives to control the pests.
He still has some butterfly weed blooming, which not only provides
nectar but is beautiful to boot! But the best milkweed nectar source
is common milkweed, which has pink flowers and, like butterfly weed,
is also a host for monarch butterfly caterpillars.
Another pretty weed just starting its bloom now is ironweed. The
tall purple pasture weed is a good nectar source for bees and
butterflies, and helps bridge the gap to the fall aster and goldenrod
cornucopia. Some goldenrod varieties are blooming now, and due to the
rain, we still have the smaller white clovers blooming in some yards
Teasel and thistles continue to bloom along roadsides and in some
fields, although the teasel is nearly done. Wild sunflowers also are
blooming, but are not much of a nectar source for bees, though they
do provide some pollen.
At home in the herb garden, the honeybees are busy with the
flowers of various mints as well as thyme. Though not considered
major nectar sources, the mints are some of the plants that help tide
the honeybees over in July and August. I've also observed honeybees
thick on Autumn Joy Sedum during periods of drought, so that's a
plant you might want to include in your flower beds, as is sweet
This clematis is not the large-flower pink, white or purple
clematis of spring blooms, but a relative that gets covered with
smaller white flowers in August. My trellis of sweet autumn clematis
always is covered with honeybees when it blooms.
There's a fairly inclusive nectar source list on Wikipedia
although the blooming times given don't quite
match our area for some of the species. One thing I found
interesting: Viper's Bugloss is listed as a good nectar source. There
used to be patches of it along U.S. 50 near Dillsboro in June, but I
haven't seen the stickery weed in recent years. The Wikipedia entry
says the nectar doesn't wash out of the flowers with rain, or
dissipate during hot weather.
Speaking of which, Kevin says his buckwheat mostly is visited by
honeybees only in the morning. From noon on, it's bee-free,
suggesting the nectar dries up in the afternoon. My buckwheat is up
but has a week or two to blooming.