HELEN LANG: Hardening off the winter squash

August busy for gardeners, from apples and squash to corn and lilies

August is one busy month for gardeners. So much to do: harvesting, washing off the dirt, peeling, coring, freezing or bottling, or just storing things, such as ripe apples.

It’s a bit overwhelming, especially when its so hot, but think of all the pleasure to be had later and you’ll hardly notice the perspiration running down your back!

A hint about storing apples: To make sure they are ripe, split one in half and if the seeds are brown, the apples are ripe.

If there are apples falling on the ground, they are also ready. Pick and store them in cardboard boxes in the coolest place you can find (under the house, maybe). If you are troubled with rats, I’d put the apples in heavy duty plastic containers, putting a thick layer of newspaper between layers (remember the story of the one rotten apple that spoiled all the others?).

Apples emit a strong scent which may be used to ripen other fruit.

Put a ripe apple in a bag with green bananas, close the bag tightly and presto! Ripe bananas. (Please, this is not immediate, it takes a day or so.)

To make sure winter squash are ripe, try to puncture the skin with a fingernail. If you break the nail, the squash is not ripe (and you’ve ruined your finger nail). If it is ripe, do cut it off close to the vine, leaving the stem attached.

Squash need to be “hardened off” after harvesting. This requires leaving them out in the sun after picking, up off the soil (bringing them in, if rain threatens) for a week or 10 days. I used to wash them off with dish soap and water immediately after harvesting to be sure no fungus was present, but do dry them immediately to prevent mildew getting started.

Squash may also be “hardened off” by putting them on newspapers in a cupboard in a warm place (above the kitchen stove).

“Hardening off” enhances that delectable squash flavour.

Talking about delicious flavour, Don took me to Silver Rill Farm where I bought the first ripe corn of the season. It was bliss! And to think the corn season goes on until early October! Marvelous!

My darling husband, an Englishman, could never understand my love affair with corn, which he was certain was only properly used as cattle food. I finally convinced him to try just one taste and he had to admit it did taste remarkably good. But he never became a real fan.

Remember the lily we talked about last week? I wish I’d been able to move it into the shade, because it lasted only four days and then, in a temper, cast off all but two petals.

Now it needs to be kept watered and occasionally fertilized for at least another month (or more) to build up the bulb for next year’s bloom.

You can stop watering it when leaves and stalk turn yellow. I’m annoyed with it.

It hardly seems fair to demand all this fussing for a mere four short flowering days. There is just too much sunshine on the balcony but there is no choice unless I move and that would require much more energy from me than it deserves.

Fortunately there is another lily in bud, but its an orange colour with a much less dramatic flower. It is a fiesta strain but maybe it will surprise me and be glorious.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for this to happen. I remind myself that it is going to flower and that’s something to look forward to.

On that note I’ll have to leave you and begin my daily chores — which include half-filling the watering can and staggering out to water those thirsty plants before the sun reaches round to fill the balcony with an entire afternoon of blistering heat, until my poor, precious plants collapse from sun stroke!



Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.


Just Posted

Feds kickstart Indigenous Guardians program with $5.7M in early funding

Part of $25M announcement from March to commit financial help for First Nations to remain stewards of their land

‘Crazy 8’s,’ Panthers win again

Game kicked off with an on-ice ceremony featuring 98-year-old WWII veteran Commander Peter Chance

Building permits up, but residential construction softening in Greater Victoria

Greater Victoria led the province in issuing new building permits in August

BC Ferries passengers wait to leave Vancouver Island after Remembrance Day

Traffic aboard BC Ferries slows after Remembrance Day long weekend

Alleged child abduction attempt in Langford a family issue, RCMP say

Const. Matt Baker with West Shore RCMP says parents should not worry

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

POLL: Have BC Ferry wiats ever forced you to cancel your travel plans?

Many BC Ferry passengers heading out from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen on… Continue reading

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

Racist slur cleaned off memorial at Qualicum First Nation graveyard

Site was hit by vandals on Friday; many immediately offered support and assistance

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Vancouver Island leadfoot clocked doing 143 km/h in an 80 km/h zone

Driver issued $483 ticket, has vehicle impounded after pinging RCMP radar in Lantzville

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Most Read