Outdoor farmers market season is ending in Albert LeaPublished 10:07am Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Column: Verlys Huntley, Notes from the Garden
Our last outdoor market in Albert Lea will be from 4 to 6 p.m. today. For any of you who want to stock up on winter squash, potatoes, apples, baked goods or some of the wonderful canned goods offered by our vendors, this would be a good time to do that. Our market is going indoors out at Northbridge Mall (close to food court area) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, and then each Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. and each Saturday for approximately six weeks. As the garden season winds down, you will undoubtedly see more baked goods, candies, canned jams, jellies, pickles, salsa, honey and unique craft items — all of which can make nice holiday gifts. So look for us at Northbridge Mall.
Because of the dry weather we have had, many gardeners have already cleaned up their gardens and even tilled much of it. However, there are still some things that can be done in our yards and vegetable and flower gardens. With the dry weather this year, one of the most important things you may want to do is water your perennials and even trees, particularly evergreen trees and any young trees or shrubs (less than 5 years old). When the ground begins to freeze, it probably would be a good idea to mulch your perennials and young trees. Frost goes down deeper in dry soil, and mulching could be especially important this year. You may want to prune back or trim some of your perennials, but also leave some of them in place to trap snow or create winter interest. Sedums, coneflowers and ornamental grasses all look great in the winter. Spring flowering bulbs such as tulips can still be planted, up until the ground freezes.
Thin barked or young trees should be wrapped to protect against critters chewing the bark. Rabbits as well as mice and other rodents like to chew on the bark in the winter, and if a tree is girdled, that tree will die.
It is not too late to fertilize lawns, as this will help strengthen the root system and provide nutrients for spring when the grass starts growing again. You will also want to rake or mulch up the leaves, especially where they are the thickest. The recent rains have greened up the grass again, and you may need to mow if the grass is still growing.
Some of the things you may still want to do in your vegetable garden, would be to water any perennial plants like rhubarb, strawberries or raspberries. If you are growing garlic, it still can be planted. You can even plant spinach and lettuce in November (just before the ground freezes), and this can give you a crop in the spring up to a week or more earlier than by spring planting. If you have not already cleaned off frost damaged plants, you can pull them and put them in your compost pile, unless they are diseased or riddled by insects. And if ground conditions are right, fall tilling is always good.
This is also a good time to clean up and sharpen your garden tools. Also drain and put away your hoses, sprayers, and sprinklers before real cold weather. Dig up bulbs such as glads, cannas, and dahlias, and store them in a cool place where they will not freeze. Take in any potted plants that you want to keep for the following season, and also take in any clay or ceramic pots to avoid cracking.
Also, the end of the season is a good time to make notes about what plants did best, and what you may want to do differently next year. Throughout the growing season, I try to keep a record of all my planting dates, the different varieties planted, when I spray or treat plants for diseases or insects, and some notes about weather conditions or particular problems encountered. This helps me in planning my garden for the following year.
With colder weather, soups are always popular, and here are a couple you may want to try.
Baked potato soup
4 large baking potatoes, or more (at least three pounds)
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 cups milk
1 cup sour cream (or more if desired)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
10 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or more if desired)
Bake potatoes in oven for 65 to 75 minutes or until completely tender. Cool, peel and cube potatoes. Cook and crumble bacon. In large saucepan, melt butter, stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually add milk, bringing to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat and add sour cream. Add potatoes and green onions. Garnish with bacon and cheese.
Butternut squash soup
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
1/2 clove garlic, minced
4 ounces butter
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs thyme
1 ounce fresh ginger
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1/3 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
kosher salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: diced apples, crème fraiche and toasted sunflower seeds
Saute onions and garlic in butter until translucent. Place peppercorns, bay, thyme and ginger in a square of cheesecloth and tie into sachet. Add along with squash, chicken stock and water to the onion. Bring to a simmer and cook 25 minutes. Remove sachet. In a blender, puree soup with cream and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with diced apples, crème fraiche and sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.
Remember, please buy local products whenever possible. Fresh is better, and your local growers appreciate your business and thank you for your continued support.
Verlys Huntley is a master gardener and the president of the Albert Lea Farmers Market.