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Dorothy Collins column: Storing, cleaning among fall duties

By now, you may have harvested your vegetables and even have placed them in storage considering we had a freeze which had been forecast. You surely had to harvest the tomatoes, peppers and other tender veggies. You can still leave carrots, beets ...

By now, you may have harvested your vegetables and even have placed them in storage considering we had a freeze which had been forecast.

You surely had to harvest the tomatoes, peppers and other tender veggies. You can still leave carrots, beets and potatoes in the ground, but I would not wait too much longer. Even if it doesn't get too cold, it could rain and put a damper on your outdoor activities.

If you have gathered pumpkins and squash, they need to cure in indoor temperatures for a couple of weeks. This hardens the shells and lets them keep longer. After that, store at 50 degrees.

Cure onions for three or four weeks in an airy place. Store in mesh bags hung from the garage rafters.

Carrots and beets will store in crocks at 32 to 40 degrees. If it is difficult to find such a temperature in your warm basement, find the coolest place as mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Cover the crocks with burlap to keep the air humid. Cut off the crowns of carrots and store in damp sand if you can't find a cool spot.

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Store potatoes warmer than 36 degrees. This prevents them from getting sweet. If they do anyway, keep them at room temperature for a short time to restore their natural flavor. If they are stored for as long as two or three months above 40 degrees, they may start to sprout. Clean them before storing.

Let apples stay on the tree for a few light frosts to develop a waxy coating which helps them keep longer. Store them between 32 and 40 degrees.

Assuming that you have harvested everything, you can clean the vegetable garden. It is safer to destroy all the old tops. Disease carries over in discarded tops.

Dave DeCock, Cass County horticulturist, says that if you had a problem with tomato blights this year, you could have caused it by working the diseased vines back into the garden last fall.

If so, "You probably inoculated your garden with blight for this year," he says. There are a few things which shouldn't be composted and this is one.

When you clean the stuff off your garden, you destroy any pests, such as cucumber beetles, slugs and flea beetles, which overwinter in trash.

When all has been taken care of, you can spread a layer of compost or leaf mold over it and then spade or rototill it for next spring. It benefits from lying open to the snow.

If you have a water garden, remove the water lily or lilies, slip them into a heavy plastic bag and store in the coolest spot in your basement. A water lily should be stored wet. About April, it will begin to sprout and will be ready to put outdoors again in May.

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I have stored water lilies this way for several years even if the temperature isn't as cool as it should be. Clean the water garden, too.

Of course, if you have any goldfish, they should be removed now and kept indoors or given to someone who will keep them.

Collins is The Forum's garden columnist. Write to her by mail at The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo ND 58107, or direct e-mail to her at drhodes@forumcomm.com

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