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Fall Tasks: Harvest, Store & Plant

October 4, 2013

These Esopus Spitzenberg apples are some of the thousands I'm picking now for storage and donation to the local food bank.

Credit: Doreen G. Howard
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Like you, I’m harvesting vegetables and fruits from my garden and preparing them for storage. 

  • I just picked the last peas and snap beans, steamed them briefly and froze in bags for winter meals.  You can do the same with broccoli sprouts and Brussels sprouts.
  • Pick all green tomatoes on plants, too, when a frost is imminent.  Store them in a single layer on trays and platters at normal room temperature until they ripen.  You can be eating your own tasty tomatoes for Thanksgiving with luck.
  • Cut pumpkins and Winter squash from their vines, when stems are browning and tough.
  • Store that squash in a cool, dark area like a basement or closet. Wash the rinds with white vinegar and water first to clean off dirt and prevent rot.   

Apples and Pears

I’m picking tons of apples, Asian pears and pears from my eight-tree miniature orchard. Those are ready to pick when lifting the fruit up at the stem results in the apple or pear separating from the tree.  Don’t worry if they are a bit under ripe; they’ll ripen in storage.  About half of what I harvest is donated to the local food bank.  To find a food bank in your area, click here.

Pears, regular and Asian, don’t keep long, about six weeks in the refrigerator.  I make pie filling from my extras and freeze it in individual pie-size containers. Apples store much longer in cool, dark areas.  After you fill up the refrigerator, put the remaining apples in the basement or a cold garage.  Many varieties will store up to six months.  Apple butter and tarts to freeze are some of the ways I use up extra apples, too.

Le Nain Vert pears are nearly ready to pick.  This ancient variety lacks the typical pear shape, but it's filled with plenty of flavor.

When to Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs

“The simple answer is that bulb planting season starts once your soil temperature reaches about 55 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Tim Schipper of Colorblends, a Connecticut-based flower bulb wholesaler. “The problem is who knows what their soil temperature is?” he adds.

He asked landscape pros on his website (www.colorblends.com) that question and came up with this list of tips.

Photo courtesy of Colorblends.

It’s time to plant bulbs when:

•Fall foliage has moved just past peak

•Crickets no longer chirp

•Birds start to group and depart

•You start turning on the heat in your car

•The air smells of wood smoke

•Grapes are ripening on the vine

•The hostas start to lie down

•The air has that organic, decaying leaf smell

•The dog moves from a cool to a sunny spot in the yard

•The kids start putting on their jackets without being nagged by you

I’m not ready yet to plant bulbs, due to a warm early October, but I can hardly wait until the kids put on their jackets!

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Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.

In stores now!

Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.

Comments

Was wondering about peanuts,

By Tereasa Warnick on October 6

Was wondering about peanuts, when r they ready to harvest? Is there a certain way to dry and store? Can't remember how my Papa use to do it. Thank you for your time.

Since beans and peas have

By PM Meehan

Since beans and peas have nitrogen fixing properties, Should the plants be cut at ground level and left in the soil, or should they be pulled up roots and all, then taken to the mulch pile?

Cut plants off at ground

By Doreen G. Howard

Cut plants off at ground level.  You are absolutely right that the rhizobium on the roots will stay in the soil over to winter to feed a new crop next spring.  Plant a heavy nitrogen feeder like lettuce or squash there to take advantage of the nitrogen.

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