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Preparing for spring gardening in January

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lifestyles Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Dear Master Gardener,

I still have a number of potatoes, onions, and squash from my garden and wonder how to store them to preserve their best quality as long as possible.  What suggestions do you have?

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As you have already probably discovered, only unblemished first-quality produce is suitable for storage.  That said, different vegetables have different storage requirements, so let’s look at them kind by kind.   Potatoes like it cold (32-40 degrees F.) and moist (95% relative humidity).  Store them in a cardboard box with perforated sides and cover with newspaper to eliminate light.  When exposed to light, potatoes turn green and inedible.  Onions, too, like cold (32-40 degrees) temperatures, but like it dry (65% relative humidity.) Hang them in a mesh bag where air can circulate freely.  Winter squashes store best in cool (50-60 degrees), dry (60% relative humidity) conditions.  In most homes it is difficult to meet these temperature and humidity conditions, so get as close to them as possible in your particular home.  You may have heard that onions and potatoes should not be stored together because they cause one another to sprout.  Indeed, they should not be stored together, not because they cause one another to sprout but because they store best under differing storage conditions.  Next spring when you choose seeds, select ones with good storage records.  For potatoes good varieties are Kennebec, Katahdin, Yellow Finn and Yukon Gold. Onions planted from seeded transplants seem to store longer than onions from sets.  Also, the sweeter the onion, the shorter the storage life.  Squash varieties that store well are Hubbard, Butternut, Buttercup, Delicata and Spaghetti.

Dear Master Gardener,

I don’t get a lot of direct sunlight in my home, but would like to have some houseplants.  Are there houseplants that don’t require direct sunlight and are very easy to grow?

Adding houseplants to your home not only adds beauty, but NASA studies have shown that many common houseplants help fight indoor air pollution. All plants need light for photosynthesis; therefore, one of the most important things to consider is light. A low light area usually does not get direct sunlight. To know if you have enough light for your plants, you should be able to read a book with the natural light.

 There are houseplants that are easy to grow and do well under low light conditions. “Lucky bamboo”, which is actually in the Dracaena family and not really bamboo, grows in a vase of water and is very easy.  With that said, it is recommended to use distilled water, rather than tap water, due to its sensitivity to the chemicals in city water.  Dracaena marginata (red-edged dracaena), Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’ (Janet Craig Dracaena), Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’ (Warneck dracaena), Dracaena fragarans ‘Massangeana’ (cornstalk dracaena) are good options.  Other easy-to-grow, low-light options are Aglaonema modestum (Chinese evergreen), Spathyphyllum (peace lily), Epipremnum aureum (pothos), Philodendron scandens (heart-leafed philodendron), and Sansevieria (snake plant). 

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