Category Archives for "Planting"

Ideal Indoor Grow Room Conditions: Grow Room Temperature and Humidity

Having a grow room is what every farmer should think of. It is one of the best things to have. A grow room comes with several advantages as compared to cultivating in an open field. You get to control pest infestation, odors, make use of a small space, and have total control over your crops. Since it is an enclosed area, you will need to manually control the climate inside the grow room. Unlike an open area where the environment controls how the plants grow, this entirely depends on you.

A grow room needs ideal indoor conditions for your crops to survive. Actually, it is not just a matter of surviving but getting the most yields out of them. There are two main weather conditions that are very paramount for crops growing inside a grow room or tent. Let’s find out what they are.


1. Grow room temperature

Temperature is very crucial for growth and development of plants. Each type of plant has its own favorable temperature at which it thrives best. However, photosynthesis takes place nicely at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature higher than that can affect the process badly.

Else ways, some plants can withstand heat a little higher than the normal level. Summer comes with very high temperatures which may sometimes be difficult to control. Plants like cacti, Aloe Vera, succulents, Devil’s ivy, and Ponytail Palm can withstand a lot of heat. They have enough water to sustain them through drought. They also have mechanisms that prevent excessive transpiration. However, other plants need a controlled environment in order to blossom.

The temperature required depends on the stage at which the plant is. For example, in the vegetative stage, 70-78 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and around 10-15 cooler at night are standard for growth. The flowering stage requires a temperature of 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit during daytime and about 10-15 cooler at night.

For conditioning the air inside your grow room, we have the best ac for grow tent. It is not every conditioner you find on the market that can serve you to your satisfaction. Our company supplies high quality, durable, eco-friendly, and reliable air conditioners. This is what you need to control the temperature inside your grow room.

You can find a programmable ac which automatically switch depending on the environmental temperature. For instance, when the heat goes too low for plants’ survival, the heater turns on until the optimum temperature is attained. When the heat is too high, a cooler is turned on. A fan helps in circulating the conditioned air inside the grow room.

If you may need to move your conditioner to different places, consider buying a portable ac grow room. We have it in stock at a very affordable price. A portable air conditioner gives you an easy time in case you want to relocate your plants to a different grow room, or even use it for conditioning your house. It is easy to carry around and operate.

Depending on your budget, you can find an air conditioner of your preference. All sizes and designs are available. You do not want a big ac for just a small tent. This will be as good as wasting electricity. In addition, you can find one that uses gasoline or even solar. Think about what will serve you well and go for it.

2. Grow room humidity

Humidity can affect growth of indoor plants depending on its level. It is very crucial to keep it at the recommended level to ensure your plants bloom. Plants need different quantities of humidity depending on the growth stage. For example, seedlings need a strict range or humidity, unlike grown plants which can resist a wider range.

For plants in the vegetative stage, 45% to 55% of humidity is ideal for growth. In the flowering stage, plants need a range of 35% to 45%. You can even lower it to 30%. Plants can survive between 3-55% of humidity. However, the ideal range is between 40% and 45%.

To monitor the amount of humidity in your grow room, you need a hygrometer. In addition, a humidifier will help you regulate the level of moisture in the room. Too high levels of humidity may cause growth of molds, rotting of buds, and Powdery Mildew. On the other hand, too low humidity may affect the capability of transpiration. This causes stunted growth in plants as photosynthesis is highly affected.

We supply the best humidifier for grow room to help you regulate the amount of vapor in it. You can find any design and size from our store depending on your preference. The humidifier has sensors which detect the level of humidity in the atmosphere before automatically switching to the appropriate action. Good ventilation can also play a big role in controlling the humidity inside your grow room or grow tent.

Using a buyer’s guide, you can choose the best humidifier available in our store. You can choose one depending on the speed of humidification, temperature of the moisture, source of power, convenience, and portability. You can find any type of humidifier grow room at your own budget.

Apart from the two weather conditions, there are more requirements for crops in growing rooms to survive. For instance, oxygen, carbon IV oxide, light, water, soil type, mineral nutrients, and support are other necessities for growth. Good ventilation will ensure most of the requirements reach the plants. Nonetheless, there are a few plants that can grow very well without sunlight. They can survive on indirect light. Such plants include Dracaena, bromeliads, Maidenhair Fern, Parlor Palm, Umbrella papyrus, snake plant, and creeping fig among others. These are some of the plants you can grow indoors.

