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The corn ears may have been harvested but the stalks have further use for Halloween decoration or as a valuable addition to the compost pile.
Place onions, shallots, and garlic in slatted crates, net bags, or peach baskets for winter storage. These are best kept in dry, dark places where temperatures are about 60–65°F. Another option is to dehydrate some of the onions and garlic. Thinly slice the bulbs of onions and cloves of garlic and place the slices in a dehydrator set at a temperature of 135°F. Afterwards, store the crisp, dry pieces in separate canning jars. Some of these dried pieces may also be ground up in a spice grinder and saved as onion and garlic powders. For more information on growing garlic, I’ll be presenting a lecture on the subject this Saturday at the Berkshire Botanical Garden: go to: https://www.berkshirebotanical.org/events/growing-garlic-0
Dehydrating peeled and thinly sliced garlic cloves is a great way to preserve garlic.
Refrain from pruning shrubs now, except for removing spent flowers and dead or damaged branches. Pruning has a stimulating effect on plant growth and if the weather this fall continues to be very mild some new growth may appear. Such growth is likely to die with exposure to frigid wintry temperatures.
Pot up some shallots. Each shallot bulb will send up a number of green shoots. When large enough, these shoots can be cut and used in recipes calling for scallions or green onions. For a continuous supply of scallions, pot up a few shallot bulbs every two or three weeks.
Harvest sweet potatoes by cutting back the long vines and then digging up the roots in 2 to 3 foot circle around the crown of the plant. The roots will vary in size from so-called “baby baker” or smaller roots to some quite large roots or potatoes. If you haven’t ever grown sweet potatoes, plant to do so next year. It is an easy crop to grow.
The tuberous roots of sweet potato vary in size, but all are edible.
Save the seeds when dissecting pumpkins. Pumpkin seeds are very healthy snack food. Spread the washed seed on a baking sheet and then roast the seeds in the oven at 275F degrees for about an hour. You could roast at higher temperatures for a shorter period of time but that increases the risk of burning the seeds
Plant a cover crop of winter rye in vacant areas of the vegetable garden. To ensure good production of vegetables from year to year, garden soil must be replenished with organic matter annually. Planting a cover crop in fall and turning it under prior to planting in spring is an easy way to do this. As an alternative, incorporate compost or manure into gardens this fall.
Buy some bales of straw while they are still available. Straw will be needed later this fall for mulching newly planted garlic, as well as for carrots and other roots crops to be harvested during the winter. Straw will also be needed to cover strawberry beds in November.
Recently purchased bales of straw are stored under a tarp for later use as mulch over newly planted garlic and to protect carrots and other late crops from freezing temperatures.
It’s been several weeks since I harvested the last of our sweet corn. Yet, most of the corn stalks still stand so tall and straight as if at attention that I feel compelled to salute when entering the garden. Now the time has come to cut down the stalks. However, their service has not ended; the stalks will not go to waste. One obvious use is ornamental, standing tall in a bundle on the front lawn or around the light post as a Halloween decoration. The corn stalks, rich in nitrogen, may also be chopped and added to the compost pile. Besides the compost pile, I also add the stalks, chopped or un-chopped, to trenches I dig in a vacant area of the garden, the trenches are about a foot deep and 18 inches wide. Along with the corn stalks, kitchen scraps and garden debris will fill each trench to six inches from ground level. Those last six inches will then be filled with the preciously dug soil. By next spring when planting season rolls around, this organic matter will be decomposed. I have found this trench composting method to be a great way to dispose of organic wastes while enriching the garden soil.
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