Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
December, 2011
Regional Report

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My white, orange, and purple carrots are ready for the freezer.

The Late Fall Garden

My carrots are in! With the extended fall we've had, I've been bringing in the garden fairly slowly this year. I finally dug my carrots and shredded them for the freezer. You can certainly keep carrots in the crisper or root cellar, but I've found that I tend to forget them, and then I lose many. By shredding and freezing, I always have a handful to toss into whatever I'm cooking.

My leeks are still in the garden and I will bring them in soon. You can leave them in the ground and dig only what you need, but again, if you forget them until the soil is frozen or the first two feet of snow has fallen, they are only good for sending up flower shoots next year. So, I dig all of them except for a few I want to bloom, and clean and slice them for the freezer. Like my shredded carrots, they also need no blanching before freezing.

Button Down the Compost Pile
There's nothing quite as exhilarating as pulling on old corduroys and a ragged sweatshirt and spending a cool, brisk day finishing up garden tasks. One of my favorite tasks is to put the compost pile to bed. I have two bins, one with almost finished compost and the other which is taking fresh waste. I turn the finished compost and put a thick layer of old straw on top, then let it sit until I want to use it next spring. I throw all the debris from cucumbers, beans, and squash on the unfinished pile, add a shovelful of soil, and then leave it to receive kitchen waste all winter.

Bury Tomato Foliage
I'm careful not to put my tomato foliage and stems in the compost bin because most home compost piles don't heat up enough to kill fungal spores (or weed seeds). I had early blight on my plants this year, so my solution is to take the tomato plant debris far away from the vegetable garden, dig a fairly large hole and bury it. I don't want to send it to the landfill, and it's not easy for me to get them to the city composting site.

Clean Stakes and Trellises
One other task I do at this time of year is pull up all of my bamboo stakes and trellises. I wash the dirt off the bottoms, remove all the twine, and store them upright in the shed. It is such a luxury to be able to pull out stakes in spring without having them tangled in old twine. So I try to make it a meditative task, keeping my mind on next spring.

Store Soaker and Drip Hoses
I was fortunate enough to have a warm day a couple of weeks ago, which I took advantage of by pulling up all of my soaker and drip hoses from my garden beds and laying them out on the blacktop driveway in the sun to soften. This made them easy to drain and roll up to store for the winter. It's certainly nice to have hoses ready to put in the beds before the transplants go in.

Oil Tools and Wait for Spring
On my next nice weekend I plan to clean and oil all my tools and put them away, happily, for the duration of the snow. Can't wait to take them out again in spring!

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