Pacific Northwest

October, 2011
Regional Report

Coax Christmas Cactus into Bloom

Christmas cactus needs special care now to get its beautiful flowers this December. Buds will form at 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit or if the plant is exposed to at least 13 hours of complete darkness each night.

Check Pears for Ripeness

Once the fruit has sized up and turned to its ripe color, cup your hand under the pear and lift gently. If the stem breaks, the pears are ready to pick. Early-ripening pears (those that are ready to harvest by mid-September) such as 'Orcas' and 'Rescue', can be placed right on the counter and will ripen and be ready to eat in a few days. Varieties that don't ripen up until late-September or October such as 'Bosc' and 'Comice' must be stored in the refrigerator for at least a month before you bring them out to ripen.

Harvest Kiwis

Fuzzy kiwis will become much sweeter if they experience one or two light frosts. A hard freeze will ruin them, so be prepared to harvest if temperatures are expected to dip into the lower 20s. Pick by Thanksgiving even if no frost has occurred.

Prune Cautiously

In late summer, birds take inventory of possible winter food sources. They pay special attention to seed heads forming on perennial plants. If you delay cutting back spent perennials you'll be doing overwintering birds a big favor. Prune off and remove any stems that have turned mushy, but leave any browned-out foliage and stems containing seed-heads. The nutrient-rich seeds within will provide a smorgasbord for hungry birds throughout the winter.

Harvest Tomatoes

Homegrown tomatoes are running out of time to ripen once nighttime temperatures plummet into the 40's. Tomatoes that show red coloring can be brought indoors and will ripen on the kitchen counter, but tomatoes that are still green won't respond as well to this treatment. You can try pulling up the entire tomato plant and hanging it upside down in the garage or basement. Check every few days for color and harvest those that show promise. When the fruit begins to show color you can remove it from the plant and take it indoors to ripen further.

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