Planting in Zone 3

My first order (of a few) has come in of perishable tree roots and plants — asparagus roots, strawberries, and grapes. They for the most part have the instructions to plant as soon as the soil can be worked. What does that mean? I am in zone 3b slightly north and east of your location, with mostly clay soils. The highs are about 50-60 during the day for the last couple of weeks but just the other day woke up to three inches of snow (again!). When you would plant these things?

Also, I am expecting the trees (apple, cherry, and plum) to arrive any day now, when do these go in?
Lastly, we have several small pine trees that have grown up. They are between a foot to 3 feet high, and we would like to transplant them along our roadway for privacy during the winter when our poplars don’t have leaves. Do you have any advice on how to transplant these successfully.

Sarah and Gary Shoemaker
Ontario, Canada

The term “as soon as the soil can be worked” means just that; you can plant as soon as you can till or dig in the ground. If it’s frozen, you can’t! Snow doesn’t matter. Yesterday, we got snow and we planted two new cherry trees! Depressing, yes, but the trees don’t mind. They would much rather be planted when it’s cold than when it’s warm and windy!

This is a good time of the year to transplant northern conifers. Before they get growing this spring, dig them up with a good root ball and replant them where you want. Be sure to water them in good and water them often during this summer. They should do fine. — Jackie

Canning thawed food

My question is about canning thawed food. Recently a friend of mine lost a lot of food when her freezer broke down. Would it have been possible to save the food — meat,veggies,and some fruit — by canning it? If so, would any special techniques be needed to keep the food from getting mushy?

Victoria Chiment
Ithaca, New York

Yes, you can quickly can up recently thawed food that has not been left out long enough to spoil. I did it myself, the last time I used a freezer for home food storage; the freezer died and the freezer was full. I spent 48 hours, non-stop, canning rapidly thawing food! (I took out a box full, then quickly covered the freezer with blankets, then canned up that batch and returned for more later on.) Meat and most vegetables do well with this method, without getting soft. Fruits do often get soft if pre-frozen; but you can make jams or preserves from them. No, there isn’t any special treatment. I don’t use a freezer now. Once my food is canned, it’s safe in the pantry for years and years with no worries. — Jackie


It’s dandelion time again! I am wondering if you have a recipe on how to preserve dandelion greens in salt and information about them. I have seen them in the stores and would like to try preserving some myself. Other ideas on dandelions (other than freezing, which I already to) would be appreciated as well!

Steven Parsons
Troy, Maine

I’ve never preserved dandelion greens in salt and, in fact, have never heard about it. I’ve canned them, however. Just boil the fresh greens enough to wilt them, drain off the water and use fresh when you can them. Can them up like all other greens with fresh boiling water added and they’re great. — Jackie