Ask the Gardener: Growing garlic, liriope problems and calla lilies

Posted on: September 17, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Everybody Gardens editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

There are three ways to send in your questions:

  • Email askdoug@535mediallc.com
  • Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site
  • Send us a message on Facebook.

(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)

growing garlic

Question 1: Growing garlic

Colleen: When is it time to plant garlic? I’ve never planted it before, and there are so many varieties. What do you suggest?

Doug: The best time to plant is about the second week of October, but you could plant earlier or later. I tend to go later into the month and sometimes into November.

You need to start with good seed garlic, not what you buy from the grocery store. It might not be hardy and it could be treated with something that stops sprouting. Separate the heads into cloves and plant three inches deep and six apart in good soil amended with compost. Then cover the soil with a blanket of straw.

As far as varieties go, I’ll give you some of my favorites, but don’t be afraid to try anything you see out and about. Most nurseries will carry a few types of growing garlic. Most new growers always want the biggest cloves. They are the easiest to use in the kitchen. But there are lots of smaller varieties that have different spice, heat, flavor and more. I grow ‘Music,’ ‘German White,’ ‘Spanish Roja,’ ‘Chilean Silver,’ ‘Starbright’ and more.

Have fun, garlic out of the garden is unmatched.

Question 2: Liriope problem

Wynne: I have several big blue liriopes planted around my yard, some in sunnier spots than others. A few of them have leaves that turn yellow and then brown.What is this from and what can I do to solve it?

Doug: I’d guess it’s a fungal issue related to all the rain we’ve had. They can get anthracnose in a rainy season. Cut down the leaves at the end of the season to a height of about three inches and remove as much of the debris as possible.That’s usually enough to solve the problem.

Question 3: Calla lilies

Dee: I have about 10 pots of calla lilies. What is the best way to store them over the winter? I usually just put the pots in the garage and bring them out in the spring. But they are taking up a lot of room and get tall and lanky and fall over in the summer. Any suggestions?

Doug: There’s a couple of ways to do this. Some people just bring them in and grow them as houseplants. I think bringing them into the garage and putting them into dormancy is a good way to deal with them, too. It might be easier to split them up into three bigger pots. As far as falling over, are they getting enough sun? They need about six hours to keep them growing tall.

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”