Lauterbach: Harvesting your winter squash; dealing with unusual weather

Special to The Idaho StatesmanAugust 30, 2013 

MBR

A sweet dumpling squash and a white acorn squash.

MCT

If you have winter squash that's fully colored (not a pale or mottled version of what it should be), and you can't penetrate it with a thumbnail, pick it now with as much stem as you can. Picking it now will encourage your squash plant to produce more.

Make sure you can't penetrate past the rind with your thumbnail first, though. Last year, I got two harvests of Delicata squash, for instance. Usually our fall weather is nice enough that squash can produce a second crop in one season.

Never carry winter squash by the stem, for it will break off and then the squash won't last long.

SAFEGUARDING PLANTS FROM STRONG WINDS

Our strong wind and driving rain last week broke off a rather large branch from a dying black locust tree across the street and hurled it into my garden.

My pole beans had developed heavy foliage, and they, acting like sails, blew over so strongly they bent the electrical conduit pipes I use for trellis ends, with hog fencing between for vines to climb on. Only one still stood tall, and that was due to a T-post support that my helper had already installed after the weight of the vine had pulled it over.

I don't like to grow pole beans since they're so late in setting and filling pods. Bush beans produce much earlier, but if you want to grow special varieties of dry beans, you have to grow pole varieties. Some of this year's bush beans unfortunately were semi-runner instead of only bushy, so that bed was a tangle of plants and pods.

Pole bean pollen is aggressive in cross-pollinating bush beans. I'm harvesting more black beans than I expected, for instance.

In years past, I've had large tomatoes blow over with their cages, but now we have T-posts installed at the ends of the rows, with a strong wire threaded through all of the cages and fastened to the end posts. None of my tomatoes blew over in that storm, the strongest I've seen in more than 40 years.

TRANSPLANTING STRUGGLES

Over the years, I've been able to transplant at any time during the growing season. Overcast, drizzly days are perfect for transplanting outdoors, but we haven't had any of those this summer.

Usually, I've covered the transplant with a large pot or box, uncovering in late afternoon, when the sun isn't quite so hot, provided there's no wind. Cover and moisture is all that transplants have needed, but this summer has been different.

Since I can't spade to prepare a hole, my garden helper has done that, and while I watched, he transplanted and watered several things for me. We did cover all transplants, but most have just curled up leaves and died.

A new peony, I'm hoping, is thriving in the root area, for the foliage doesn't look good. I had to order by mail a rose that I wanted since I couldn't find it locally, and the company, located on the West Coast, shipped it by ground transportation from North Carolina. It was near death when it arrived after eight days in transit, and didn't last long.

I would have paid extra for second day air transport, if given the opportunity, but was not, nor was I notified it was on the East Coast.

Send garden questions to melauter@earthlink.net or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.

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