JOPLIN, Mo. —
Try to remember what spring is like. Everything is happening at once. The first signs of green are so exciting. Do yourself a favor by preparing your garden now so that you don't have to mess with clean up when all you want to do is start fresh with new seeds and plants. That being said, your garden is dead. Let it go. It's time to put it to bed.
One chilly fall afternoon of garden maintenance will save you lots of back-breaking work in the spring. If you haven't already, go ahead and pull up all of those dead plants. They have given you all they can, and now it's time for them to decompose in your compost pile to become food for their brothers and sisters next year.
Ideally, your compost pile is a goldmine of rich, black soil ready to work into your garden. It's time to put that compost pile to work; it's been a mountain of muck for months. If your compost pile is fairly new and not yet decomposed, it is worth every penny to buy a few bags of compost. Throw it on your garden and work it into the soil a bit. Cover it with a blanket of chopped up leaves and it will be all snuggled up for winter. Or you can plant a cover crop of rye or oats and buckwheat. The crop will die at the first hard freeze and become fertilizer for spring while simultaneously combating weeds. You've got to love a crop that can multitask.
My 4-year-old daughter "helped" me put our garden to bed this year. As I pitched the compost pile onto the garden, she had an unending string of questions. "Why are we feeding the garden? Why are you taking my leaves? Why do the worms live in dirt? Do worms have eyes? Hey! That's my jack-o'-lantern!" When she goes on her "why" sprees, I have to go into a zen-like state of calm in order to address the questions or I might snap. So I put a shovel in her tiny hand and told her to get to work. Now is the time when the kids can help you in the garden without worry that they're going to trample seeds and tender young plants.
Root vegetables don't mind cool weather, so now is a great time to find carrots, potatoes, turnips and parsnips at farmers markets.
Roasted root vegetables
Roasting brings out the essential sweetness in root vegetables and creates a crispy brown exterior. Plus it's easy. Scrub vegetables clean; peel if you like. Cut vegetables into bite-size pieces. Toss vegetables with enough olive oil or melted butter to lightly but evenly coat them.
Put vegetables in a roasting or baking pan, sprinkle with salt, freshly ground black pepper, chopped herbs or spices (such as cayenne) to taste. Roast in a hot oven (375 degrees to 425 degrees) until vegetables are tender and browned, about 30 minutes.
You can roast vegetables with chicken or a meat; add them to the pan about half an hour before you expect the meat to be cooked. I like to roast the veggies for about 20 minutes, then push them to the side and add salmon steaks to the mix. Ten minutes later, the meal is complete on one pan.
Mashed potatoes, carrots, turnips and horseradish
2 1/2 pounds potatoes
3 pounds turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons horseradish, or to taste. I like some kick.
1/4 cup grated carrots
1 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
In a large sauce pan, cover the potatoes with salted cold water in a large pot and simmer, uncovered, until very tender, 20 to 30 minutes (depending on size of potatoes). Drain potatoes in a colander and, when just cool enough to handle, peel. Transfer potatoes to a bowl.
While potatoes are cooking, in another pot cover turnips with salted cold water and simmer, uncovered, until very tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Add the carrots to the turnips after they have been cooking for 10 minutes. Drain turnips and carrots in a colander and immediately add to warm potatoes, then mash with butter and horseradish.
Have questions? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.