Question: I harvested a crop of garlic from my Ohio garden this summer. However, I noticed many of the bulbs are drying out before I can use them. What's wrong?
Answer: Assuming you harvested and cured your garlic properly before storing, then it may be you're storing it under the wrong conditions. After you harvest your garlic in summer, be careful not to drop or bruise the bulbs. This will lead to premature rotting. Cure the bulbs in a warm, well-ventilated garage or shed for about 2 weeks. Garlic stores best at 32 to 35 degrees F. If you don't have a room this cold, try storing your garlic in a dry, dark room that's about 50 to 60 degrees F. It won't last as long, but should still be fine into winter. Don't store garlic in the refrigerator or it may sprout prematurely. Eat any bruised or sprouting garlic bulbs first. Soft neck garlic varieties will store for up to 9 months, while hard neck varieties can last up to 6 months in storage.
Question: What's the secret to growing bulbing Florence fennel? I grew 20 plants last year in my Seattle garden and few formed bulbs.
Answer: Florence or bulb fennel loves to grow and mature in cool, moist conditions. If the weather gets too hot or the plant is water stressed, then it may not form large bulbs, but just bolt and form a flower stalk. Try starting your fennel earlier or later in the season to avoid hot weather. To grow fennel, select varieties adapted to your climate, such as 'Perfection'. Start seedlings indoors in early spring and transplant out 3 weeks before your last frost date. For a fall and winter crop, plant in late summer or early fall. Select a variety adapted to winter growing in mild climates like Seattle, such as 'Victorio.
Space plants 10 inches apart, keeping them well weeded and watered. Side dress with a liquid fertilizer monthly. When the bulbs start forming and are the size of an egg, mound up the soil around them to blanch them. Blanched bulbs have a more tender texture. Harvest a few weeks later.