As fall looms, learn to store root crops

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Happy September. We now have 18 days until summer turns to fall.
The orange and green farmer’s almanac already predicted a wet and chilly winter. The original Old Farmer’s Almanac with the pretty yellow cover won’t make their winter prediction until October. Though both were off with their predictions for last year.
As of this writing, we’ve had 10 fogs in August. That means 10 big dumps of snow for us. Our next little nature sign to watch is how long the leaves stay on the trees. The longer they stay, the harsher the winter. Geesh. I’m thinking 10 big snows is harsh enough.
As the garden goes bare, we need to think about storing our remaining food for the winter. Canning, freezing and drying works for most stuff, but some of you may just want to store.
I got a call from my friend Kimmy the other day about storing her pumpkins. Well, don’t wash them and keep them in a cool, dark place. The same goes for winter squash. A flat box with a little sand floor or shredded paper or straw is great for storing root crops like carrots, potatoes and winter squash.
Tomatoes and apples need to be wrapped individually in newspaper and placed in an open lid box.
Keep the box in a cool dark place, too.
Wrapping is very important because these two fart. Actually, they quietly release their own ripening gas and the paper keeps it from ripening so fast with the group. Don’t sit the boxes together either.
Finish up your new landscaping jobs in the yard this month. I’ve still got a few shrubs and roses to plant in front of the house. Yes, it might finally look like a gardener lives here. I’m going with gravel for mulch in these new permanent beds.
I’ve noticed that I don’t have to weed hardly at all and unlike hardwood mulch, I don’t have to add more any every other year.
I did put in new trees this spring and I will need to heavily mulch these with straw to protect the new roots. Regular watering is also a must this month, to help these new babes put down plenty of roots to survive the winter.
I still have to dig and divide my beautiful grape iris. I’m sharing with my neighbor. When they get too crowded they don’t bloom as well. Plus, after you divide you’ll leave room for more babies to develop, so the digging, dividing and sharing can go on and on. Like a gift that keeps on giving.
I also need to prune back my wild black raspberries. Given the fact that they grow all over the farm, it’s going to be an all day job. Good thing I’m going to have Saturdays off soon. Remember, you only cut off the canes that produced berries this year. The new, bright green canes will hold next year’s berries, so don’t go crazy with the pruners.
The only fertilizing to be done during this time of year is around the strawberries and on the lawn, if you like. On the lawn, you want something with a high first number, because grass craves nitrogen this time of year. You can use ammonium nitrate or an organic mix of bone meal, blood meal and wood ash to lightly cover the soil around the berries. Either method should be followed with a good watering. This will give you plenty of blooms next year, which means plenty of strawberries for your cereal.
Now, I want to thank all who stopped by the stand this season to say hello, ask advice or pick up some goodies. I so love seeing everyone and will miss you over the winter. Remember, as the sign above my door says, “The shortest way to heaven is through the garden gate.” Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is the gardening columnist for The Anderson News. She can be reached via e-mail at paysteen@shelbybb.net.