Tips for keeping beets and carrots safe from freezing weather

Helen Chesnut explains ways to protect root crops from frost damage

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Q. In my (new to me) coastal garden, I’m told that my plot of carrots and beets can be left in place and dug as needed through the winter. Many of the roots are protruding to varying degrees above soil level. Do they need some sort of protection against freezing?

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A. Beets, especially the cylindrical varieties, commonly protrude well above soil level and become vulnerable to damage in freezing weather. Carrots will do the same, but usually to a lesser degree.

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To protect root crops from frost damage through the winter, and preserve these valuable foods in good useable condition, cover over the tops with an insulating mulch layer (or layers).

My preference is to add a layer of garden soil around and a little over the root tops before adding a layer of small, fluffy (or chopped) leaves over the soil. A loose covering of straw over the leaves can be helpful in times of hard freezing.

For ease of harvesting the root vegetables over the course of the winter, I mark the mulched plot with four corner stakes, moving the stakes as rows of the roots are removed.

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Q. My rose bushes are often very slow to drop their leaves. How important is it to remove leaves that cling stubbornly into late autumn, and when should de-leafing be done? Do you prune at the same time?

A. Most roses are susceptible to various diseases such as black spot and also to a number of insect pests. Removing the leaves in late autumn is an important sanitation measure that helps to curtail the incidence of these issues.

After taking off the leaves, clean thoroughly under and around the plants, scuffle the soil up lightly with a hand cultivator and cover the area with a compost mulch to help bury disease spores.

Wait until late winter, as growth buds begin to swell, for pruning — except for shortening any over-long shoots that are vulnerable to damage in winter winds.

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