Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

October, 2003
Regional Report

Toast Those Pumpkin Seeds

Toast -- don't toss -- your pumpkin seeds when you carve your jack-o'-lantern. Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp by washing the seeds well. Spread them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt if desired. Toast them for 3 or 4 minutes at 375 degrees F, stir, and toast another 2 or 3 minutes until they're evenly golden. Cool them to room temperature, and enjoy!

Harvest Potatoes, or Not

Harvest potatoes now, being careful not to cut or bruise them, or leave them in the soil for harvest through the winter. Take care not to expose them to sunlight or soil cracks, however, or they'll develop inedible, bitter green areas. (After cutting off these areas and discarding them, the remaining potato can be eaten.)

After harvest, hold the potatoes at 75 to 85 degrees F for a week, and then store them at 50 to 60 degrees with high humidity. They should keep for six to fifteen weeks. Refrigerating them at 36 to 40 degrees will turn some of the starch into sugar, making them taste oddly sweet and cook dark.

Harvest Winter Squash

Harvest winter squash, pumpkins, and decorative gourds when the vines are dry and the rinds are hard and resist easy puncture by a fingernail. Cut the stems rather than breaking or tearing them, and leave 2 inches of stem attached to the squash to lessen the chance of spoilage. Gourds will dry quicker if you drill a small hole at each end. Let them cure in a dry, well-ventilated area at room temperature for two weeks. Store cured squash at 50 to 60 degrees F in a dry area. Check them weekly for mold. If any appears, wipe it off with a paper towel moistened with vinegar. Squash should keep up to six months.

Feed Citrus and Avocados

Feed subtropicals like citrus and avocados with a fertilizer containing high levels of phosphorus and potassium but no nitrogen to help them become cold-hardy. Keep them watered until the rains take over.

Feed Your Compost Pile

Continue replenishing your compost pile by adding alternate layers of non-greasy kitchen and grass clippings, plant foliage, and dry matter with soil. Chop up bulky items to help them break down faster. Keep the pile moist but not waterlogged, and loosen or turn it every other week or so to let in air. When rains begin, cover the pile loosely to prevent it from getting too waterlogged and leaching out its rich nitrogen. To keep a compost pile working hot, build it between 3 and 5 feet high and wide for the most favorable surface-to-volume ratio. Keep in balance all the necessary ingredients: fresh, moist greenery; dried leaves, small twigs, or wood chips; and some soil or compost or manure.

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