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Donating extra garden produce just got easier

Additional garden produce is being collected for distribution to local nonprofit organizations. Thinkstock / Special to The Forum1 / 2
Don Kinzler, gardening columnist 2 / 2

Q: I wanted to let you know about our Master Gardener Veggies for the Pantry Project. We are once again collecting surplus garden produce from the public to benefit local food pantries. All produce collected from Fargo and West Fargo sites will benefit the Emergency Food Pantry. All produce gathered in Moorhead and Dilworth will benefit Churches United for the Homeless. We are having a little trouble getting traction with this program so we are requesting your assistance in getting the word out! — Esther E. McGinnis, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

A: What a worthwhile project! Those of us who enjoy vegetable gardening almost always grow more than we can use, and we hate to let it go to waste. Let's get behind this effort to supply our local food pantries with nutritious fresh produce.

Last year they collected more than 2,000 pounds of produce equaling more than 8,000 servings. Their goal this year is to collect and distribute 5,000 pounds of vegetables.

They're making it very easy for us to donate our extra vegetables. They've set up 11 collection sites all over Fargo, West Fargo, Moorhead and Dilworth. The sites are in easily accessible parking lots, and Master Gardeners will be at each site to collect our produce every Monday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. weekly until October. A list of the collection sites can be viewed at the NDSU Master Gardener website at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/mastergardener. Let's meet and exceed the goal.

Q: I transplanted a rhubarb plant last summer. Is it true that rhubarb will produce better if I wait to harvest for a couple of years? When should I cut back the stalks produced this summer? — Karen Mailloux, Fargo.

A: Yes, the age-old wisdom for new plantings of both rhubarb and asparagus recommends letting them grow for two full growing seasons, and then beginning harvesting the third year. Waiting allows these perennial plants to build up the important healthy underground root system before we begin plucking off their stems. By the third season they're usually well-established. If you planted last year, next year will be the preferred first harvest year.

Rhubarb stalks and leaves should remain on the plant until blackened by several heavy autumn frosts. Then they can be cut off and disposed of. Asparagus tops should remain intact during winter, and be cut off the following spring.

Q: We have plenty of green tomatoes on the vines, but none are turning red. — Ray Brown, Enderlin, N.D.

A: When plants are well-set with green tomatoes that seem to take forever to ripen, it's often the variety of tomato. Varieties vary greatly in the number of days required until ripe fruit, usually listed on the plant tag.

Well-adapted main-season types are about 65 to 75 days. Late varieties require up to 100 days or more. Tomato ripening is delayed some years by cool weather in mid-summer.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

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