Once we reach September you know we are in for it … it’s fall.
However, it does have its good side, it’s harvest time, and so far the flower gardens still look lovely, and the corn is ripe.
I think we should talk for a bit about harvesting, starting with squashes. The winter ones need to have a hard shell if they are going to last. If you can dig your thumb-nail through winter squash skin it is not quite ripe, so can be left for a while. But if you break your nail it is mature, and can be separated from the vine, keeping a short length of the stem attached. Don’t pick it up by this stem. If it breaks off mould can start in the open wound. I used to take the squash into the tub in the utility room and wash them off with a solution of bleach and water. I used a large plastic ice cream tub, half full of water to which I added about three tablespoons of bleach. Wash each thoroughly, then run cold water over them to remove the bleach, and dry with an old towel. Set the squash in a warm place to cure (a high shelf near the kitchen stove, perhaps). This takes about 10 days, but may I suggest you not cut it open for several weeks, it seems to taste better then. Store in a warm dry place, and they should last for months.
When onion tops turn brown and fall over, brush the surrounding soil away from the bulb, and dig after a few days of exposure to the sun. When harvested, cut onion tops back to about two inches, and spread the bulbs loosely in trays and expose them to the sun for a week, or more. If rain threatens quickly whip them inside, and bring them in at night. They need to be kept dry. If onion sap oozes from the cuts, use these onions first. Store onions in a cool dry spot, best on a tray, in case one spoils and infects the others (if they are in a bag). When they are thoroughly dry they may be stored in a net bag in a cool place.
Potatoes may be dug when tops go brown (or earlier if you want a taste treat), but for storage wait until the tops die back. They need not be washed, just brush the soil from the skins, and store in a cool dry place, but not in the same area as apples. Apples emit a gas that makes potatoes taste sweet, not a pleasant eating experience.
Carrots, turnips, beets, and parsnips may be left in the ground, and dug as needed.
Don’t let me forget to tell you that the Peninsula Garden Club meets at the Mary Winspear Centre on Monday, Sept. 12. The Gardener’s Forum starts at 6:30 with a talk about bulbs.
Following this, the regular meeting begins at 7:30 with guest speaker Ann Nightingale who will give an illustrated talk on the owls of this area. General bird questions will also be answered. New members to the club are always welcome.
Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 25 years.