I recently harvested my fall crop of daikon radishes. Only a few of them were a decent size while the rest of them ranged from “too small to keep” to just mediocre. What causes this wide variety of sizes with radishes? I remember that my carrots also had this problem.

Carrots and radishes are known for being super simple to grow but the facts dispel that reputation. Carrots and radishes fail to form good-sized roots for similar reasons. Perhaps the most common one is overcrowding. Radishes should be thinned to a minimum of 1.5 inches apart, and carrots need to be thinned to at least 2 inches apart. I admit that I don’t space mine that far apart and I also have problems with proper size. Next year, I should take a tape measure to the garden with me or better yet, make a seed planting ruler by drilling holes into a yardstick. See https://www.pinterest.com/pin/864480090943386320/ or https://tinyurl.com/y5u3ygxu

Being root crops, carrots and radishes prefer potassium to nitrogen and too much of the latter can cause lavish green tops and scrawny roots. Both prefer cool weather and warmer temperatures can cause the plants to bolt, putting energy into producing seeds instead of edible roots. Growing underground takes considerable effort and heavy clay soil will impede growth, leading to smaller roots or gnarled and twisted ones. If your soil is heavy, add some soil amendments to lighten it up or grow your carrots and radishes in raised beds. Finally, be sure to provide plenty of water for fat, juicy vegetables.

I bought some cheerful mums this fall and planted them in my garden. Will they survive the winter? Is there anything special I should do to protect them?

It’s hard to tell if the mums you purchased will be hardy enough to survive one of our winters, but it does happen. For the best luck, leave the stems uncut through winter. The shade from those stems gives the live crowns at ground level some protection from drying out in late winter and early spring freeze-thaw cycles and also helps trap the snow. The snow acts both as an insulator and as a water supply during the spring thaw. In April, cut the stems down to ground level. If the mum survived, you should see new growth coming from the base.

Gardening season is pretty much over in my neck of the woods. What’s a gardener to do in the meantime? I want to be playing with plants.

There was a time when I was relieved when the fall freeze put a stop to the growing season. But nowadays, I always hate to see the end. Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to stay involved with your gardening passion. Houseplants are an obvious choice, but I find them less than satisfactory. Instead, I like to putter around outside, looking for any work that can be done.

When trees and shrubs have gone dormant, pruning is both a valuable and enjoyable task. Inventory your seeds, perhaps conducting a germination test of older ones. The seed catalogs will be here soon. Clean pots, sharpen and clean garden tools, research a new project, such as a garden pond, greenhouse or hoop frame. Start seeds of lettuce indoors under lights for a winter harvest. If folks in your area dispose of their leaves, collect them and make a leaf mold pile. And just for fun, head over to https://www.gardendad.co.uk/gardening-quiz-questions-and-answers/ and take this 63 question quiz. It’s loads of fun, and you are practically guaranteed to learn something.

Beverly Carney can be reached at cultivatingcountry@gmail.com.