Ask The Gardener: Harvesting garlic, cooler temperatures, bees and more

Posted on: June 4, 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
  • 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.)


Question 1: Harvesting garlic

John: So you sold me on trying to plant garlic, which I did last fall. Here is a picture of my garlic. When do I harvest it?? I read up on it, and there are a lot of different theories. When do you harvest and what do you do with it after digging it up? Thanks!

Doug: This is great news, John. The garlic looks great. First order of business is to cut off those seed heads (called scapes) so that the plant puts its energy into making big bulbs. The scapes are a delicacy in the kitchen. I make pesto out of them, but there are lots of ways to use them. It’s time to harvest when about 50 percent of the greens have turned brown. It’s better to harvest too soon than too late. If you wait too long, the white papery sheath around the garlic won’t be intact. It’s usually between July 4 and 15 for us. I usually pull one or two early in July to see where they are. The young garlic is exceptionally tasty and filled with garlic oil. After harvesting, it’s time for curing. Leave the foliage on the bulb and hang it up in a warm, dry place for three weeks. Then it should store for most of the winter.

Question 2: Tomatoes and cold

Lee: With temperatures here in Pittsburgh dropping the next few nights into the mid/low 40s, what is your best defense against this? Mine are fairly new, only maybe a foot tall in a raised bed? Any tips or tricks would be appreciated! Not sure what to cover them with.

Doug: Don’t worry about it. I’m not doing anything special for my tomatoes or peppers. They won’t like it, but the soil is so warm, that will help them.


Question 3: Bees

Dan: What kind of bee would you say this is and what are your thoughts about it? I have six flying around my old barn. I just wanted to make sure my daughter and wife didn’t get stung. And I’d hate to kill them if I don’t have to.

Doug: I talked to a couple of experts this weekend about your picture. Bug expert, fellow Tribune-Review columnist and radio partner Jessica Walliser identified it as a carpenter bee. Steve Repasky from Bee Control says to not worry because the damage they do is just superficial, the bees don’t sting, and they will be gone soon.

He also recommended putting up some soft wood next spring near the area you’ve seen them to attract them to that instead of the facia.

Question 4: Weed killer

Alice: I am sure you have seen the recipe for the weed killer using 1 gallon vinegar, 1.5 cups Epsom salt and 2 tablespoons Dawn. What do you think of it? I tried Bonide’s Burnout but did not see great results. I don’t want to use Roundup.

Doug: I think you would be better off with a commercially produced, organic herbicide. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Avenger Organic Weed Killer.


Question 5: Daisy patch

Jill: My daisy patch is having a rough start this year. What can I do to save them or should I dig up and start over?

Doug: No, that looks like four-lined plant bug, and they’ll be gone soon. They only have one generation, and the damage is basically aesthetic.

Question 6: Critters

Jean: Something is eating the leaves off my sugar snap peas. The stems are present but the leaves are all gone. Any ideas?

Doug: My guess would be a rabbit. When it’s dry, if you put some flour down around the plant, you’ll know for sure if it’s a four-legged critter or a bug.

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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.”