Gardening answers: eggshells, garlic and avocados

 

Question: Can the avocado seed be planted to grow a plant?
Daryl Shim,
Burnaby
 
Answer: Yes, it can. The avocado shoot emerges from the smaller end of the pit, the roots from the fatter end.
In this climate, avocados can go outside in summer, but they're frost-tender and need to be taken in for winter. The beautiful, big glossy avocado leaves make it a good houseplant when it's young.
For sprouting, you wash the avocado pit, then stick three toothpicks horizontally into it  about four centimetres up from the wide end. The toothpicks can then extend over the rim of a full glass of water so that the pit is securely balanced.
The water should cover about the bottom end of the pit.  Top up the water frequently to keep it at that level.
It's usually five or six weeks before the pit splits and a shoot appears. Leave everything balanced over the glass until the shoot is about 10 cm tall, then nip off the top leaves. In a couple of weeks more leaves will grow - then your new avocado tree is ready for planting.
It  needs pot at least 20 cm across because avocados grow into large trees. They grow far too big to be kept in a house.But in the ground outside, they won't get through the winter. So in our climate, they won't produce fruit.
 
Question: Can you please tell me when to plant garlic in our Vancouver area?
Heidi Naman,
Vancouver
 
Answer: Late September or through October is the best time to plant garlic. It's a cool rooter and extremely hardy, so fall planting is best.
But any time in winter when the soil isn't frozen is better for planting garlic than in the spring. The longer the roots have to develop the larger the clove clusters.
In summer, the garlic scapes (bulbils on long stalks) should be nipped off before they drain energy from the clove clusters.
 
Question: What do you think about egg shells for soil nutrition?
Mi Vuong,
Vancouver 
 
Answer: Eggshells do add nutrition to the soil. They contain a lot of calcium, a small amount of phosphorus, a tiny amount of nitrogen and traces of other elements.
I've been adding eggshells to my veggie garden for years. I roughly squeeze used eggshells into pieces an drop them into an old basin under the kitchen sink. When the basin is full, I put it aside until the eggshells are thoroughly dry, then I crush them very small with a potato masher and spread them on the garden.
Meanwhile, I have put another old basin under the sink for the next batch of eggshells. In winter, I sometimes have one basin filling under the sink, a second with eggshells drying and a third with crushed eggshells waiting for the garden.
Some people prefer to powder the eggshells because powder breaks down faster and releases the nutrition almost immediately. But others just leave the eggshells in tiny pieces because this improves the texture of the soil, much as grit does. The calcium still slowly releases.
In order to do the powdering, you really need a kitchen machine: a food processor or some other grinding device.
 
Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via amarrison@shaw.ca  It helps if you add the name of your city or region.
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