They’re big, round and orange, but are they ripe?
Harvest time is here for pumpkins and other hard-skinned winter squash. But how do you know when your prized pumpkin (or butternut) is ready?
▪ Examine the vines as well as the fruit. Pick your pumpkins after their vines have yellowed and dried. To speed up this process (especially as Halloween approaches), stop irrigating those plants. (Without water, the pumpkin or squash will ripen.)
▪ Look for an outer skin that’s evenly colored and hard, not soft or pliable. Although pumpkins can range from mere ounces to hundreds of pounds, the ripe one should seem full size for its variety and well formed with the stem still attached.
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▪ Want more proof? Lightly thump the pumpkin or winter squash with your fingers; ripe fruit will sound hollow with a deeper tone. Try to press your fingernail into the squash’s skin. If the shell is hard enough to resist puncture, that pumpkin or squash is ready.
▪ When harvesting, use a sharp knife or pruners to cut stems. Keep a little stem attached; that way, the squash will last longer after picking.
Elsewhere in the fall garden:
▪ Trim spent flowers from rosebushes to coax one more round of blooms. You’ll have fresh bouquets for your Thanksgiving table.
▪ Dig up corms and tubers of gladioluses, dahlias and tuberous begonias after the foliage dies. Clean and store in a cool, dry place.
▪ Plant spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, crocus and Dutch iris. Add bone meal to the beds for larger blooms and stronger stems.
▪ Treat azaleas, gardenias and camellias with chelated iron if leaves are yellowing between the veins.
▪ Plant seeds for such cool-weather veggies as radishes, bok choy, mustard, spinach and peas. Plant garlic and onions.
▪ Watch out for snails. Hand-pick them off plants when they come out at nightfall.