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The Garden Mix




Nationally renowned garden expert Melinda Myers helps everyday gardeners find success and ease in the garden through her Melinda’s Garden Moments radio segments. Melinda shares “must have” tips that hold the key to gardening success, learned through her more than 30 years of horticulture experience. Listeners from across the country find her gardener friendly, practical approach to gardening both refreshing and informative! On this page, Melinda shares some more extensive garden tips, which expand on the information provided in her one-minute radio segments.

New tips are added throughout each month, providing timely step-by-step tips on what you need to do next in your garden! Visit Melinda’s website www.melindamyers.com for more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and answers to your questions.
Posts from July 2014


Wine Bottles – Out of the Recycling Bin and Into the Garden
Stop! Don’t recycle those wine bottles, instead give them a second life in your garden.

Use wine bottles to create a colorful edge along a path or around a planting bed. Set the bottle, top-side down in the ground.  Individual bottles make great hose guides.
 
Or create colorful outdoor lighting. Remove the bottom of the bottle with a glasscutter. Place over LED bulbs. Strategically place individual wine bottle lights throughout the garden or use multiple bottles over a string of lights.
 
Put your glasscutter to work creating a planter. Remove a section from one side of the bottle. Lay the bottle on its side, secure in place, fill with soil and plant.
 
Or remove the top of the bottle. Invert and place in the bottom of the bottle. The original opening is now your drain hole and the bottom of the bottle is your saucer.
 
And of course you can always place them on a bottle tree.
 
A bit more information: Convert wine bottles into watering devices. Punch a small hole into the soil of your container garden. Fill the bottle with water, invert and place into the soil. Plant Nannies are hollow terra cotta spikes that can be set into the soil to hold the wine bottle in place.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Leaf Spot on Rudbeckia
Once thought to be the answer to low maintenance perennial gardens, Goldstrum Rudbeckia’s reputation has been tarnished by several leaf spot diseases.
 
A bacterial and several fungal leaf spot diseases cause purplish-black spots on the leaves of rudbeckia. Severe infestation can totally blacken the leaves and cause the plants to dieback a bit earlier in fall.  Fortunately most of the diseases are cosmetic and the plants will continue to flower and return each year.
 
Reduce the risk of this disease by providing adequate light and air circulation around the plants.  Use a soaker hose or watering wand to apply water directly to the soil when needed. 
 
In fall, remove and destroy all diseased plant parts.
 
If disease is a yearly problem, plant more resistant cultivars like Becky, Cherokee Sunset, Irish eyes, or Prairie Sun.
 
A bit more information:  Or keep the plants and hide the diseased leaves. Plant something slightly shorter in front of the Goldstrum Rudbeckia plants to mask the discolored leaves, but allow the flowers to show through.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Crown Rot Causing Sudden Wilting and Death on Ajuga (Bugleweed)
Sudden wilting, yellowing and death of ajuga, also known as bugleweed, means crown rot may have invaded the planting.

This fungal disease is most common in warm wet or humid weather. It first appears as sudden wilting and dieback in colder climates and yellowing and death of plants in warmer areas. The stems of infected plants turn brown or black and rot. 
 
This disease can be introduced into the garden on infected plants or soil or spread by tools and water. Since the disease is in the soil it is difficult to eradicate.
 
Remove and destroy infected plants and the surrounding soil immediately. Be sure to disinfect your tools with a one-part bleach and nine-part water solution during and after the process.
 
If the disease continues to spread or has destroyed much of the planting, it is time to start over in a new location with disease-free plants.
 
A bit more information:  Reduce the risk of crown rot to healthy plantings by thinning groundcover plantings every few years or before they become overcrowded. And avoid planting crown rot susceptible plants in the bed where the Ajuga died.  Consider amending the soil with compost, peatmoss or coir to improve drainage before planting.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Cool Splash Diervilla Shrub for Shady Gardens
Brighten up the shade with a Cool Splash Diervilla.
 
This cultivar of the southern bush honeysuckle was selected for its creamy to yellow leaf margins. The variegated leaves are topped by fragrant yellow flowers in midsummer. They help attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden.
 
Cool Splash is hardy in zones 4 to 8 and grows equally well in full sun or partial shade with moist well-drained soil. Once established, it is heat and drought tolerant.
 
This small-scale shrub suckers, forming a dense mass of cascading branches. It eventually reaches 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, making it suitable for small space gardens as well as mixed borders and shrub beds.  Use it to mask leggy stems or visually anchor taller trees and shrubs to the ground.
 
