Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

October, 2009
Regional Report

When to 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 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.

Lightly Trim Roses

Trim roses after their last flush of blooms, but hold off on severe pruning until they're fully dormant, in January. Feed them with a no-nitrogen, high-phosphorus, high-potassium fertilizer to help them harden off.

Plant Fall Color

For fall color, some plants to include are barberry (berberis), cotoneaster, nandina, Oregon grape (mahonia), pyracantha, raphiolepis, and viburnum. Trees include Chinese pistache, sapium, persimmon, Bradford and Aristocrat pear, gingko, and Raywood ash.

Hurry to Buy Spring-Blooming Bulbs

Don't wait much longer to purchase spring-blooming bulbs. This is one time when cheap prices and bottom-of-the-barrel leftovers are a waste of money rather than a bargain. If you can't buy the best, large-size bulbs shortly after they become available, wait until next year.

Plant Ground Covers as Spring Green Manure

Plant ground covers, including fava (broad) beans, clover, mustard, oats, annual rye, wheat, and vetch -- to be turned into the soil early in the spring as "green manure." Remove plant debris from soil surfaces, and cultivate the soil to bring underground overwintering pests and weed seeds to the surface.

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