Elephant garlic grows well in our climate, including here at Turkey Hill Farm, where it is being harvested in late spring. Photo by Molly Jameson.
One of my all-time favorite vegetables to grow and eat is elephant garlic. While related to garlic, elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is actually considered a bulbing leek. Like garlic, it is in the genus Allium, a family of flowering plants that includes over 600 different species of onions, leeks, and garlic that are native to many parts of the world, including North America, Asia, North Africa, and Europe.
Elephant garlic is more mild tasting than regular garlic and can grow up to three times larger than regular garlic bulbs. Photo by Full Earth Farm.
Elephant garlic is very much garlic-like, but it has a milder, slightly sweet flavor and can grow up to three times the size of regular garlic bulbs. It is well-suited for growing in the Florida Panhandle, as it can take our heat and humidity much better than regular garlic.
Elephant garlic is a long season crop, requiring eight months for best results. It therefore should be planted in the fall for an early summer harvest. But if you just can’t wait, you can plant it now and still harvest this summer, but the garlic you harvest will most likely be one big round bulb instead of a bulb that can be separated into cloves.
When planting your elephant garlic, choose a location that receives full sun and has well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. When you are ready for planting, separate the individual elephant garlic cloves from a bulb and plant each six-to-eight inches apart, with the pointed end facing up. Cover the cloves with four-to-five inches of organic-matter-rich soil, and water well. Elephant garlic requires consistent moisture, so be sure to water your plants regularly, especially during any dry spells.
One of the unique features of elephant garlic is that it forms a tall, flowering stalk, or “scape,” in the spring. To encourage the plant to focus its energy on bulb development, remove the scapes. The top of the scape contains an edible round composite flower head that you can enjoy in salads or stir-fries.
Cure elephant garlic in cool, dry, and well-ventilated location. Photo by Molly Jameson.
As your elephant garlic plants mature, you’ll notice that the bulbs start to grow larger, the leaves that wrap the bulbs will decrease, and the tops will begin to turn a lighter green or yellow as they begin to die back. This is a sign that your elephant garlic is ready to be harvested. To harvest, gently loosen the soil around the bulbs with a potato fork and carefully lift them out of the ground.
If you planted late, or your elephant garlic experienced water or nutrient stress, you may still find that some of your harvested garlic only formed one big round bulb. You could leave these giant bulbs in place, and they should turn into cloves the following year. Or go ahead and harvest the big bulbs and use them in the kitchen just like you would regular garlic cloves.
Once harvested, you’ll need to cure your elephant garlic before storing. To do this, lay the bulbs out in a single layer on a dry, well-ventilated surface for at least a week. After the bulbs have cured, you can trim the roots and store them in a cool, dark place for up to eight to 10 months.
While elephant garlic may not be as pungent as regular garlic, it grows much better in our climate than regular garlic, and it still packs a flavorful punch, adding a unique twist to any dish. So why not give it a try in your garden? With a little care and attention, you’ll be enjoying home-grown elephant garlic in no time.
Mulch provides nutrients to soil and plants, reduces weed growth, controls soil temperature, and improves the look of lawns and gardens. It gives the landscape a neat, uniform appearance and is an excellent Florida-Friendly choice for hard-to-mow areas and shady spots. One should keep a 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of mulch on plant beds. Always leave at least 2 inches of space around tree trunks to prevent rot. Create self-mulching areas under your trees by allowing fallen leaves to stay in place. Though bark and wood chips are typically the most common mulch, other forms are just as beneficial. The following are the best overall mulches for Panhandle gardeners!
Bark and Wood Chips
Bark and wood chips are frequently used on flower beds and around small bushes and shrubs. As they decay, the material provides nutrients to the soil. Both materials are inexpensive and can be found at most gardening supply stores. Cedarwood chips are popular for their repellent properties, keeping fleas and other pests away.
Pebbles and Rocks
Pebbles and rocks are effective in retaining soil moisture and minimizing weed growth. They are excellent mulch alternatives for flower beds. Rocks are economical in cooler climates, where heat retained by rock mulch can extend the growing season. Since rocks do not decompose, they don’t provide nutrients to the soil. If you’re looking for a nutrient-rich mulch alternative, rocks are not a good choice. This can be easily remedied by fertilizing your landscape to provide more nutrients. If you decide to use pebbles or rocks, keep in mind that they can be difficult to remove if you switch to a different type of mulch a season or two.
Leaves and Pine Needles
Leaves and pine needles are an affordable nutrient-rich mulch alternative. Rake and gather fallen leaves each season and redistribute them above your soil. For the best results, one should shred the leaves. Let the shredded leaves dry before adding them to your garden to reduce bacteria growth and pest infestations. Pine needles decompose and add nutrients to the soil, just like other organic forms of mulch. They work best with plants that prefer acidic soil conditions, like holly gardenias, roses, and chrysanthemums. You can buy bundles of pine needles at your local gardening store or gather them from your own trees and spread them around your garden.
Grass clippings are a cost-efficient alternative to traditional mulch. However, they must be dried out or composted before use to prevent potentially damaging heat from affecting plants. If you treat your lawn with chemicals, don’t use grass clippings in your flower or garden bed.
