Finely chop herbs like parsley, chives, tarragon, dill, and cilantro. Fill sections of an ice cube try to the top with the chopped herbs, then pour just enough water over them to cover. When the cubes are frozen solid, pop them out and store in plastic freezer bags. Use the cubes to flavor soups and sauces. Freeze herbs individually or make up your own custom mix.
Pick Pears at the Proper Time
Pears don't develop good eating quality if completely ripened on the tree. Pick your pears when they are slightly immature. If you gently lift the pears from their normal vertical hanging position on the tree to horizontal, the fruits should separate without twisting or pulling. They will still be hard and green, but if you cut a few open, you should see the seeds turning from white to brown. The pears then need a chilling period in the refrigerator. Bartlett pears only need a day or two of chilling, while winter pears like Anjou or Bosc need 3-4 weeks of chilling. After chilling, the pears are ready to be ripened at room temperature until the flesh just below the stem gives slightly to gentle pressure. Putting the pears in a paper bag with a ripe apple or banana speeds up the ripening process (the apple or banana gives off ethylene gas, which promotes ripening). Store ripened pears in the refrigerator.
Plant Evergreens in Early Fall
Fall is a good time for planting many trees and shrubs in our region, but needled evergreens such as pine and spruce do best when planted by the end of September. This gives them time to establish a good root system before the ground freezes to carry them through the winter. Keep newly planted trees watered regularly throughout the fall.
Take Care Harvesting from Flooded Gardens
Many New England gardeners are still recovering from the flooding devastation wrought by Tropical Storm Irene. If your food garden was inundated by flood waters, be cautious about harvesting even after the water has receded. Flood water (overflowing water or runoff from surface waters like lakes, streams, and rivers) often carries contaminants such as human and animal wastes or chemical pollutants. (Water that pools on the surface of saturated soil after heavy rain is not considered flooding and doesn't present the same contamination risks.) According to information issued by the University of Connecticut Extension Service, you should discard all crops with edible portions that have come in contact with flood waters, including root crops and hard-shelled produce like melons. Produce from flooded areas where the water did not cover the edible plant parts may be safe, as long as there is no evidence of contamination from splashing water or cross-contamination from tools, hands, or footwear exposed to flood water. If tools and equipment have come into contact with flood water, for example through clean-up activities, clean and sanitize them before using them in the garden. Remove any visible soil, scrub with detergent and water, rinse, then soak or flood with a solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water. And, of course, make sure the water you are using to wash with has not been contaminated by the flooding. It is recommended to wait at least 60 days before replanting flooded areas, assuming the soil has dried sufficiently. Home cooking produce exposed to contaminated water cannot be counted on to make food safe for eating and will not remove chemical contaminants. If you have any doubts about the safety of your harvest, it's best to toss it.
Aerate Your Lawn
Core aerators are machines that extract narrow cores of soil from a lawn, leaving small holes in the ground and the cores on the surface. Core aeration is the best way to revive a lawn that's developed a thick layer of thatch or to improve areas where the soil has become compacted. Late summer to early fall is a good time to aerate the lawn. Let the cores dry on the soil surface, then rake to distribute them over the lawn. Even better, rake in an inch of screened compost as well. Do-it-your-selfers can rent core aerators, or you can hire a lawn service to perform this task.