Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: Rooting around in the garden

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Many gardeners will be digging up their root crops (beets, carrots, celeriac, parsnips, rutabagas and turnips) this month. If you're one of the digger-uppers, most likely you're not going to eat all of them at once. Here are a few suggestions for storing root crops.

First, cut off the leaves except for an inch left attached to the root.

Gently rub off soil adhering to the roots, but do not cut or rub off any fine lateral roots coming off carrots, beets, etc. since this can lead to decay. For the same reason, do not wash the roots until ready to use.

Root crops can be stored in the fridge, but if you have a lot of them try this. Place a one-inch layer of moist, not wet, sand in the bottom of a five-gallon plastic bucket. Be careful not to kick the bucket! A peach basket or cardboard box lined with a sheet of plastic will do if you don't have a bucket. Lay roots on the sand so they are not touching one another. Cover these with another layer of sand and another layer of roots, and repeat the process until containers are full. Leave the containers in a cold place where temperatures will not go below freezing. Then simply remove the veggies as needed.

Tasks remain

After enjoying the roots of your labor, relish these tasks:

• Run your mower over fallen leaves on the lawn. Make several runs to chop leaves into wee bits. A mulching mower works best, but is not essential. If leaves are chopped fine enough, they will settle between the grass plants and eventually decompose, adding organic matter and plant nutrients to the soil. Chopped leaves may also be collected and worked into garden soils. This is one of the methods we use to increase fertility of soil in our vegetable garden.

• Pull up diseased vegetable plants. If diseases are on the shoots rather than roots of the plants, I'm of the mind that these can be tossed on the compost pile and covered with soil. Once this organic debris is decomposed, the organisms that infected the plants should no longer persist. That's a debatable assumption. If in doubt, start a separate compost pile just for diseased plant material. Use this compost product around trees and shrubs.

• Make a quick sketch or map of this year's vegetable garden crops, noting where they were planted. This will make it easier to rotate crops in next year's garden. Crop rotation is a key to pest and disease control.

• Clean all flower pots before storing for winter. Store clay and terra cotta pots where they will not be subject to freezing temperatures. Otherwise, they may crack.

• Take some time to roam the neighborhood or the nearest botanical garden and make note of plants with interesting fall features, other than foliage color. For example, there are shrubs and flowering perennials, such as hydrangea, tall sedums and coneflowers with attractive dried flower heads; winterberry, holly and flowering crabapples with colorful fruit; and Japanese stewartia, paperbark maple, and red-stemmed dogwood with fascinating bark features. Unlike foliage, these features can be enjoyed through the winter.

• Order a copy of the 2017 UMass Garden Calendar. Besides the usual colorful photos, the 2017 calendar includes plenty of tips for gardening during dry times, along with extensive lists of drought tolerant annuals and perennials. The calendar has long been a "go to" gift for New England gardeners. Ergo, go to www.umassgardencalendar.org for information on placing an order. Order before Nov. 1 and get free shipping for up to nine calendars.


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