Welcome to autumn, harvest time and the period for gardening to come to an end in the northern areas where colder weather and snow is in the near future.
If you still have tomato plants, now is a good time to cut “slips”. Cut a small sucker and put it in a glass of water. It will start to root in a few days. Then it can be planted in a pot. Use smaller varieties of tomatoes unless you have lots of room indoors for it to grow.
You don’t have to leave unripe tomatoes outside to freeze. Bring them in to ripen while still green. Just pull up the whole plant and hang it bottom-side-up in a dark room. Sooner or later the fruit will ripen. Of course there are many recipes to make relishes with the green tomatoes. I have used them in place of cucumbers in my sweet pickle relish. One can’t tell the difference.
The late crops should be ready to harvest, such as winter squash, pumpkins and root crops. Never store any vegetable that is diseased, bruised or not yet ripe. If you do have less-than-perfect vegetables for storage, keep them separate and use them as soon as possible.
Pull your carrots, beets and similar vegetables out of the soil and let them lie on top of the ground for a few hours on a sunny day. This allows the dirt to dry and kills the roots. Never wash them. Brush the loose dirt off with your hands. Cut the carrot tops off very close, but with the beets, leave one-half to three-quarters of an inch. If you cut too close to the beet, it will bleed and rot quickly. Never cut the small roots on the bottom of a carrot or a beet.
Carrots and beets can be stored in fresh sawdust. Make a two to three inch layer of sawdust on the bottom of a cardboard box, then a layer of carrots making sure that the carrots are at least two inches from the sides of the box. Cover them with a half-inch layer of sawdust. Keep adding layers of carrots and sawdust until box is full. If the box of root crop in sawdust is kept in an unheated area, use a larger box and put a 4-5 inch layer of sawdust on bottom. Leave 4-5 inches of space between vegetable and sides of box. NOTE: Many years ago people used to pack ice in sawdust to make it last through the summer! It is a great insulator.
Winter squash and pumpkins can be stored in a cool area of your basement, if you don’t have a root cellar. Be sure to keep them up off the floor on a wooden shelf and with plenty of air circulation on all sides.
It is important to check stored vegetables from time to time for any that are starting to deteriorate. If you find any spoiling, throw them out. Not every single vegetable will keep well. Don’t be dismayed by the few you lose, be thankful for those you have.