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The best ways to store squash and potatoes

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Pat H. of Windsor asks: Is it necessary to keep watering my garden plants at this time of the year?

As the temperatures drop and we haven’t had any rain yet, it’s important to not let your garden dry out. Most soils retain a lot of the sun’s heat from the day, and soil moisture slowly evaporates or gets taken up by the plants’ roots. Continue to water the plants that are not drought tolerant by giving them a deep watering.

Spread out an inch or so of organic matter around the base of the plants to help keep the soil moist. It will also prevent the winter rains from pounding and compacting the soil. Once the rains come, you’re watering is done for the season.

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Kathy H. of Windsor asks: I had a great vegetable garden this year, and would like to store onions, squash, potatoes — you name it, I grew it. What’s the best way for me to store them for as long as possible?

Good for you! Storage varies depending on the crop.

Garlic and onions like a cool, dry environment around 40 to 50 degrees with 50 to 75% humidity. An unheated room, pantry, insulated entryway or inside the broom closet, where they’ll get good air circulation will work. Put them in containers that allow air to circulate freely, such as baskets, crates, and mesh bags. Some people store onions and garlic at room temperature, but they’ll most likely rot or desiccate because they’ll be just a little too warm.

For winter squashes, a slightly warmer and cool temperatures around 50 to 55 degrees with 50 to 75% humidity is good. Once the squashes have cured, they can go bad fairly quickly at room temperature, but in the cooler environment of a pantry or mudroom, they can easily last until spring. Arrange them in a single layer, if possible, to ensure good air circulation. Shallow, stackable crates work great for this. If any are bruised or if the flesh is exposed, it’s best to eat those sooner rather than later before they rot.

Cool and moist environments, around 40 to 50 degrees and 90% humidity, are ideal for vegetables that don’t grow well during the cooler winter weather, such as beans, cucumbers, eggplant, melons and potatoes.

Only potatoes will store until spring, but you can extend the season for the others by storing them correctly. Some good places include a crisper drawer, a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator, insulated porches, bulkheads, an entryway or an unheated room or kitchen.

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Jim S. asks: My son has an indoor plant that is suddenly dropping its leaves. Any ideas on the cause of leaf drop? Note, he sent me the tag off the plant and I hope this helps, Shefflera arbolicola.

Yes, the botanical name helps me determine the leaf drop solution. The common name of the plant is dwarf umbrella plant, and leaf drop will occur in low light. Also, too frequent watering in addition to allowing the plant roots to sit in standing water could lead to leaf drop. Try these tips for success:

Place the plant in bright light, but away from hot direct sun exposure in the late afternoon.

Water liberally spring through autumn, but sparingly in winter.

Remove any standing water in the pot tray (use a syringe to easily suck out standing water).

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at pdgardendoctor@gmail.com. The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at pressdemocrat.com.

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