It is the joy of every cultivator to reap maximum yield. With no pests in the picture, it is very possible to harvest well as long as you keep the weather conditions in your grow room ideal. A grow room saves you the tussle of fighting pests, weeds, and worrying about bad weather. You can grow any type of plant during any season. You don’t have to think about the weather outside. Your cops will still thrive because all the power lies in your hands.

Everything you need to know about Growing Heirlooms

growing heirlooms

For many of us, a large component to modern homesteading is growing fruits and vegetables for ourselves and our families. We enjoy having a little bit of control over what we’re eating and how it was grown. Growing and eating fresh produce is hands-down a healthier lifestyle and it leaves us with healthier wallets, as well. If you have yet to try your hand at growing heirlooms, there’s some compelling reasons to introduce a few into your garden this year. One of the most exciting is the hundreds (and hundreds) of heirloom varieties that you won’t find in the typical grocery store. Everyday commercial vegetables don’t begin to scratch the surface of the many shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors that heirlooms (and other open-pollinated varieties) can offer.

When you do find the one or two heirlooms in the produce aisle, they’re extremely expensive. Growing these special vegetables in your home garden will have you saving money, eating the ultimate fresh food, and enjoying intense vegetable flavors that you’ve probably never tasted before. To top it off recent studies have shown heirloom vegetables to be higher in nutrition than their half-breed cousins — the commercial hybrids. Heirloom and open-pollinated seeds can be saved year-to-year, which means that technically after the initial purchase you’d never have to buy seeds again. Unless, of course, you’re like me and can’t wait to try the next variety that catches your eye (or palate). If generous gardeners around you (and vice-versa) share seeds from their plants; you may never have to purchase seeds for your garden again.

When you plant heirlooms, you’ll be putting food on the table that has its own genes and produces true seed. But what exactly does that mean? First let’s talk about the definition of open-pollinated, heirlooms, and hybrid plants (by the way, these terms define flowers and bulbs, as well as vegetables).


Photo courtesy of: Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply/Grow

Defining Heirloom Characteristics: 

Hybrid: The offspring of two plants of different breeds, varieties, or species as produced through human manipulation for specific genetic characteristics. Seeds kept from hybrids won’t breed true to the parent plant and can actually be sterile (as is the case for some commercial hybrids).

*Hybrids should not be confused with GMOs. A genetically modified organism has been altered by genetic engineering such as placing the gene from one species (like a fish) into another species (like a tomato).*

Open-Pollinated: These are plants that are pollinated naturally (by insects, wind, water, birds, or mammals). Seeds from an open-pollinated (OP) plant will produce seedlings and fruit that will look like the parent plant. In other words, these seed varieties are said to “breed true.”

Heirloom: Heirlooms are a sub-set within the open-pollinated class. Generally, they earn their title when they’ve been handed down from generation to generation for fifty years. Let me further clarify what puts heirloom varieties into a class of their own:

1. Heirlooms have time, stability, and history behind them. But the truth is that there’s no “official definition.” In fact, some purists don’t like to put varieties into that category unless it’s 100 years old or older (most agree to the age of 50 years). One thing is for sure, heirlooms are rich with culture being brought to us courtesy of immigrants from all over of the world. Plus, many of these seeds have wonderful stories — and names — attached to them.

2. Heirloom vegetables are always open-pollinated varieties, although not all open-pollinated varieties are heirlooms. One example is when open-pollinated varieties are “created.” This happens when a plant breeder uses two heirlooms (or an heirloom and a hybrid) and crosses them in order to get certain desirable traits. The plant produced from the seed after the cross-pollination is a hybrid. This hybrid can be grown out, allowed to become naturally pollinated, and these seeds are saved.

They’re replanted and the cycle begins again and again for five years or longer. At the point where after the seed is grown out and it consistently grows true to its parent, it’s considered “dehybridized” and can be referred to as an open-pollinated variety. Are these new OP kids destined to become heirlooms? Maybe. If they’re loved and kept around for generations, these new open-pollinated plants could end up being the heirlooms of our future. After all, family heirloom varieties whose seeds have been passed down through the generations originated from cross-pollination (started out as natural hybrids) in the garden or on the farm.

