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Gardening with Laurie: Fall good time to work in garden

By By Laurie Garretson
Oct. 31, 2013 at 5:31 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

Fall is a great time of the year for many reasons.

Most gardeners would agree that fall is the best time to be out in their yards.

Most vegetable gardeners would agree that fall vegetable gardens are the most enjoyable to work in and to eat from.

Over the past few years, it has been fun and encouraging to see so many people growing their own vegetables.

I have noticed the popularity of different vegetables change from year to year. Tomatoes are always popular with heirloom varieties being most popular the past few years.

Other very popular vegetables to grow are members of the Allium family - onions being the most popular of the group. How would we cook without them?

But let's look at some of the other underused members of this family.

Onions (Allium cepa) are easy to grow, require little space, can be grown almost anywhere and have few pest problems. Fall is when most of the Allium family is planted.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is probably the next most-often grown member of this family. Garlic has the strongest flavor of all the Allium family. It grows as a bulb that is made up of cloves.

Chives (Allium schoenprasum) are one member of the family that we only eat the above ground parts. Chives look like tufts of grass and, in fact, are closely related to grass. The grass-like foliage is what we eat from chives. There are two varieties of chives - the typical onion flavor and garlic flavored.

Scallions, which are often referred to as bunching or green onions, are immature plants of any of the bulbing members of the Allium family. This family member, no matter what you want to call it, is harvested before the bulb is fully formed. The entire scallion plant can be eaten - all the green and white parts.

Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum) are the biggest Alliums in the family and do not form bulbs. Leeks grow up to 2 feet tall and 2 inches in diameter. They look like giant scallions. Leeks have a very mild onion taste and are delicious.

I find leeks to be not as well-known as the other Allium types.

Shallots (Allium ascalonium) are like their garlic cousins in that they grow as bulbs that are made up of cloves. Shallots grow in clusters and have a tapered shape that is different from other members of the onion family. Shallots have a taste like a blend of garlic and sweet onions.

All members of the Allium family have few pest problems. In fact, many of the Allium members are suggested as plants to have in the garden to repel pests.

Now is the time to plant these vegetables. Hope you will include some in your garden and enjoy them.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, and not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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