Greetings and thank you again for following this segment this year. The growing season is mostly over now, and I sincerely hope your gardens have done well. There are a few more things to do before the heavy frost and snow arrive.
Last of the harvest
Go ahead and harvest out your garden, including your sweet and native corn. You will find that your native corn is not completely dry all the way, but if you keep it in a semi-cool and dark dry space it should finish drying by the end of October. The corn can then be grounded into flour or kept as kernels to be used in dishes. You will find many commercial growers will let their native corn and yellow continue to grow into November, which is produced as livestock feed or canola oil.
While most people toss out their cobbs, some choose other ways to repurpose them, such as composting them. You can also use them for corn cob jelly, or you can dry them and use them as firestarter, which is a great emergency back-up tool if the power goes out and you have to light your fireplace or wood stove. To dry cobs, simply tie them on strings and hang in a dry place.
Most gardens here still have some green tomatoes, which is okay to harvest. To ripen the tomatoes, place four to eight of them in a brown paper bag and fold the top. The tomatoes should ripen in the bag within a few days. Tomatoes ripened in bags are best used as sauces, salsa, and in canned recipes.
Squashes and pumpkins
All squashes, including pumpkins, can be removed from the vine and can either used right away or preserved through canning or pickling. You can also store them in a root cellar or cold garage, where they can keep for up to four months as long as you turn them one a month to prevent mold from forming.
If you practice seed saving, my advice is to pick the best of each crop that you grew, and to save those seeds. An easy example would be your pumpkins — find your biggest pumpkin and save those seeds for 2020. This way you will be growing the biggest of the crop next year and and increase your chances of growing even bigger pumpkins.
Incorporate your compost now before the ground freezes, and in the spring, the microorganisms deep in the soil will thank you with lots of valuable nutrients.
Also, don’t forget to remove your corn and tomato plants from the soil and remove them from the garden completely.
Keep in mind, the sooner these things are done, the better. Your soil temperatures will remain relatively warm until after the first couple of frost days and the air temperature stays below 50 degrees all day and all night for 7 consecutive days.
Your garden and lawn equipment
After you have made your final tilling and lawn cutting, wash all your equipment well, especially the underside of your mower. The acid from the grass is strong enough to eat metal. Start by carefully removing your blades and cleaning them to the bare metal. If they can be sharpened, go ahead and get that done. After they are sharpened, spray paint them to keep new rust from forming on your new cutting edge. Paint rollers and any bare metal on your mower deck as well.
Run your gas tank dry or drain it if the tank is made of plastic. If the tank is metal, it’s okay to turn off the gas and run the engine until the gas supply line is dry.
Another important component to maintain is the oil. Change your oil in the spring before you resume use of the mower, because moisture can build up on the engine interior, which can be detrimental to the machine. Mowers do not require much oil and used can all be recycled at your local repair shop.
Home Improvement tips: taking care of your home’s exterior
• Wash your outside windows with your favorite window cleaner. For windows you can’t reach, use a hose end sprayer with about two ounces of liquid dish soap and a little of your favorite anti-spotting agent for glassware. Give the windows a good spray to help clean away dirt and grime.
• Siding: Seal up holes in your vinyl siding with exterior caulking and seal off the filled hole with exterior sealant/glue. For wood or older hard face siding, follow the same steps as you would for the vinyl siding and complete with a fresh coat of paint.
• Winterize your windows by covering exterior windows with clear insulating film and blank tack strips. If you do not own your home, it is important to remember to check your lease agreement to be sure this is permitted. If you can’t place plastic on the outside, you can use shrink wrap plastic kits inside, which do not harm finishes.
• Check your roof for missing shingles and replace shingles if needed. Older-style silver roofs on mobile homes tend to hold up well. Look for any obvious problems from a ladder, and remember – never get on a roof unless work is required. If you live in a rental, notify your landlord, housing agent or other person of contact regarding roof work as soon as you can.
• Smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors: Twice a year in the fall and spring, replace batteries in all smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors, and remember to replace the entire unit every 10 years.
• Fire extinguishers: If you do not have one, purchase an ABC-rated extinguisher. For the kitchen, a small fire extinguisher may suffice. The costs for one usually ranges from $8.00 – $10.00. Remember, a fire doubles in size every 45 seconds — having a fire extinguisher on hand is important because it is your first line of defense against a fire and can save your life and prevent costly damage. Extinguishers should be replaced every five years or recharged if its gauge indicates low pressure.