3. It’s extremely important to note that no one owns open-pollinated or heirloom varieties; they remain public domain. Unlike many commercial hybrids, heirlooms have no secret parentage (as can be the case with hybrids) and they’re available to any gardener. By the way, the above characteristics belong to the open-pollinated veggies that aren’t necessarily considered heirlooms. They just may not have the extensive history as their counterparts.

Why We Celebrate Heirlooms 

Due to some misconceptions floating about, I’d like to explain that hybrid plants are not being demonized within the heirloom-loving communities. Hybrids certainly have their place and I don’t know anyone that’s actually banished them from their home garden. Rather, the idea is to celebrate and share the incredible value of heirlooms and open-pollinated plants. Here’s the part where I share what it is about our heritage plants that just rocks our world (literally).

Unrivaled flavor — I’ll be the first one to admit that any vine-ripe vegetable grown in the home garden (hybrids included) beats the flavor of store-bought vegetables any day. That said, most heirlooms have the flavor factor in spades; the prolific hybrids have a hard time competing with that. Commercial hybrids are created for uniformity in color, shape, size, yield, transporting abilities, and the ease of machine-harvesting. This isn’t to say that there aren’t delicious hybrids — there certainly are. But there’s an amazing assortment of heirloom varieties (and therefore, flavors) to please the palate.

Genetic diversity — We can thank genetic diversity for the fact that so many varieties of vegetables exist in so many different areas. Gardeners in Alaska can have potatoes just like gardeners in California all because there are varieties adapted to each environment. A big drawback to planting monocultures (a large amount of only one plant variety) is that a single pest or disease can come in and wipe out an entire food crop. Genetic diversity in a garden is the first defense against this potential threat. An excellent example is the Irish potato famine of 1845. At that time all of the potatoes grown in Ireland were a variety called ‘Lumper.’ Farmers lost all of their crops,  the people lost their food. Because the plants were genetically identical more than a million people died of starvation.

Adaptability — Heirloom plants have an inherent ability to adapt naturally over time to their environment (these plants are referred to as “landraces”). They adapt not only to the soil they’re planted in, but also to the climate.

Historically, as vegetable varieties adjusted to their environments they also developed resistances to local pests and diseases. The resulting plants ended up strong, viable, and suited to every area in the world. You can create landraces by planting an heirloom that does particularly well in your garden, saving the seeds from the best fruit, and replanting year after year.

A Little Control — Food is a basic human necessity and he who controls the seed controls the food supply. Unfortunately, about ten companies control three quarters of the commercial seed world-wide. They literally own it. You’ll be happy to know that heirlooms are owned by no one — and everyone.

A Link to Our Past — So when did “heirlooms” become heirlooms? It might surprise you to know that the term didn’t exist before the early 1980s. Before that, they were know by a different name; food. These plants were simply traditional vegetables grown in gardens everywhere — the staples of life. I find it fascinating that some of the heirlooms preserved by family seed-saving go as far back as 2000 years or more. Connected to these seeds is the history of our ancestors and who they were; giving us a basic indication of who we are. Seeds are truly living family heirlooms.

Purple Pod Bush Beans

Photo courtesy of: Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply/Grow

Those Funky, Fabulous Names 

If you aren’t sold on heritage seeds by now, their names and stories will surely win you over. Check out this small example of some marvelous monikers:

  • Drunken Woman Frizzy-Headed lettuce — You’re really going to resist that?
  • Moon & Stars watermelon — This melon literally has a big, gold moon and little starts on the rind.
  • Dragon Tongue beans — You can grow Dragon Tongues?
  • Mortgage Lifter (Radiator Charlie’s) tomato — M.C. Byles of West Virginia (“Radiator Charlie”) bred this tomato variety to bring in more money while he was struggling in the 1940s. He bred the plant for six years to achieve some stability in the variety. He sold the plants for $1 each and paid off his $6000 mortgage.
  • Rattlesnake beans — Pour these seeds into your kids’ hands and tell them to go plant some rattle snakes in the garden.
  • Tigger melon — Tigger is child-hand-sized, bright yellow with zig-zagged orange stripes.
  • Cherokee Trail of Tears beans — This bean was carried from the SmokyMountains to Oklahoma during the winter death march (1838-1839), 4,000 graves were left along that trail.
  • Mascara lettuce — Named for her brilliant red, frilly leaves.
  • Depp’s Firefly tomato — Read the name again. I’m just sayin’. 

