The time for picking pumpkins

Garden Q&A

September 15, 1996

My pumpkin plant has some big pumpkins that are starting to turn orange. Should I pick them now or wait until a frost?

Harvest your pumpkins and winter squashes when they are fully colored and the rind is hard (cannot be punctured with a thumbnail). If you planted in May, they should be fully mature sometime this month. Cut the stem with a sharp knife, leaving a 2- to 6-inch handle attached to the pumpkin. Avoid bruising or nicking the fruit.

If you're going to store your pumpkins and winter squashes, wash them in a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water), rinse well and pat dry. Store in a cool (50-60 degrees), dry location.

I love my chives and rosemary and wonder if I can bring these herbs indoors for the winter.

Herbs that do best inside include marjoram, thyme, parsley, bush basil, lemongrass, rosemary and chives. Plants that were grown outdoors in pots during the summer and those that are newly propagated from stem or root cuttings will do best indoors.

For full-grown herb plants that have grown all summer in the ground, cut back the top growth by half and divide the plant into two or more parts. Leave one part in the garden and pot up the others in a fresh, soil-less potting mix so they will have time to develop a root system before they are brought indoors.

Your indoor herbs will need five hours of direct sunlight daily (a south-facing window), or they can be grown under cool, white fluorescent light bulbs (12-16 hours each day). Don't over-water or expose the herbs to temperature extremes. Also, try to mist the plants once or twice a day.

I have my soil-test results back from the University of Maryland. Lime and fertilizer recommendations are given. Do I apply these at the same time?

Lime and fertilizer can both be applied shortly after seeding. Using a starter-type fertilizer will prevent burning of new grass plants. A waiting period between the lime and fertilizer applications is not necessary.

Fertilizer can be applied two ways. One is to divide the total amount of fertilizer recommended into three separate applications about four weeks apart in September, October and November. At each application, don't exceed 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. (The package directions will explain further.)

Or, you can apply a slow-release form of fertilizer at the rate of no more than 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in mid-September. If the soil-test recommendation is greater than 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, the remaining fertilizer may be applied four to five weeks after the first application.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at (800) 342-2507.

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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