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Brunette Gardens at Halloween
A reminder to plant garlic and other edible perennials—plus a batty fact.
By Lisa Brunette
We’ve always planted garlic on Halloween, which makes me think there’s something coincidental about the bulb plant’s storied ability to ward off vampires. So in a bit I’ll tell you why bats hang by their feet. They’re the only mammals that do.
Some gardeners wait to plant garlic in the spring, but as it’s a bulb plant, and most other bulbs like to overwinter, that seems to best mimic the natural environment. I’ve checked with the more seasoned growers at my local farmer’s market, and they wholeheartedly concur.
Fresh from last year’s archives, below is our how-to on garlic—but not just garlic! We also plant potato onions in the fall. It’s effectively a perennial onion, as the bulb multiplies, producing many more bulbs from the main. All you do is save some to plant from your harvest each year. We’ve had four years of onions from just one bulb-starter purchase. Ya gotta love that.
Become a paid subscriber and gain access to more than a year’s worth of articles from our archives, including this one on how to grow garlic and onions.
Speaking of perennial vegetables, another one you might think about for fall planting is asparagus, which is amazing, and I truly believe the world would be a better place if every yard contained an asparagus patch. It’s a great amount of food for very little effort, and it comes back for you reliably every year.
While I’m on the incredible subject of perennial food plants, I’d be remiss if I didn’t turn you onto horseradish. Anthony’s made pickled horseradish for a few years now, all harvested from the one root we planted back in fall 2018.
We’ve switched up our horseradish game this year, however, after discovering that you can ferment it, preserving it in a salt brine instead of relying on the vinegar pickling. Fermentation gives you a more long-storing horseradish sauce, plus probiotic benefits to boot. I’ve gone kind of batty for fermentation this fall, so expect some evangelizing on that fine preservation method in the future.
I’ll get to the real bats in a minute, but first, let me wow you with my tiny, token nod toward Halloween decorating.
I don’t expect you to be impressed with my decorating prowess, but in keeping with our mission to support even the smallest, apartment-level homestead, here you can see what’s possible on a small front porch, which would also work on a balcony.
We live in a neighborhood where the residents behind us host a Halloween block party complete with massive inflatable ghouls and a kid-friendly DJ. So we’re not even trying to compete with that. We’ve lived here for six years now and haven’t had a single trick-or-treater, but we don’t take that personally because trick-or-treating seems to be going by the wayside anyway. Wah-wah…
Why do bats hang upside down?
Bats are our only truly flying mammals, and that’s no slack against flying squirrels, which don’t actually fly but glide.
The bat’s mammalian status is partly why it’s more apt to hang upside down than sit upright, as unlike many birds, bats do not possess hollow bones. From an article in Bat Conservation International:
This means that bats need to reduce weight in other ways to be able to take flight. Their long bones, like femurs, are light so they can fly, and because of this, they can’t withstand the compression standing up. In 1977, D.J. Howell and Joe Pylka published a paper in the Journal of Theoretical Biology delving into this issue. They found that most bats’ leg bones “cannot withstand compression stress,” so “hanging is advantageous.” Bats also have skin membranes that spread out between their light, elongated fingers and ankles, which is great for flying, but makes it difficult to sit or stand.
While we might view hanging from a parallel bar as a lot of work, for bats, it’s just easier, as their body composition supports it, with leg and feet tendons and ligaments built for hanging.
There’s also the practical matter. It’s easier to swing into flight from a hanging perch, as bats need only let go to escape predators on the wing.