And don’t let the common name honeysuckle fool you. Though a member of the same family, this is not the invasive honeysuckle taking over our woodlands.
 
A bit more information: Combine Cool Splash with shade tolerant perennials. Hosta, astilbe, Brunnera, coral bells and ginger are just a few. For more shade tolerant shrubs watch my Shrubs Made for the Shade video.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Smart Irrigation Month – Planning a Watersense Irrigation System

Watering our landscapes properly can save water and improve our plants’ health. And if you decide to invest in an irrigation system make sure to get the best value and water savings by doing your homework first.
 
Look for systems that include EPA approved WaterSense irrigation controllers. These are like thermostats only they’re for your irrigation system, adjusting watering schedules based on weather and soil moisture instead of the calendar.
 
Select a system zoned to water plants at different rates. Established trees require less frequent watering than annuals. Use drip irrigation or low volume sprinklers in gardens to apply water slowly and right where it is needed.
 
And consult a certified Irrigation specialist that understands how irrigation works, the local environment and will help you comply with any building codes.
 
A bit more information: Your time invested in research before investing in an irrigation system can reduce water use, repair costs and plant replacement. Experts estimate we could reduce water use by 50% just by eliminating improper watering. If you already have a system, inspect it regularly. Check for and repair any leaks, clear clogs, adjust direction and repair damaged sprinkler heads. For more information visit these web sites:
http://www.irrigation.org/Certification/Certification_Splash.aspx   http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/products/controltech.html
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Grow Star and Heart Shaped Veggies
Add a little star power to your meals with the help of cookie cutters and veggie molds.
 
Cut cucumbers into ¼ inch thick round slices. Use a small heart shaped cookie cutter to remove the center of the rounds. Use these in salads, on sandwiches or relish plates. Save the outer ring. Slide two grape or cherry tomatoes onto a toothpick so they resemble a heart. Place them in the center of the outer ring of the cucumber and secure in place.
 
Or grow heart and star shaped fruit. Cover immature fruit with vegetable molds. Use twisty ties to hold the fruit filled mold onto the vine or support. Check the fruit regularly as some may be ready to harvest in as few as 5 to 7 days. Once the fruit has filled the mold and is fully colored, it is ready to harvest.
 
Creating heart and star shaped vegetables will dress up your meals and may encourage everyone to eat more veggies.
 
A bit more information: For more information on vegetable molds visit http://www.veggiemold.com.  And watch for postings on my Facebook page as I grow a few star powered vegetables of my own.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Less Mowing and Hand Trimming, Better for You and Your Landscape
Eliminate hand trimming around garden statues, playsets, narrow spaces and individual trees and shrubs. Invest a bit of time now to eliminate time spent on these tasks in the future.

Create mowing strips around raised beds and stonewalls to eliminate hand trimming. You can purchase and lay pavers and other edging materials or just remove a narrow strip of grass and cover with mulch. Run one set of your mower wheels on the mowing strip and cut the grass right up to the structure.
 
Connect individual trees and shrubs with mulch beds. The trees will benefit from the mulch and you will spend less time trimming around each plant. Plus the mulch bed protects the plants from weed whips and mowers that injure the plants as we try to cut the grass as close as possible.
 
And if this is too much mulch, try filling the area with perennials and groundcovers for added beauty and seasonal interest.
 
A bit more information: Mulching around trees also eliminates the frustration of surface roots. For more ideas watch Melinda’s Garden Moment video Dealing with Surface Roots http://www.melindamyers.com/Pasquesi-Landscape-Care/landscape-care/dealing-with-surface-roots.html
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Taming Floppy, Leggy and Less-Than-Attractive Annuals
Break out the pruners and groom your unsightly annuals back to their original beauty.
 
Some annuals tend to develop long leggy stems with few flowers. Regular deadheading and removing the top few inches of the stem encourages more compact growth and continual flowering.  Don’t worry if your busy schedule allowed your plants to get out of hand. Just cut back the stems halfway.
 
Try staggering severe pruning to keep your garden looking good throughout the renewal process. Do this by pruning back only one third of the plants in a flowerbed or one third of the stems on individual plants at one time. Repeat each week. By the time you prune the last few stems the first group will be producing new flowers on more compact stems.
 
Reduce your workload next season by selecting annuals bred for long bloom and compact growth. You’ll have better-looking plants all season long with less work.
 
