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Gardener’s checklist

Unrecognizable person digging with pitchfork, low section, assorted vegetables in foreground

Unrecognizable person digging with pitchfork, low section, assorted vegetables in foreground Purchase photo reprints »

a If adding topsoil to gardens, mix it into the existing soil. Topsoil brought in from some other location is almost certain to be different from the existing soil. If it is not mixed in, the result is a layering of two distinct soil types. Such layering can interfere with drainage if the original soil is denser than the topsoil. Likewise, plant roots will only grow in the less dense topsoil and not downward into the original soil. This makes the plant more vulnerable to drought.

a Don’t get your knickers in a twist if you see your pines, spruce or hemlocks dropping a lot of needles. The older or innermost needles of conifers (needled evergreens) fall off in fall. (Is that why this season is called fall?) On the other hand, if the outermost needles drop, twist your knickers. You’ve got a problem.

a Dig up summer-flowering bulbs such as canna, caladium, calla, dahlia, gladioli and tuberous begonias just after a light frost but before a hard frost. A hard frost is when temperatures drop below 28 degrees F.

a Harvest ornamental gourds before frost. Leave an inch or two of stem attached to the fruit. Wash the gourds in soapy water, rinse in a solution of household disinfectant such as bleach or Lysol, and spread them out on newspaper to dry in a warm place for 10 days.

a Pull up diseased vegetable plants. If the diseases are on the shoots rather than the 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.


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. So here are a few suggestions for storing root crops. First, cut off the leaves except for about 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 the carrot, beet, 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 1-inch layer of moist, not wet, sand in the bottom of a 5-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 some 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 the containers are full. Leave the containers in a cold place where temperatures will not go below freezing. Then simply remove the veggies as needed.

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