Perfect Pollination

If you’d like to grow heirlooms and save the seed for next season’s garden, you’ll need to protect your plants from cross-pollination by other plants in the same family. The goal is collect pure seed and in order to do this, varieties are usually grown a certain distance apart (depending on the plant family), or by using physical barriers such as caging or bagging techniques. For example, pumpkin varieties can all cross-pollinate with one another, which would produce impure seed and the pumpkins produced from the next generation would end up a hybrid. I should also mention that there are times when it may not matter to you whether your plants are cross-pollinated or not. If you don’t plan on saving seeds, then it wouldn’t matter how (or who) pollinated your plants. Here’s why: When a plant is pollinated it produces the right fruit for that variety.

Let’s say the a honey bee carries the pollen from a ‘Dixie Queen’ watermelon and pollinates the flower of a ‘Crimson Sweet’ watermelon, the fruit borne on that plant will be a ‘Crimson Sweet.’ Cross-pollination doesn’t affect the resulting fruit of the first generation. It affects the seeds within that fruit. Therefore, only if you were going to save the seed from that pumpkin would you be concerned about whom was pollinating whom. One of the keys to successful gardening is choosing the right variety for your climate — this doesn’t get any truer than with heirlooms.

The best advice I can offer on choosing the right varieties for your area is to talk to your local nurseries and see if they offer varieties that thrive in your zone, find out what your neighbors are growing, and ask heirloom seed companies for guidance before you order. This year, plant the vegetables with the laugh-out-loud names, rich heritages, amazing colors, and mouthwatering flavors. See for yourself why the varieties of the past have earned their way into the hearts and homesteads of so many gardeners of today.

Chris is the gardening/home ag editor of From Scratch Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, blogger, and author of five books including Vertical Vegetable Gardening (Alpha Books, 2012). She balances family, writing, and all things modern homesteading from their hobby farm in the Northern California foothills. She’s blessed with four fabulous kids and four darling sugar babies.

I don’t understand tomatoes


Tomatoes do not make the first kind of sense.

Bear with me.

First, tomatoes are members of the nightshade family, which include potatoes, eggplants and deadly nightshade. That last one is poisonous.

According to wikipedia, deadly nightshade was also called belladonna. Which is Italian for “pretty woman.” Wikipedia says it was called “pretty woman” because Italian women made eye drops with it to dilate their pupils and make them appear “seductive” during one of those crazy and fancy periods in European history (I’m betting the 1700s, but wikipedia didn’t say).

So, first of all, that’s confusing, right? We eat a plant very closely related to a plant that can kill us. But only moderately so. Technically, all plants are related to plants that could kill us.

In fact, it was such a concern that tomatoes weren’t consumed by Europeans, who widely though they were poisonous. The legend is Col. Robert Johnson, of Salem, New Jersey, proved the fruits (and yes, tomatoes are a fruit) were edible by eating a mess of tomatoes and not dying in 1820.

Tomatoes, like potatoes and sweet potatoes, are New World plants, which means they were cultivated by the Native Americans.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are interesting plants. In the veggie growing world, these two plants are kind of low maintenance. you stick ’em in the ground, you try not to let too many weeds grow around them, you do a bit of maintenance and then, a few weeks later, you have delicious tubers.

In fact, I’d argue that most of the New World veggies were relatively low maintenance. Summer squash produces a canopy which, if properly managed, reduces the amount of weeding necessary. Jerusalem Artichokes plant themselves to the point where you’ll probably find yourself fighting them back.

The ever popular Three Sisters method, widely attributed to Native Americans, is almost stunning in its elegance: Corn provides a structure for beans, beans provide nitrogen for corn and squash and squash provides weed suppression by shading out undergrowth.

But tomatoes, tomatoes are different.

There are companion plants, sure, but they grow all over the place (I prefer indeterminate varieties to determinant), they don’t provide much in the way of calories and it seems like the leaves are always getting some sort of blight.

