How to dry cabbage and protect against cats | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

The second week of October is still a great time to plant so keep digging, dividing and adding bulbs to the garden. Marianne Binetti answers questions about preparing your fall vegetable garden.

The second week of October is still a great time to plant so keep digging, dividing and adding bulbs to the garden. In the vegetable garden it is a good time to cut back and pull out the frost damaged bean, squash and any diseased tomato plants.

Fall is when you can apply mulch to the top of the soil so the winter rains can wash in the nutrients. You can wait until spring to work the mulch into the soil or let the earthworms do the dirty deed for you.

Q. I grew some great cabbage and want to store the heads in my basement. I seem to remember my grandparents hanging cabbage from strings. Is this how I should store my cabbage? R.D., Puyallup

A. Yes, you can make your own storage rack by laying a ladder or post across two chairs or pound nails into ceiling rafter. Next, wrap string around the stem of the uprooted cabbage with roots still attached (cutting the stem allows more open area for rot)

Hang the cabbage heads and their roots upside down so that they dangle in the air and do not touch one another. Keeping the cabbage heads cold and dry means fresh cabbage all winter. Dangling cabbage heads swinging from rafters is not a fine look for kitchens or living rooms, and your living areas will be to warm for long term storage.

If you don’t have a basement or suitable cold space make lots of slaw instead.

Q. I have a lot of shade in my yard and so tulips and daffodils do not do well nor do they come back each year. What other bulbs do you recommend? P.P. Enumclaw

A. Woodland bulbs such as snow drops, crocus, windflowers and bluebells or wood hyacinths will flower in partial shade and do especially well under deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the winter.

You’ll have it made in the shade if you also add hellebores for early spring color. Hellebores are not bulbs, but because they are deer, slug and drought resistant with a long bloom time they are better than bulbs in the shade.

Q. After I pull up my summer veggies the neighbors’ cats come into my yard to use the soft soil as a litter box. Help me before I get violent! Everyone in this neighborhood lets their cats run wild! M.B., Tacoma

A. Calm down and be thankful they don’t have pet pigs, rabbits or pythons running free. Some cats even keep down the population of rodents – although responsible cat owners do not allow them to run free as they are also harming our native bird population.

Cats are easy to train to keep out of your newly worked soil. Cut some holly or prickly rose stems. Barberry branches will also work. Now set these thorny branches on top of the soil and leave them in place throughout the winter.

In spring use the same prickly branches on top of newly seeded beds. You’ll be training the felines to find another powder room.

If you have already tried talking to the pet owners about this problem then a fence may be your best defense against visiting animals.

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