September 8, 2013

Maine Gardener: Remember flowering plants when preserving


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Dahlias can be saved for another year. All you need is one preserved root shoot.

Staff file photo

Some of the potato vines have died back already, and I have dug those -- and given quite a few away. The rest we will store.

Potatoes want a cold -- almost but not quite down to freezing -- and moist storage area. We have insulated our bulkhead, and we store the potatoes there.

We leave a 5-gallon pail of water on the steps with the potato containers so that on super-cold nights -- it has to be at least below zero -- the water will freeze before the potatoes, and as a result keep the potatoes from freezing.

This is also the place where we store carrots and leeks, although we seldom have enough carrots to store and we leave the leeks in the ground until a major snowstorm is forecast.

The onions we put in a cool, dry space in the cellar, and have had good luck storing keeper onions until March.

Freezing berries is about the easiest method of storage.

With blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, you can wash them (although we don't wash the raspberries), let them dry and put them in an airtight container. We had just a few raspberries left when this year's crop came in.

Jams are an easy way to make berries last longer. The University of Maine Extension recommends a new low-sugar recipe, and you can find it at

We also freeze a lot of peppers. You just have to wash them, chop them into the usual size for cooking and put them in an airtight container. And those have lasted until this year's crop came in, as well.

The first frost could come as early as two weeks from now -- Sept. 20 is the earliest I remember in Cape Elizabeth -- or sometime in mid-October.

So keep an eye on the weather and get both flowers and food inside in time to preserve them for the winter.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:


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