Here’s a breakdown of calories for various New World plants (medium sized fruits/tubers, one whole fruit or tuber):

  • Potatoes-163 calories
  • Sweet Potato-114 calories
  • Seminole pumpkin (whole pumpkin)-More than 800 calories
  • Tomato-22 calories

What gives?

I have two theories: One-We’re growing the wrong kind of tomatoes or Two-We’re growing them wrong

First, maybe we’re growing the wrong kind of tomato.

Tomatoes, according to this site, descended from small, hardy fruits that could thrive in harsh conditions. some of the wilder relatives even thrived in desert conditions, with fruits that featured waxy coatings to prevent water loss.

This site shows tomatoes growing wild in Chile, where the plant is believed to have come from. An image shows the wild cousin growing from a crevice in the rock. Tomatoes are still grown in the lower Andes, where they are believed to have been introduced to the rest of the New World.

Wild tomatoes are built by nature to survive. The fruits produced, much like the ancient apples of Kazakhstan, bear little resemblance to their domestic cousins. Is it possible, in our zeal to produce the sweet, zesty, thin-skinned tomatoes we know and love, we’ve lost something?

I’d argue that we have.

Secondly, maybe we’re growing tomatoes wrong. If you read the article on, you might notice something familiar about the descriptions of the wild tomatoes grown in a greenhouse used for research. Some of these plants feature woody stems and are constantly seeking refuge, putting down roots all over the place. If left to their own devices, indeterminate tomatoes will put down new roots, sending off shoots that turn into new tomato plants. While this isn’t behavior that one wants to encourage for fruit production, there is something to be said for attempting to see what happens.

The most common method of tomato growth is to stake the tomatoes, to keep them off the ground and prevent disease. Some people trellis tomatoes, others use tomato cages.

Which works, but the method requires a lot of upkeep and training. If you’re interested in doing that here’s a video with about a dozen different staking and caging methods:

Another method, that actually resembles how wild tomatoes grow, is the hanging basket or upside down tomato method. Here’s a video on that method:

Why are tomatoes so difficult to grow? Find out the history of this unique fruit as well as some ideas on how to improve our growing methods.

While it’s too late for this year, I’m going to try doing most of my tomatoes in hanging baskets next year, but I’m also going to try and make some mesh tables. My idea basically involves creating one-foot high, six feet long tables with fencing instead of a table top. The idea is to let the tomatoes grow up, then let them naturally fall over on the tables. The fruit can grow through the fencing and be shaded by the leaves above. Hopefully, this will help reduce the amount of pruning required, combat high temperatures and keep them off the ground. I don’t know if it’ll work, but if it does and I use cedar for the framework, the tables will last for years and save me a heck of a lot of work.

Another method, I tried once before, involved growing Russian Giant Sunflowers, pruning them and using the stalks to tie my tomatoes off. It worked reasonably well, with the exception that the foliage from the flowers shaded the tomatoes out a bit too much. I think I might try that again next year, and use more aggressive pruning methods to prevent the shading from happening.

I’ve also reached out to my favorite Dirt Nerd, Dr. Lisa Rayburn, of the Onslow County Extension Agency, about my theories. I’m hoping she responds, if she does, I’ll update this article with more information.

What’s your favorite tomato growing method? Let us know in the comments below.

How to add microbes to your soil



Recently, we decided that for weed control, we were going to solarize our garden beds through the hottest part of the summer.

But, as our research showed, there’s a drawback to solarzing beds: The heat and UV radiation kills beneficial microbes in the soil.

So, I’ve been doing research on how to add microbes back into the soil in order to get better results for our Fall garden.

Some of these methods are well researched, others, however, are random, barely researched ideas, and should be taken with a grain of salt. I’ll start with the researched topics first:


Earthworms are hands down one of the best ways to improve your soil. These wiggly, slimy powerhouses work really hard to ingest organic material, including fungus and other microbes, and produce worm castings (a.k.a. worm poop) that is rich in microbial activity. In the process, their movement through the soil aerates the soil and breaks down the organic matter into humus, which provides a home for microbes and helps retain nutrients and water in the soil. If you don’t have any earthworms, get some. You can buy a worm bin here (we’ll also be doing a blog post soon on turning an old bathtub into a worm bed).. We’ll be digging earthworms out of the forest floor on the edge of our property. But, you can also add earthworm castings to your soil to get some of the same benefits.