A bit more information: Regular grooming can help keep foliage plants like coleus looking their best. Remove the coleus flowers as soon as they form to prevent leggy growth. Prune back leggy plants as described to keep these beauties looking their best.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com

 
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Grow a Pickle in a Bottle
Add some mystery and fun to this season’s harvest by growing a pickle in a bottle.
 
Just like the ship in a bottle, finding a large cucumber in a clear bottle with a small opening will keep friends and relatives guessing.
 
Start by selecting a small immature cucumber. Leave it attached to the plant and slide it into a bottle. Leave your bottled cucumber tucked under plant leaves or create a little shade with cloth or newspaper to prevent it from overheating and rotting in the sun.
 
Check your cucumber regularly and watch it grow. Cut it off the vine just before it fills the bottle. Your cucumber in the bottle will only last a few days, but will provide lots of fun. Preserve it to extend the fun.  Boil 2 cups of vinegar mixed with 2 cups of hot water and 3 tablespoons of pickling salt. Cool and pour the mixture over the cucumber and seal the jar shut.
 
A bit more information: Add some more fun to the garden by scratching your name, design or a message into the rind of winter squash. Take a sharp object and lightly scratch your idea into, but not through the rind of an immature winter squash. As it grows, matures and hardens your message will become clearer. 
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Upcycle Pool Noodles into the Garden
Don’t throw away those worn out or forgotten pool noodles. Put them to work in the garden.
 
Make a lengthwise cut halfway into the noodle. Then use it to top a chicken wire or hardware cloth fence or plant cage. It prevents cuts from sharp wires and adds a bit of color and whimsy to the garden.
 
Or bend and insert the noodle into a lawn bag to hold it open. Adding green debris for recycling will be much easier, especially when it’s a one person job.
 
Cover ½ inch PVC to create colorful structures in the garden.  Stand on end and securely anchor in the ground for a trellis. Or create colorful arches for added interest or fun for the smaller gardeners in the family.
 
Or cut the noodle to the desired length and cover with ribbon, flowers, pine cones or other materials to create a wreath for your front door, garden entrance or shed.
 
A bit more information: Create a raised bed with the help of old window well sections and noodles. Bolt two window wells together. Top with a noodle to protect you from the sharp edges. Set in place, fill with soil and plant.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Plan and Plant Now for a Bountiful Fall Harvest
Now is the time to plan and plant vegetables for a bountiful fall harvest.
 
Start by looking for vacant spaces in the vegetable garden that are left after harvesting lettuce, spinach and other early maturing crops. Expand your search to other plantable areas in flowerbeds and mixed borders.
 
Sow seeds of beans, cucumbers, carrots, beets and other short season vegetables. Simply count the number of days from planting to the date of the average first fall frost in your area. Then check the back of the seed packet for the number of days needed from planting until harvest. As long as you have enough time for the seeds to sprout, grow and produce before frost, they can be added to the garden.  Or extend the season with coldframes and floating row covers.
 
Those in frost-free areas can plant longer season crops that benefit from maturing during the cooler months of fall.
 
A bit more information: Wait for the soil to cool before planting lettuce and other vegetable seeds that require cooler temperatures to germinate. Or start the plants indoors and move them into the garden as transplants. Help keep the soil cool by mulching plantings with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic mulch. For more ideas and information on late plantings watch my Melinda’s Garden Moment “Still Time to Plant” video or listen to the audio tip on this topic as well as the Grow a Bountiful Harvest All Season Long audio tip.
 
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Celebration Maple

Add seasonal color and shade to your landscape with Celebration maple. This fast grower provides beauty with less maintenance.
 
Celebration maple is one of the freeman maple varieties. The freeman maple hybrids display the best qualities of each parent while minimizing their less desirable traits.  The red maple provides the better structure and fall color while the silver maple increases vigor and high pH tolerance.
 
Celebration is a more compact cultivar with good structure that is more resistant to wind, ice, snow, and storm damage.  The red flowers add a touch of subtle color to the spring landscape, while the red and yellow fall color end the season with a blaze.
 
This heat, drought and pollution tolerant tree is hardy in zones 4 to 8, and possibly 9, and grows 45 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet wide.
 
A bit more information: Celebration® Maple (Acer x freemanii ‘Celzam’) is virtually seedless, so you will have minimal seeds (also known as helicopters) to sweep off the sidewalk. And those that are grown on their own roots will not heave walks and drives.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Midseason Fertilization for Vegetable Gardens
Increase this season’s harvest with a midseason fertilization.
 
