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Originally published Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 3:02 PM

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Let your excess garden produce help those in need

Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, lists places that will take your excess homegrown produce and distribute it to those in need; tips on preserving carrots from your garden and planting a mixed border.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe's Picks:

Meerkerk Gardens' Labor Day Nursery Sale: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Monday. Fifty percent off potted plants as well as most of the in-ground stock. Species and hybrid rhodies are also available. Free admission to this Whidbey Island garden during the sale. Information at www.meerkerkgardens.org.

Seattle Japanese Garden presents Moon Viewing 7-10 p.m. Saturday (gates open at 6 p.m.) During moon viewing, the garden is atmospherically lit with lanterns, luminaries and floating boats. Classic koto music, Okinawan folk music, traditional Japanese dances, plus haiku. View the full moon through telescopes provided by the Seattle Astronomical Society. $15 for moon viewing only, $25 for moon viewing plus tea ceremony (advance registration required). The garden is in the Washington Park Arboretum (1075 Lake Washington Blvd. E. in Seattle). Information at www.seattlejapanesegarden.org

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I have done this in prior years but just haven't had much produce to spare this year... MORE
It was a horrible year in the garden for us, too. Our harvest is two watermelons and a... MORE
We had the opposite problem here. It took forever to get warm enough to plant. And then... MORE

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Q. Do food banks accept donations of excess homegrown produce?

A. There's often a shortage of fresh vegetables and fruit at food banks; hence any excess produce from home gardeners is greatly appreciated. To find out where, what and when to take produce, visit www.solid-ground.org/Programs/Nutrition/P-Patch/Documents/WhereToDonate.pdf

Lettuce Link/Solid Ground will have a donation booth to collect and deliver donations of fresh produce directly to food banks at the sixth annual Blues for Food Fest, which includes music, dancing, food and children's activities noon until 9 p.m. Saturday at Magnuson Park 7400 Sand Point Way N.E. Admission is $15 if tickets are purchased in advance at www.brownpapertickets.com or $20 at the door. Children under 12 are admitted free.

If you want to combine plant shopping with donating produce, Molbak's in Woodinville is accepting homegrown vegetables and herbs during "Share Your Harvest Donation Days" every Saturday through Oct. 13. You don't need to wash the food, just bag it up and bring it in.

By the way, there's still time to plant greens, cilantro and beets for a fall harvest. Plant a few extra rows so that neighbors in need can enjoy fresh healthy veggies.

Q. Is it OK to leave carrots in the garden during winter and harvest them as needed?

A. Leaving carrots in the garden over winter is risky. Even if they're well mulched, extreme cold can do them in. Unless you have well-drained soil, our rainy winters can cause your carrots to rot.

Even if your carrots survive the cold, rainy weather, carrot-rust flies may cause problems. They're the insect that riddles your carrots with rusty tunnels. If carrot-rust fly is present, most of your crop will be rendered inedible by midwinter.

You're much better off harvesting and storing carrots using the method my mother-in-law's family used when she was growing up on the Canadian prairie.

When harvesting, don't use a spading fork as that might bruise the carrots. Water well, then hand pull, using a trowel if necessary to loosen the soil. Don't wash the carrots but shake off the excess soil instead. Then twist off the tops, and layer the carrots in sand.

Make sure they're covered and are not touching each other. Left in a cool dry place, such as an unheated garage, the carrots will keep for up to five months.

Q. I just took out some of my lawn and prepared the soil for a new mixed border. Can I plant it up now or is it better to wait until spring?

A. Fall is a great time to plant anything that's hardy. Temperatures are moderate, reducing the risk of transplant shock. Mama nature usually helps with the watering, allowing the roots to grow well into fall and enabling the plant to be better prepared for hot, dry conditions when they occur next summer.

Best yet, nurseries often offer plants at incredible savings during fall. Additionally, there are some terrific plant sales coming up where you may find the rare gem that your gardener buddies will ogle over.

The Kabota Garden, Washington Park Arboretum, Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, Seattle Tilth, Audubon and the Northwest Horticultural Society are just a few of the many organizations that hold outstanding sales in September and October. Find the link to the Miller Library list of plant sales at www.ciscoe.com.

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com; "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.

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