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Harvest winter squash when skin gets tough

Here are subjects I addressed at the Dr. Green Thumb booth at the Springs Preserve.

Harvesting winter squash: The toughness of the skin determines maturity. If your thumbnail cannot crease the skin, the squash is mature. Save two inches of stem on the fruit to extend its life. Keep it in a cool area until needed. Immature squash rots quickly.

Curing gourds: Leave them on the vine until frost threatens, or harvest the same as winter squash. To hasten drying, drill a 1/8-inch hole through the blossom end of the gourd and well into the seed cavity; letting air inside prevents rotting. Keep gourds in a cool area for a month to dry inside or until seeds inside rattle. When done properly, gourds last for years.

Gourds are unusual in shape, color and markings and defy predictable results as they cross with one another. Keep some seeds from the gourds and see what you create in years to come.

Tomatoes freezing: Be ready for frost, as you may end up with buckets of green tomatoes. Use them for relishes and bread. My wife makes tomato bread out of ours. Or pull the vines and hang them in the garage to let the fruit ripen.

Organic pest control reference book: Robert H. Stauffer from Las Vegas wrote a book called “Environmentally Friendly Pest Control” published by Trafford Publishing out of Canada. To purchase it, call 866-638-6884. Garden experts locally reference it.

Invasive pine roots: Generally, pines do not create concern, but to be on the safe side, purchase from your nursery a root barrier that inhibits roots beyond the barrier; follow the directions for use. Root barriers are now standard procedure by landscape architects when placing trees along fences and hard-surfaced areas.

Harvesting dates: Dates are not like grapes. Bunches do not ripen at the same time. Therefore, pluck clusters as dates turn brown and dry them in the sun.

Controlling spurge: Pull spurge out carefully, because they are dropping seeds. Next March, apply a chemical preventing spurge from germinating, and repeat six weeks later to get late germinators.

Jerusalem artichokes: These artichokes produce heavy crops of nonstarch tubers. They spread rapidly, so plant in a far corner of the garden and forget them except to water, harvest and eat. The tall sunflower-type plants create a screen to hide unwanted views.

Fertilizing fruit trees: It is too early to feed fruit trees. Wait until January to feed and add some iron. You’ll get more response if applied just before spring growth. Follow feedings with a deep irrigation to move nutrients into the soil.

Fall-colored foliage: There are many plants to choose from for fall color. Consider Chinese pistachio, Chinese tallow, Modesto ash, ornamental pear and persimmon trees. If you desire shrubs, try fountain grass, crape myrtle, glossy abelia, nandina, pomegranate, rosemary and strawberry bush. For ground covers, seek blue fescue, ajuga, rock cotoneaster and wintercreeper. And for vines, plant Hacienda creeper and Virginia creeper.

Fruit-laden peach trees: Here’s a tip for next summer to stop breaking branches. Place a 4-by-4 post upright to trunk to top of tree. Tie ropes to top of post to hang down and gently take weight off burdened branches.

FALL FLOWER SHOW

“Mysterious” is the theme of this fall’s flower show. Flower arrangers designed arrangements around the mysteriousness of Halloween. Come see their creative arrangements. Guides will interpret the meaning of the arrangements for you. The show is from noon to 4 p.m. today at the Nevada Garden Club Center, 3333. W. Washington Ave.

ORNAMENTAL GRASSES

These grasses are graceful and gorgeous at this time of year. Let master gardener Jean Engelmann show you her favorites that bring her fall landscape alive. The program is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension building, 8050 S. Paradise Road at the Windmill Exit off the Las Vegas Beltway.

PLANT GIVEAWAY

It’s Halloween, and the Springs Preserve gives away plants each holiday. Come to the preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd., between 10 a.m. and noon Thursday to get a pet plant. You’ll learn more about the plant you select by answering some questions. The preserve wants us to use more natives in our landscapes. For those needing assistance, ask the gate guard to direct you to the south ticket booth near the Dr. Green Thumb Plant Clinic.

GIFTS FROM THE GARDEN

Gifts from the garden are delectable! We’ll show you just how easy and fun it is to make gifts from your very own garden that keep on giving. That’s at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve. Call 822-7786 to register for this class.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@springspreserve.org or call him at 822-7754.

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