The amount and type of fertilizer needed is dependent on your soil, past fertilization practices and the type of plants you are growing.

A soil test is the best way to get the information needed to develop a fertilization program for your garden.  But until you have your soil tested, consider following these guidelines.
 
Select a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer like Milorganite to avoid damaging plants during hot dry summer weather.
 
Fertilize leafy vegetables when they are about half size.  Wait until the tomatoes and peppers start producing fruit before fertilizing them. 
 
Apply 1 pound of a low nitrogen fertilizer for every 100 square feet.  Sprinkle granular fertilizer along side or around the plants.  Gently rake it into the soil if needed. Liquid fertilizers are applied by a sprinkling can or garden hose.
 
A bit more information: Always read and follow label directions for the mixing rates and application methods for the fertilizer you select. And with proper care you will have plenty of produce for you, your family, friends and the hungry in your community. Contact Garden Writers Association’s “Plant a Row for the Hungry” program for information on donating extra produce to the hungry in your community. Call toll free 1-877-492-2727 or visit www.gardenwriters.org/.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Managing Boxelder Bugs
Black and orange bugs congregated on the sunny side of your house in fall are likely boxelder bugs. They are not harmful to plants and people, but certainly are annoying. The immature bugs feed on ground level vegetation throughout the summer. The adults move to female boxelder trees, a type of maple, and occasionally to other maples and ash trees to eat and lay eggs. Their feeding does not harm the trees. The problem usually occurs when the adults seek a warm sunny spot, usually the side of your home, to warm themselves in fall. As temperatures cool they often find their way indoors through cracks and crevices. Repair and fill any crevices to keep these insects out of the house. Manage high populations by vacuuming as they congregate or spray the side of your house with soapy water. Test the siding first to make sure the soapy solution will not change the color of your siding. A bit more information: Removing the tree is not guaranteed to solve the problem. Adults can fly and may find their way to the sunny side of your home. Better to seal the house to keep them out or learn to live with these annoying pests. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Harvest and Enjoy Edamame (Soy)
Get the best flavor and nutritional value from your homegrown edamame, also known as edible soybeans, with proper harvesting and care. Harvest soybeans when the pods are plump, green, rough, and hairy. Check frequently and pick when the seeds are fully enlarged, but before they get hard and begin yellowing. Waiting too long to harvest the seeds reduces the flavor and quality. Since the seed-filled pods usually ripen at the same time, you can pull up the whole plant and harvest the seeds from the pods, while sitting on a chair in the shade. Use them cooked or uncooked as a snack or as a fiber rich ingredient with other vegetables and meat dishes. Many gardeners eat them right out of the pod like peanuts. Boil or steam the pods for 4 to 5 minutes, cool under running water and pop the seeds out of the pods. Use immediately or freeze after cooking. A bit more information: These nutritious legumes help promote overall health, reducing the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Plus, the high fiber in soy helps fight colon and some other cancers. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Add Color to the Fall Landscape with Asters
Add some color to your fall garden with Asters. Brighten up your container gardens with a few of these fall beauties. Or create fall containers filled with asters, ornamental grasses and pansies. Set them in a pretty pot on your front steps to welcome guests to your home. Or place on decks and tabletops as a seasonal centerpiece. Move them into the garden as they fade. Or add to the compost pile where they can eventually help improve your garden's soil. Use asters to replace fading annuals or fill in voids in your garden. They grow and flower best in full sun with well-drained soil. Asters are hardy in zones 4 to 8, but can be grown as an annual anywhere they are sold. Leave the plants intact for winter to increase overwintering success. Northern gardeners often cover the plants with evergreen boughs or straw once the ground is frozen. A bit more information: The plant taxonomists have been at it again. The plants we commonly call Aster have been reclassified and names for these new groups include Symphyotrichum, Ionactis, Eurybia, and Doellingeria. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Eco-friendly Crabgrass Control
Reduce crabgrass problems in your lawn and garden with a few basic lawn and garden care practices. Crabgrass is an annual weed grass with a small fibrous root system. The wide grass blades lay flat on the ground. Each fall they release hundreds of seeds before dying. Crabgrass thrives in hot dry weather. Reduce the problem in your lawn by mowing high and often. The taller grass shades the soil, preventing many weed seeds from sprouting. Leave clippings on the lawn and fertilize at least once, preferably in the fall, to help your lawn grass outcompete the weeds. Pull the plants in the garden before they set seed. This will reduce the number of weeds you'll be fighting next year. Mulch the garden with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material. The mulch will help prevent many of the weed seeds, including the crabgrass, from sprouting. It also helps keep roots cool and moist. A bit more information: If cultural control measures have failed, you may consider the organic pre-emergent crabgrass killer made from corn gluten meal. Apply in spring about the time the forsythias are in bloom. These chemicals prevent seed germination. This means both the weed and good grass seeds will be affected. Wait until late summer or fall to reseed or overseed treated lawns. And as always be sure to read and follow label directions carefully. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Starting Roses from Seed
