Summer is clearly coming to a close here in Silicon Valley. Breezy days in the high 70′s wind down to chilly evenings and cool nights. I’ve got floating row cover over our peppers already and one of the eggplant beds.
Our roses are blooming again after a severe pruning in early August. The ultra-hot weather didn’t do them any favors, even though I cut back on watering them to try to stave off any mildew or fungus problems. I’m participating in the Apartment Therapy 8-Week Cure, and one of the first things that comes up is to bring in fresh flowers. OK, they say ‘buy’, but I can just go out front right now, so I did.
Normally I’d have cut dahlias, but mine, alas, were just destroyed this past weekend by workers putting in a fence replacement. They might come back for the season or they might not– they were completely uprooted. I reburied them and watered; worst case, they die back for this season. I’m planning on moving them this winter anyway. Still, there were a LOT of blooms left, and I’m sad about that.
What I think will be the last of my squashes are in now; I planted the ebicata kabocha too late, and it got hit with powdery mildew during our hot spell and hasn’t set fruit yet. Too bad! But the red kuri / kabocha cross came through very well, and I may get another straggler from my Waltham butternut.
When the nights get cold, the squashes toughen up and get ready to pick. If you still have some ripening, be sure to gently lift them off the ground and make sure they’re clear of little pillbugs or other critters trying to eat into the rind. Use a piece of old potshard or a tile to get them off the ground, or even rest them on the vine itself. There are two primary signs to look for in squashes. The first is that the stems will start to get hard, and may turn tan or shrivel up. Butternuts typically need a pair of bolt cutters to snip off the vine! The other sign is that the skin hardens to the point where it is difficult to mark it with a fingernail. Store fresh-picked squashes on a screened porch or on an open, well-ventilated shelf for at least a week or two to let them shed excess moisture. I keep mine on an open shelf as decoration, and gradually use them up in winter.
If you haven’t grown your own squash, don’t worry– the ones at the Farmer’s Market are perfectly lovely. Buy them now, when the markets are fairly swimming in them, and store them yourself at home for later. Don’t wash them, but if they’re dirty or mucky, you can polish them off with a barely damp cloth. Treat as you would your own fresh-picked, and let them cure a while before putting in a cupboard.
The rest of the garden is still busy turning out, as Mike’s late grandmother would say, “a bissel of this, and a bissel of that”. A friend of ours came over and we responded to the plethora of ingredients by making ratatouille, a perfect solution to lots of ingredients in quantities too small to make any one of them the centerpiece. OK, there are always huge quantities of zucchini; we balance them off against the rest of the ingredients that way!