As September unfolds and we approach the Autumn Equinox (Wed 22 Sept) we are enjoying the sunshine of the last few days. It feels special somehow; gentle and golden. Your gardens, plots, allotments must be full of wonderful crops to be picked, eaten and stored.
As empty beds appear you can cover them with mulches to stop nutrients from being washed out, fill the gaps with winter veg or dream of next years' flowers by sowing some hardy annuals.
If started off now when the soil is still warm, these flowers will still germinate before it gets too cold. Their hardiness will get them through winter and they'll bloom earlier than spring-sown seeds.
Hardy annuals to sow now
When to harvest your winter squash
We have been getting lots of enquiries about when to harvest winter squash. It's a good and important question to ask.
There are a few things to look out for:
- Plants dying back - if the plants are dying back then most of the fruits are probably ready, and the ones that are not, will not reach maturity anyway
- Colour change - the colour of many squashes changes when they are ripe, similar to other fruits such as tomatoes. For instance Red Kuri goes from orange to a deep red.
- Corky stems - the stems of 'maxima' varieties such as Red Kuri or Meruhen/Green Hokaido go 'corky' when they are ripe. The other species 'Pepo' and 'Moschata' do not have this corky texture.
- Hollow sound - ripe squashes usually sound hollow when tapped compared to unripe ones
The fruits can survive a light frost, but if a proper frost is forcast be sure to harvest them as a hard frost will ruin them.
If you are planning to store your squashes into the winter it is important to 'cure' them first. This is done by placing them somewhere warm and dry for a couple of weeks (a polytunnel works well) which hardens the skin for storage.
Eating the seeds
Rather surprisingly the seeds are actually the most nutrient-dense part of the squash which is why rodents and badgers often hollow them out and leave the flesh.
You can turn the seeds into a delicious snack by boiling them in salty water for 5-10 minutes and then toss them in oil, season, and bake in the oven at 180C for 10 minutes.
Happy Equinox for Wednesday :)
Fred and Ronja