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Gardening winds down for another year
Bury potatoes, cabbage to extend shelf life of harvest.

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Date published: 10/5/2012

GARDENING season is about over. It won't be long now until frost hits, especially in the Piedmont, and the last of the tomatoes and beans will be history.

Fall gardens, however, could last right on up until Christmas, depending on whether we get a hard freeze. Fall greens, turnips, cabbage and broccoli do especially well in this area, if you plant them in late August or early September.

My garden is finished; I haven't planted any late crops for several years. My tomatoes (I plant the early varieties) were gone by the middle of September, at which time I brought out the brush mower.

By the end of this month, hopefully after some rain to soften the ground, I'll plow my gardens and let them freeze and thaw all winter. Then they'll be ready when potato planting time comes in late February.


Speaking of potatoes, a reader asked about burying potatoes to keep them all winter. Potatoes kept in a basement will usually start sprouting by Christmas and be useless (except for planting) by the end of January.

I bury my potatoes, and one year I ate them until the following July. I took a 3-foot-high plastic trash can, cut the bottom out and buried it until only about 8 inches of plastic was above the ground.

At the bottom of the trash can, on the bare ground, I put small rocks (or large gravel) about 3 inches deep to provide drainage and allow the ground moisture to get to the potatoes. Lack of moisture is what makes potatoes shrivel up and sprout when they are kept in a basement.

Then, about the middle of November, I place potatoes in small plastic bags, the kind you get at Walmart, and lower them into my homemade kiln. I put about as many potatoes in each bag as I think I will use in two or three weeks.

When all my bags are in the ground (I keep some potatoes in the basement for convenience), I put about a 6-inch layer of old rags over them for insulation and put the trash-can top on to keep the rain and snow out. Even in the coldest winters, I have never had potatoes freeze.

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