2. Compost

Compost is chock-a-block full of microbes, most of which can be beneficial. As compost breaks down, bacteria and fungus “eats” the organic material in compost, making the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) available for use by plants. While there’s an important distinction between soil and compost (soil is an aggregate material while finished compost is primarily humus — aka broken down organic matter), for the most part, finished compost can be used as soil and as a soil amendment. The bacterial and fungal materials that work to break down compost have benefits to your soil: Earthworms and other organisms consume them and work in conjunction with them to improve your soil. Soil containing compost and other organic matter “holds” on to nutrients plants need better and require less water over time. If you haven’t started composting yet, do it now. Here’s all the information you need to know. If you have an HOA, you might want to invest in a commercial compost bin. Otherwise, build one with what you have lying around. In the meantime, get some compost tea and add it to the soil.

3. Innoculants

Soil inoculates, applied to seeds or directly to the soil, take the problem of adding microbes to your growing medium on directly: Need microbes=Add microbes. Commercial soil inoculates are used to add beneficial bacteria and fungus to soils which hopefully provide a method for nutrients in the soil to be made more readily available to plants. You can also apply them to seeds before planting them, in order to create a “zone” around the root structures of your plants. Both methods work, but scientists often disagree on why, how or how much.


The methods below are collected from various and assorted forums, conversations and experiences through the years. I have no idea if they’ll work or not, but there’s anecdotal evidence that suggests they might. A couple of them are just random guesses and thoughts.


Beer was suggested as a soil amendment when I found out about Terra Preta. After reading about this magical material, I googled around to see if anyone had attempted to recreate the soil. This was the only recipe I found. The recipe suggested using beer to add yeast to the soil. Another google search brought up this forum thread for cannabis growers who claimed beer worked really well for all sorts of things. It’s worth trying, because beer is cheap. I figure I’ll buy a 40 oz. beer from my local gas station, mix it with a gallon or two of water and put it in my sprayer.

2.Fermented Rice Water

About two years ago, as a member of the Onslow County Farm Incubator Program, we hosted a group of Mexican Agricultural college students visiting. The group was part of a class of Mayan Indians from the Yucatán Peninsula. While there, I was discussing, with my incredibly limited remembrance of high school Spanish and with the help of a Panamanian-born extension agent, the difficulties we were having dealing with Curcubit Downy Mildew. An agronomist with the group said they used in their Milpa farms in the region, fermented rice water to combat the problem.

Essentially, farmers there cooked rice, and buried it in the ground in a small, two-three foot deep hole in the ground lined with leaves to hold the water in.  I cannot, for the life of me, remember if the opening was covered with more leaves or had a mesh screen over it or not? According to her instructions, after a few days, get the water out of the ground and strain it. Then use the material, a cup per gallon of water, to spray down your plants. So, of course, straight to google I go. I found this recipe for a similar product, but I honestly don’t know if it’s the same thing. Check it out. Either way, I’m going to try it out and see what happens.

3. Kefir, yoghurt and sauerkraut juice

I have no idea, or reason, to believe this will actually do anything. But, I figure all three things have live, bacterial cultures; are readily available and I doubt can do any serious damage, so why not? Again, I’ll cut these with water and spray the soil down with the mixtures. Wish me luck!

My plan:

I’m going to solarize my soil until the middle of August. While that’s happening, I’ve surrounded the clear plastic covering my beds with mulch (composed of leaves and wood chips). While waiting for the soil to solarize, I’ll spray that mulch down with beer, fermented rice water, kefir, diluted yogurt, sauerkraut juice and innoculants. I’ll also spray down the mulch with Neptune’s Harvest Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer, to provide nutrients to help break down the mulch. After August, when I pull up the plastic, I’ll mix the mulch in with the soil and add manure, compost, compost tea and earthworms and earthworm castings from my worm bed. Then I’ll begin my Fall garden at the end of August. What are your thoughts? Do you think this grand experiment will produce results? Let me know in the comments.

Hardneck or softneck? What kind of garlic do you grow?


Editor’s note: A version of this piece originally appeared on Sow True Seeds’ blog. Find out more about Sow True at the end of the piece.