Expand your garden and have a little fun by growing a few plants from the seeds of your favorite rose. Collect the rose hips, those berry-like fruit on your roses, as soon as they are fully colored. Cut open the rose hip exposing the seeds. Soak the seeds 12 to 24 hours, drain and mix with equal parts of moistened sphagnum moss and vermiculite in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator for at least three months. You can begin planting the seeds anytime after the chilling period is complete. Plant seeds in a container filled with a mixture of sphagnum moss and vermiculite. Keep the mixture warm and moist. Move to a sunny window or under artificial lights as soon as the seeds sprout. Then transplant seedlings, if needed, after they form two sets of true leaves. Just remember seedlings may not look like the original plant. A bit more information: You can also start new roses from cuttings. Take a 6 to 8 inch cutting from a healthy stem. Remove any flowers and buds. Dip in a rooting hormone and plant in a well-drained potting mix. You'll have roots in about 3 weeks. Keep in mind you cannot propagate patented roses. These rights belong to the breeders that introduced the plant. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Fall Webworm
As you drive through your community in late summer or fall you may spot webby nests in the branches of apple, ash, birch, cherry, sycamore, walnut and willow. These are the home of the North American native fall webworm. This pest attacks more than 100 species of deciduous, those that lose their leaves in winter, trees and shrubs. The pest is a green and yellow caterpillar that spins its nest near the ends of the branch. These worm-like insects eat the leaves on the branches near their webby nest. Fortunately this is a cosmetic problem since it occurs late in the season and only a few branches are affected. Keep your plants healthy and they'll be better able to tolerate the feeding. Several natural predators and parasitoids help keep the populations in check. You can knock the nest out of the tree with a stick or a strong blast of water if desired. A bit more information: An organic insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), is effective against young caterpillars. Apply it to the leaves surrounding the webby nest early in the season. As the webworms eat the treated leaves they stop feeding and eventually die. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Dividing Spring and Summer Blooming Perennials
Late summer through early fall is a great time to dig and divide overgrown spring and summer blooming perennials. The soil is warm, air much cooler and the plants will have time to adjust to their new location before winter. Dig and divide plants that have stopped blooming, flopped over, or have a dead center. Use a sharp spade shovel or garden fork to dig up the plant. Cut the clump into 2, 4 or more pieces. Remove the dead center and add it to the compost pile. Some gardeners use two garden forks back to back to pry the clump apart. I prefer a sharp linoleum knife or drywall saw. Though some fleshy rooted plants like daylilies and willow amsonia may require a hatchet or machete. You can replant one piece back in the original location after amending the soil with compost. Use other divisions in other areas or share with friends. A bit more information: The old adage "Divide spring blooming perennials in fall, fall blooming perennials in spring and summer blooming perennials in spring or fall" is a good guideline. But experienced gardeners have all stretched these limits. Sometimes necessity and your schedule determine when you divide perennials. Proper post-transplant care will give your plants the best chance of survival no matter when you divide them. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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National Acorn Squash Day
Bake it, broil it, microwave it or stuff it– acorn squash that is. And if you didn't grow your own, visit the Farmer's Market and buy it. Acorn squash is typically acorn shaped, dark green with longitudinal ridges. They are ripe when the fruit is a solid deep green and the rind is hard. Use a knife or pruners to remove the fruit from the vine. Leave an inch or two of stem attached to the fruit, if possible, for better storage longevity. And be sure to use any blemished or frost damaged fruit as soon as possible. Store this and other winter squash in a cool, preferably 50 to 55 degree, dry location. Place the fruit in a single layer spread out to avoid fruit from touching. The better the air circulation the greater the storage longevity and less likely one rotten squash will affect its neighbors. If space is limited, don't pile more than two high. A bit more information: September 7th is National Acorn Squash Day. This member of the squash family contains vitamins C, B6, A, thiamine and more. You'll get the best nutritional value and flavor by harvesting it at its peak. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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