Fall yard clean-up

Post Garden and Yard Penny-Wise Round Up

by Christine Cristiano

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With the arrival of autumn, comes the annual vegetable harvest and yard clean up ritual. Amidst your clean up efforts, it's possible to reduce your present and future garden and yard expenses.

Yard Duty

A yard lined with large trees can produce loads of falling leaves resulting in plenty of work and expense to rake, bag and dispose of them. There's an economical way to bag the leaves that will save you money on the number of leaf bags you use. After you've raked the leaves, fill a large garbage pail half full with leaves. Next, place your grass trimmer in the garbage pail and mulch the leaves into small pieces. (Be sure to wear protective eyewear.) Empty the garbage pail contents into a leaf bag and repeat the process until all the leaves have been mulched and bagged. Upon completion, you have reduced the number of leaf bags you'd normally use by at least half.

Ladybugs in your garden are a cost efficient, natural, environmentally friendly insect control method that can reduce the amount of money you'll spend on insecticides. However, to ensure the ladybugs return during next year's gardening season, they need a hibernation site during the winter months. Dead leaves, hay or straw piled at the base of a fence make the ideal winter accommodations. With a bit of luck, your backyard ladybugs will be back next year.

Fireplace ashes make an excellent fertilizer for your garden and potted plants. Reduce your fertilizer expenses by collecting and saving your fireplace ashes throughout the winter months.

If you're going to be doing any kind of woodworking, save the sawdust after you've swept it up. Sawdust (especially from pine lumber) makes excellent garden mulch. It holds moisture in and provides much needed nutrition to your plants. However, sawdust from chemically treated lumber will damage your plants.

Many plants and flowers produce pods that contain seeds. Seasoned, frugal gardeners remove the seeds from the pods and store them for future planting seasons thus reducing their yearly seed expenses. Some seeds are more suitable for seed saving like peas and beans because the seeds can be extracted easily. Interested gardeners can obtain further information on seed saving at the local library or on the Internet.

Vegetable Profusion

As every gardener knows, each season brings different results for your vegetable gardening efforts. Centuries ago, when food wasn't so abundant, the entire vegetable harvest was preserved in one way or another to be consumed over the winter months. If you take a cue from our ancestors, you can also preserve your harvest for future feasts.

Related: Produce Preservation & Storage Tips

Zucchini is one of those vegetables that result in abundancy in a good year. Unfortunately, zucchini cannot be frozen in its original state but it can be pureed in your food processor once the skin and the seeds are removed. Store the pureed zucchini in freezer bag and freeze. To add it to your favorite recipes, remove from freezer, thaw and drain off excessive liquid.

Tomatoes are another vegetable that overproduce and all at the same time. Pick unripe tomatoes as soon as they start to change color from green and wrap each tomato in a newspaper sheet. Store in a warm spot up to two months until ripe. For ripe tomatoes, place washed tomatoes on a tray and place in freezer until frozen. Remove them from the freezer, transfer into freezer bags and refreeze. When you're ready to use the tomatoes for soups, stew or sauce, run hot water over the frozen tomatoes to thaw and remove the skin. Proceed to crush, mash or puree them to use with your favorite recipe.

Apple Abundance

Your apple harvest can be enjoyed throughout the year if stored properly. Apples will last for quite awhile providing they have enough moisture and are kept cool. Place apples in a plastic bag with holes poked in it. Refrigerate or stored in a cold cellar. You can also dry apples by peeling, coring and cutting them into 1/4-inch thick rounds. To dry, run a string through the center of the apple rings and hang. When dried, transfer them to storage bags.

For homemade baked goods, apples can be peeled, cored, sliced and placed in freezer bags. To use in recipes in place of raw apples, simply remove the apples from the freezer, thaw and drain off the excess juice. The cooking time may have to be adjusted slightly because previously frozen apples don't take as long to cook as raw apples.

Related: 8 Great Apple Recipes

With a little time and effort, you can reduce your gardening and yard expenses and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor all year round.

Publication: Saving Seeds by Marc Rogers, Storey Communications, 1990

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