Compost is an affordable mulch alternative and enriches the soil by adding essential nutrients. Apply compost above your garden or lawn in a thin layer. Compost improves the soil, adding nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen to your garden. One can make it yourself with discarded vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, dead leaves, and water.
Newspapers effectively keep weeds at bay, retain moisture, and regulate soil temperatures. Newspaper is equally functional compared to traditional mulches, but is not as visually appealing as other options. Moisten the newspaper slightly before laying it above the soil so that it stays in place. Then, add a thin layer of organic mulch on top. Apply five to eight sheets of newspaper at a time. If using newspaper without another mulch on top, shred it before applying it to your garden. Newspaper is biodegradable and will deteriorate like other mulches.
Would you like to make money off your land? Are you looking to diversify your current plans on your property? Jackson County is hosting a fruit and vegetable meeting on January 26, 2023, and this just may be the perfect way to start off your new year!
When thinking about what it means to be successful in planting your garden or having fruit trees, often the first thing that comes to mind is a healthy quality crop. This starts with the health of your soil. We will have two specialists that cover soil health and the benefit of adding cover crops to your rotation during the off season. The second thing that might come to mind when wanting to be successful is how to start? how much time do I have to devote to gardening? and how much do I want to do? This meeting will also have a specialist coming to Marianna to cover how to get started on a property with a specialty crop. Even though this information may be geared towards new farmers, it could also be very useful to new land owners and community residents just wanting to do more on their property. You may find that you have so much extra produce that you want to have a little fruit stand!
There will also be a session on the importance of drip irrigation, fertigation and how to implement these practices. Drip irrigation will not only save you money in the long run with the use of less water, but it is also much better for overall plant health by reducing pest and disease problems. Fertigation is the process of adding soil amendments, water amendments and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system. This process can be both beneficial to the plants and cut back on the time it would take to fertilize by hand.
The next session on specialty vegetable and fruit crops will teach about the various exciting specialty crop opportunities in the Tri-State area such as artichokes, blackberries, Seminole pumpkins, and more. Finally, the meeting will also cover cucurbit disease updates and will be extremely useful if you already have a field or garden of watermelons, cucumbers, or squash! Come with questions! CEUs will be offered as well if you are a homeowner that holds a pesticide license.
While, the audience for this conference is primarily small to medium sized, diversified cucurbit and vegetable producers in the tri-state region including the counties in the Panhandle, Alabama, and Georgia, the residential community is welcome to attend and will truly benefit with learning about soil health, cover crops, fertigation, drip irrigation, and specialty crops. The conference will be held at the Jackson County Extension Office in the Peanut Hall. We are planning a full morning with educational sessions and lunch to follow.
This meeting will be $5 at the door and pre-registration is highly encouraged. Please call our office at 850-482-9620 to reserve your seat and if you have any questions.
Tri-State Fruit and Vegetable Meeting
Thursday, January 26, 2023, 8:00 am- 1:00 pm at the Jackson County Agriculture Offices Auditorium, 2741 Penn Ave., Marianna.
Have you ever visited a public garden or a park and wondered what type of plant you were looking at? Or found the name on a sign but wondered – can I grow that at my house? How big will it get? Does it have flowers, berries, keep its leaves in the winter? We feel your pain, fellow plant lovers!
Gardens are ever evolving and providing up to date printed information on all the plants can become difficult to manage and involve a lot of wasted resources. In Bay County, we have several gardens at the Extension Office, and we try to keep everything labeled, but space on signs is limited to plant name and we want to teach gardeners how to grow not just identify plants. To expand outreach of Florida-Friendly plants, we have created a website with all the plants in our demonstration gardens.
The site is organized by garden area, common name, and botanical name to ease navigation. Each plant profile has photos at different stages, basic cultural information, and links to additional research-based information.
Whether you are visiting our gardens in person or just want information on plants that perform well in the Florida Panhandle, we hope you will check out our new site and let us know if you found it useful and how we can improve.
Want to grow a vegetable garden but don’t know where to start?
Raised bed gardens give you the ability to put a garden anywhere you have at least six hours of sunlight and access to water, regardless of your native soil type.
See the fact sheet below (Or Click Here for the downloadable PDF version!) for tips on how to build a raised bed vegetable garden. And be sure to reach out to your local Extension office with any questions!
Several times each month I am diagnosing shrub and tree problems in Escambia County that are related to the same issue, improper planting. Symptoms of this problem can be slow growth, leaf browning, and dieback. Sometimes under stressful weather conditions like drought, plants completely die.
This is a difficult sight for homeowners who have invested time and money in a tree or shrub to enhance the landscape. In some cases, the planting issues can be fixed but there are other times when a new plant will need to be installed.
The good news for homeowners is that this is a completely preventable issue. The University of Florida has excellent publications with photos about installing and caring for trees and shrubs. My Panhandle colleagues and I have also shared numerous articles and videos on proper plant installation.
Care must be taken during installation to set your plant at the correct depth. Even if a landscaper or nursery is installing the plant for you, check their work. Make sure the rootball is cut or sliced, it is not set below grade, that any straps holding the rootball are cut after it is set, and proper backfilling occurs without soil over the top of the rootball.
You don’t want to find out later in the season or even year’s later that your plant declined just because of planting problems.