There are more than 400 members of the genus allium: Onions, shallots, leeks and everyone’s favorite, garlic.

Did you know garlic was so prized in ancient Egypt that it was used as currency? Clay models of garlic bulbs were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen.

The word garlic comes from the Old English garleac, meaning spear leek. For more than 6,000 years, this native of Central Asia has been a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and used as a seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The most commonly cultivated form of garlic is allium sativum, which has two sub-varieties: Softneck garlic and hardneck garlic.

What’s the difference between softneck and hardneck garlic?

Softneck (allium sativum var. sativum)

This is the one with which you are probably most familiar. It’s found in supermarkets because it is better suited to industrial farming and stores longer (6 to 12 months with proper cool dry conditions).  Softnecks have white papery skin and an abundance of cloves, often forming several layers around a central core. The flexible stalk also allows softneck garlic to be formed into garlic braids. Sow True Seed carries three types of softnecks currently available for the 2015 planting season:

  • California Early Organic – An early-maturing garlic suitable for most climates. Mild, rich garlic flavor without the bite. 12-16 cloves per bulb. Good for the beginning grower.
  • Inchelium Organic – Has a robust flavor, rich with a hint of heat. The bulbs reach 3” across; and have 12-20 cloves. The outer bulb wrappers are thick and protect the bulb, helping it stores well for 6-7 months. It overwinters well.

Hardneck (allium sativum var. ophioscorodon)

The Latin name for the hardneck variety is ophioscorodon. This may comes from the Greek word ophis — meaning “snake,” after its coiling scape stalk. On top of this scape grow little bulbs (bubils) which look a bit like flowers but are not.

Hardneck have fewer and larger cloves than softnecks with little or no outer bulb wrapper. They don’t last as long without that papery protection but with proper cool and dry storage can still go 4 to 6 months. We have four types of hardneck currently available for 2015 planting:

  • German White – An early-to-mid summer porcelain variety with a distinct, moderately spicy flavor. 6-8 plump, easy-to-peel cloves. Bulbs between 2 and 2 1/2” wide. Yummy for roasting. It stores well into the cold winter months.
  • German Red – This lovely hardneck garlic has a bold, full-bodied true “garlic” flavor. Consistent producer of large bulbs with with fat cloves and red streaked inner wrappers.
  • Chesnok Red – This purpleskin delight is beautiful to behold and just as flavorful! It is the sweetest of all the garlics when roasted. A true mild hardneck. 50 to 60 cloves per pound. 25 to 30 cloves per half pound.
  • Music – A very cold hardy, slightly spicy, incredibly flavorful garlic. Huge, easy-to-peel cloves per bulb with a shiny-white sheath and pink-tinged clove skins. 20-30 cloves per lb.
  • Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum), is an allium that is not a true garlic, but a garlic-y sister to the leek.

Folklore is pungent with garlic references. Greek athletes ate handfuls of it before competition, as did Greek soldiers before going into battle. Ancient Koreans ate pickled garlic before passing through a mountain path, believing that tigers disliked it. Practitioners of Auryvedic medicine held garlic in high regard as an aphrodisiac. Medieval midwives hung garlic cloves in birthing rooms to keep evil spirits away. Of course we know it repels all manner of bad guys – werewolves, devils and especially vampires. To ward off vampires, the superstitions recommend wearing it, hanging it in windows, or rubbing it on chimneys and keyholes. But they do not say which type is more effective, so perhaps you might try a sampler pack?

Garlic has been used medicinally for almost as long as it has been cultivated. Monks prescribed it against plague in the Middle Ages. Hippocrates used garlic vapors to treat cancer. Poultices were made from garlic during World War 2 as an inexpensive, and apparently effective replacement for scarce antibiotics.

Garlic was found in ethnic dishes cooked in American working-class neighborhoods from the early days, but it was considered vulgar by the upper classes until about the 1930s. It was known as Bronx vanilla, halitosis, and Italian perfume.

Today as a nation we consume more than 250 million pounds of garlic annually. Here’s a simple yet sublime recipe to celebrate that fact.

Easy Garlic Aioli

Aioli is a traditional Provençal sauce for dipping bread, artichokes or just about anything. It’s usually a little more complicated, starting with olive oil and eggs, but this recipe from is super quick and still delicious.


