Ask the Gardener: Sprouting garlic, growing spinach and money tree

Posted on: February 8, 2020 | 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.

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

Question 1: Sprouting garlic

Sandy: I’m a first-time grower of garlic, and it’s started sprouting in my garden. Is there anything I need to do?

Doug: Yes, you need to pinch some of the center growth and nibble on them, because sprouting garlic is delightful. Harvest sparingly as the greens feed the bulb, and it will be a great treat. Don’t worry about the plants sprouting; it happens in a year like this, and they will be fine.

Question 2: Growing lettuce, spinach

Hilary: There’s a lot of garden planning and prep going on here. One thing I want to improve on is growing lettuce, spinach, etc. For whatever reason, this is something I seem to have trouble with even though it’s so easy for others. I’d prefer to do some containers of lettuce and spinach. My previous problems were basically that the plants would just stop growing or not grown at all. Any advice is appreciated.

Doug: You can do this! Both of those crops are cool weather varieties, so they need to be out in the garden early. Of the two, spinach is the hardest to grow in our climate as it goes to seed (bolts) after a few days of hot weather. What happens with leafy greens is that they will thrive in cool moist conditions and then bolt when things warm up. I have lots of ideas for you.

Let’s start with spinach. My favorite way to grow it is fall planting, then protecting it in the garden with some kind of cover. When it winters over, it’s ready to get growing in March and you’ll be picking in April and May.

For spring planting, I like the idea of growing in containers as often times the ground is too wet to work in early spring. If the soil sticks to the shovel, leave it be. Digging in those conditions will make a mess, and the resulting clumps of muddy soil will dry to the consistency of bricks.

Sow the seeds around the third week of May outdoors in a container. I know that seems early, but the seeds will sprout when they are ready. You can also look for bolt-resistant varieties like ‘Acadia’ or ‘Bloomsdale Long Standing.’ If temperatures get into the mid to high 80s for three or four days, they are going to bolt.

If you’re up for it, there is a plant I love that has a similar flavor and texture as spinach, but it loves hot weather. ‘Red Malabar’ spinach is actually a tropical vine which is beautiful and tasty.

For lettuce, my favorite all-time, bolt-resistant variety is ‘Simpson Elite.’ Lettuce and other cool weather greens need fertile soil amended with organic matter like compost. Get seeds or plants in the ground early and give them good dirt to grow in, and they will thrive. Here’s some more information about early spring growing.

money tree

Question 3: ‘Money tree’

Karen: I have a large ‘money tree’ that has been dropping leaves a lot. I read that it needs to be fertilized and also to keep it from drafts. Do you have any other suggestions?

Doug: Your ‘money tree,’ otherwise known as pachira aquatica, is a tough houseplant that looks pretty good to me. Watering is the first concern. Make sure it’s on the dry side, but not neglected. Fertilization does not begin until the end of the month, when the days are longer. I like the liquid, organic fertilizer called Grow from Espoma.

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