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GARDENER’S CHECKLIST: Week of September 29, 2022

Can you guess the one gardening chore that Ron does not enjoy? And learn here about the almost lost art of home food preservation.

* Dry some apples for winter use. Unless they’re stored in a root cellar, apples won’t keep long before shriveling or rotting. However, drying them in an oven or electric dehydrator can be a great way to preserve the fruit for winter use. Peel, core, and cut apples into ¼ inch thick slices.  Dip these into a solution of ¼ cup lemon juice and one quart water before placing in the dehydrator. If oven drying the apple slices, set the temperature to 115 degrees. The finished product should feel leathery.

Dehydrating apples is a great way to preserve the fruit for winter and beyond.

* Cut some stems and leaves from basil, oregano, thyme, parsley and other leafy herbs for drying in the dehydrator. Freshly dried herbs will have much more flavor than those found in bottles at grocery stores. Those herbs may be a year or more old.

* Start with daffodils, hyacinths and the smaller bulbs when planting spring flowering bulbs. Tulips should be planted later this month or in November. I prefer to use tulip varieties that are labeled for naturalizing since they don’t give up after a few years of bloom the way most tulip varieties do.

Scout the landscape for decorative seed heads such as this from bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa) and add them to dried flower arrangements.

* Search the landscape for plants with interesting seed heads. They not only add interest to the late season garden, but can also be used in dried flower arrangements. Plants with attractive seed heads include bugbane, ornamental grasses, globe thistle, teasel, fall-blooming sedums and purple coneflower.

* Cut back the stems of dahlias to a few inches after the first frost and then dig up the clumps of tuberous roots. Most importantly, dig up your dahlias before they are exposed to a hard freeze, i.e. temperatures below 28°F. After digging, let the root clumps dry for a day or two and then shake off the dry soil.  Then store the roots in sand, peat moss, sawdust, or vermiculite inside a bucket or paper bag.  Storage temperatures should be as cool as possible but above freezing.

***

Reduce the size of the lawn, and the amount of mowing, by creating a mixed shrub border.

There are few gardening tasks which I do not enjoy. I even find pleasure in weeding. However, if there’s one gardening chore that I can do without, it is lawn mowing. It wouldn’t be so bad if my wife would drop her objection to maintaining a herd of sheep. The only thing that makes mowing tolerable is that it’s a mindless activity—a job for which some would argue I am well suited. Actually, I do spend a lot of time observing and evaluating our gardens and landscape as I push the gas-powered beast around the yard. I often think of changes I’d like to make, e.g., allowing more of the lawn to revert to a meadow, expanding the width of perennial borders to reduce the size of the lawn, and turning over some lawn areas to create low-maintenance shrub borders. In this era of energy conservation, I think of ways to convince my wife that lawnmowers consume more gas than sheep could ever hope to emit.

***

“What have you been doing lately?” he asked. “I’ve been putting up tomatoes,” I replied.

“Up where?” inquired my young, urban-bred friend.

After contemplating several possible responses, I chose discretion, it being the better part of valor. I informed the lad, who has yet to realize that the source of milk is not the super market, that my wife Pat and I were canning tomatoes for use this winter. He seemed amused.

Not only has home food preservation become a lost skill, but it is also a lost concept. However, the good news is that it’s making a comeback. In fact, Pat, who is quite expert on canning and freezing, often receives requests from friends for help in learning the techniques. For those who do not have a resident expert on food preservation, I recommend this web site at: https://nchfp.uga.edu/#gsc.tab=0

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