  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


Mix mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.


About Sow True Seeds:

Disclosure note: Sow True Seeds advertises with From Scratch. Just like all of our advertisers, they are carefully vetted to ensure they provide value to our readers and reflect our values as a publication. The reasons we have decided to partner with Sow True are: The company specializes in heirloom varieties, produces no GMO-seeds and is operated by individuals determined to honor people and the planet. Additionally — and this is no small thing for us at From Scratch — their seed catalog is beautiful.

Get ready to plant garlic!

Get ready to plant garlic

Editor’s note: This piece was originally published on the blog at Sow True Seeds. Find out more about the company at the end of the piece.

As we round the corner into the late summer we begin to turn our minds and garden beds towards the future harvests of cooler months or the far horizon of next summer.  Garlic comes to mind as one of the most important plants that can be cultivated ‘in the space between’ our raucous garden seasons of high summer.

Planted in fall, garlic overwinters in the ground, growing throughout the fall and then stopping growth until the spring commences.  Garlic is harvested in the summer when the leaves begin to yellow.  Sow True Seed sells Elephant Garlic, hardneck and softneck varieties which you can choose based on your preference or needs.

If you grew garlic this past year it is drying somewhere nearby and you are enjoying the flavors of the variety you chose.  Your own fresh garlic just doesn’t compare to the store bought stuff.  Begin thinking about what you might like in a garlic for next year or you can buy our sampler pack which provides a 1/4 lb. of both a hardneck and softneck variety so you can have two varieties next year to choose from!

If you prefer a complex lingering flavor, great for roasting, try Chesnok,  but if you like a spicier flavor, hardneck variety that lends itself to zesty salsas try German White.  The softneck variety California Early provides a great garlic flavor  and is an early maturing variety that does well in a variety of climates.

Garlic prefers a well drained soil with good fertility.  A well amended plot that has a soft tilth will allow the bulbs to grow and spread. Plant the garlic before the cold temperatures of winter freeze the soil to allow it time to grow some roots before the hard winter sets in.  Garlic should be planted 2-3 inches below the surface of the soil and 4 to 6 inches apart within rows.  Put about 12 inches between rows.  Plant the bulb flat end down and pointy end up!! Mulch thickly and in a few weeks you will see small leaves emerging from the mulch.  Keep the garlic weed free through the winter and the shoots will begin growing again when the temperatures warm.

Once the plants are well established they will form scapes that make great pesto or can be used in salads or stir frys.  By removing these scapes the plant can put energy into bulking up its bulbs.  When you see half to two-thirds of the leaves have yellowed it is time to pull your garlic (usually June or July depending on your location).  As leaves are yellowing, hold back on the water to prevent the possibility of root rot and to thicken the skins. You can wash the bulbs and dry them in a dry airy place for 3 to 4 weeks to cure.  Long term storage conditions should have low humidity.

If you are growing garlic it is likely you have many a recipe that already uses this versatile Allium.  In case you have not roasted it this way before it is a wonderful way to enjoy the complex flavors of various varieties.

Quick and easy roasted garlic recipe:

Cut the tips off an entire head of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil.  Bake at 350° until the cloves are soft and pulpy.  Use as a spread on fresh bread or with crackers or raw vegetables.

Get garlic seeds:

Want to try an overwinter garlic? Find out how to get garlic seed here. Sow True Seeds encourages customers to pre-order garlic seed, as their supply is limited. The seeds will be shipped in September as soon as it’s available.

About Sow True Seeds:

Disclosure note: Sow True Seeds advertises with From Scratch. Just like all of our advertisers, they are carefully vetted to ensure they provide value to our readers and reflect our values as a publication. The reasons we have decided to partner with Sow True are: The company specializes in heirloom varieties, produces no GMO-seeds and is operated by individuals determined to honor people and the planet. Additionally — and this is no small thing for us at From Scratch — their seed catalog is beautiful.

Find out more about this wonderful company here.

Time to start your seeds

Depending on where you live, it’s probably time to start any seeds you have. Sure, North America is covered in sheets of ice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your garden started inside.

Starting seeds, and then putting transplants in the ground, means you have a greater rate of successful and healthy plants.

Check out these top seed starting tips in the video below to help make your project more successful: