I'll be speaking at the Shasta County Master Gardener meeting on Thursday evening, September 11th, about "Storing Your Harvest". You'll learn about storing fruits and vegetables from your own garden, bulk produce from the Farmer's Market or that bucket of apples that your generous neighbor just gave you. You'll learn the best conditions for long-term storage of fruits and vegetables and which are compatible or not. Did you know pumpkins hate hanging out with apples? Or the best temperature and humidity to ripen green tomatoes? Making damp sand storage bins for sunchokes and cabbage? I'll provide information on physical storage options, including house microclimates, insulated boxes, in-ground storage, and root cellars. And I'll share some of our storage "adventures", AKA "mistakes", like trying to find in-ground carrots under 3' of snow.
Join us upstairs at the Downtown Shasta College Campus (1400 Market Street) in Redding at 6:30 pm.
For vegetable gardeners, this is the time of year that we seem to find that HUMUNGOUS zucchini that I swear wasn't there yesterday. Vertical trellises are one way to make your squash easier to see. Maybe. Our gazebo is covered in vines of "Trombetta" squash, an Italian heirloom summer squash. This mild, nutty-flavored squash loves heat and loves to climb. The seeds are in the bulbous end, leaving lots of creamy flesh for eating. It's best harvested at 10-12", but this 3" long specimen was hiding in plain sight.
We have better luck keeping an eye on the spaghetti squash. We have a bounteous crop hanging on the trellis instead of sprawling throughout the garden. They'll be ready to pick in late September as they turn dark yellow and the skin hardens. It's important to let this variety of winter squash mature on the vine to prevent it from rotting once harvested.
Time to stop procrastinating! If you'd like to take the Master Gardener training program for Shasta County, go to www.shastacollege.edu and enroll in the class, AGEH-60. Classes are held on Tuesday evenings from 6 pm til 8:50 pm, with 4 Saturday classes from 9:00 am til 11:50 am. The first class starts on August 19, 2014.
This training will qualify you to become a certified Master Gardener under the University of California program. For more information about the overall program, check out http://camastergardeners.ucanr.edu.
Residents of Trinity County can take the Shasta College course, then transfer to the Trinity Master Gardener program. The Trinity County training program will begin in Weaverville in January, 2015.
It can be so frustrating to see a young squash developing on the vine, then it withers at the end and doesn't grow any larger. What causes that? In most cases, it's a pollination failure. Squash, melons and cucumbers (cucurbits) have male and female flowers. Pollen in the male flower is sticky, so wind-blown pollination doesn't work and the plants need insects or human helpers to transfer pollen. There can also be a mismatch in timing if the female & male flowers aren't blooming simultaneously, so that pollination doesn't occur.
How do you tell the difference between male and female flowers? The male flowers grow on slender, upright stalks and have a single stamen in the center of a flower. The female flowers have a swollen base (the beginning of your squash fruit) and the center of the flower has a cluster of anthers. In the photo, the female flower just above the baby pattypan is just about to bloom. The male flowers (above & left) are also about the bloom, so hopefully the timing will be right for successful pollination.
If you don't have lots of insects moving pollen from flower to flower, you can help by using a small artist brush to dab pollen from the male to female flowers. Pretend you're a bee! And if you want to try squash flowers in your favorite recipe, be sure to choose the male flowers. We hope you have a bountiful squash harvest!
The cherries and peaches have begun to bloom at our office at the Young Family Ranch. That means it's too late for that last application of fungicide to prevent peach leaf curl. This hasn't been a wet winter, so if you sprayed your trees last fall your trees should be OK. Just relax and enjoy those lovely blossoms!