• Oct 28

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Roses are one of the oldest and most popular garden flowers grown.  Even though there is a plethora of information available on growing roses, my experience has been through trial and error.  When winterizing, your main concern is protecting your roses from extended periods of weather below 20 degrees, fluctuating temperatures and winter winds.  Sometimes our winters are not too severe and merely piling protective material around the base of the plant will be enough, but one never knows what old man winter will throw at us.  The following information will hopefully give you some important basics to helping your roses make it through the winter.

Very cold temperatures and winds can cause the rose canes to dry out so water them thoroughly in late autumn before the ground freezes.  Pay close attention to plants under the eaves of buildings.  They may not receive the rainfall that other plants get and will need supplemental water.

Remove debris such as old leaves and dead stems from around the base of the rose.  These materials are inviting places for disease organisms to over-winter.   Well cared for roses are more likely to survive the winter than diseased plants or those that lack nutrients.

Climbing roses have long canes that require support.  The canes may reach 5’ to 20’ in length depending on their type and how they are maintained.  To protect climbing roses, remove the canes from their support, lay them on the ground and secure with what I call a large wire staple. Cover the canes with 3 to 4 inches of soil with some mulch on top of that.  The base should be covered with about 10” of soil.  This should be done after the roses go dormant and have been exposed to two or three hard frosts.

The bush rose is self-supporting and will flower mainly at the top of its growth.  To protect it, bring the canes together and loosely spirally bind them with twine.  Using soil, create a mound at the base of the plant to about 12” high.  Use soil from a different part of the garden so you do not injure the roots of the rose by using nearby soil.  Mulch such as straw or leaves can be placed on top to further protect the plant.  To hold the insulation in place you may want to try a bushel basket with the bottom removed or a wire mesh cylinder.  I have seen many people use white rose cones to protect their roses.  This should not take the place of mounding though.  When using the cone, a mound of soil 6” to 8” should also be in place.  The canes may need to be cut back to fit into the cone.  Even though it may seem like we do not have much sun during the winter it does occasionally happen, so cut a few holes in the top of the cone so heat can escape.  Finally, secure the cone by putting a heavy object (stone) on the top and mound some soil around the base.

Remove soil from the base of the rose plant before the buds break open, usually in late March or early April after the threat of frost has passed and leave a 2” layer of mulch.

As always, Happy Gardening!

My research information about gardening and related subjects is available online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html http://www.ohioline.osu.edu/lines/hyg-list.html The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Master Gardener

Purdue Extension LaGrange County

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  • Oct 17

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

If you place your houseplants outdoors for the summer, it’s time to be bringing them indoors.  A gradual reintroduction to the indoors is best as conditions differ widely between indoors and out.  The sudden changes that take place with humidity, temperature and light can have detrimental effects on plants.

First, if any of your plants need repotting, this is the time to do it.  Scrub clean the larger pot you will be using, then add some potting soil, not garden soil (which may havediseases).  If the plant has gotten leggy over the summer, remove it from the pot and prune the top and the roots in equal proportions, then replant.  I like to give mine a little boost by adding a root stimulator to my water.

Expose plants gradually to reduced lighting to prevent shock.  Expect some of the leaves to fall off, this is normal and most plants will adapt in time to their new home.

Inspect plants for insects and diseases.  Give them a bath with insecticidal soap if necessary.  If you are concerned about insects in the soil, soak the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for 15 minutes.  This will force those nasty critters out.  Some folks like to quarantine their plants for a few weeks just to make sure they are free of pests.

To keep humidity at a pleasing plant level, add a layer of small stones to a waterproof tray, add water to the stones and place the pots on top of the stones.

This would be a good time to take cuttings of some of your annual plants, like coleus, begonias and geraniums.  I like to root mine in moist sand or a rooting compound, then after roots are about one half inch long I transplant them into small pots and overwinter them on shelves equipped with plant lights in my basement.  Come spring, my cuttings are ready to be placed in window boxes, pots or in the landscape.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Oct 13

by Karen Weiland,  Purdue Master Gardener

Believe it or not, there’s treasure to be had in your trash.  Composting is a naturally occurring process that breaks down organic matter into a material that resembles soil.  Finished compost is an excellent use for soil amendment that improves the structure and adds some essential nutrients.  It is an efficient and frugal way to use yard waste such as leaves, grass, thatch, plant trimmings and the remains of garden plants.  Kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells and coffee grounds that would normally be thrown in to the garbage can also be used.

Decaying matter, which includes fallen leaves, one type of organic mulch, is what nature uses to replenish the soil.  Instead of raking and bagging those leaves to be sent away, consider using them in your garden.  Layers of whole leaves can smother the growth underneath them and it will take longer for them to break down, but by chopping them up with your lawn mower you can speed up the disintegration process.  If you don’t have a bagger for your lawn mower, consider placing the leaves in a large garbage can and chop them up with a weed whacker.  Do not use diseased leaves.  Those should be bagged and sent away.

Nitrogen is needed by the microbes in a compost pile in order to break down and make use of the carbon that is found in organic matter.  The carbon to nitrogen ratio affects the rate of decomposition.  The right amount of water and oxygen are also very important.  Due to article space limitations, I suggest you check out the in-depth information about the elements needed for efficient decomposition in the websites that I refer to at the end of this article.

Your compost pile can be placed in some type of structure such as a woven wire bin, aconcrete block bin or a bin made from wooden pallets.  It can also be left in an open pile.  It’s best to place your composting site in a semi-shady spot with protection from the wind so it will not get excessively hot and dry.  A good sized compost pile is about 4-5 feet in diameter and about 4-5 feet deep.

It is important to have a good balance of materials in your compost pile.   This is done by using layers, alternating yard wastes, a nitrogen source, if needed, and soil.  The bottom layer should consist of 6-10 inches of organic matter, with the coarser material on the very bottom.  This will allow air circulation around the base of the pile.  If needed, use 1-2 inches of a nitrogen source such as animal manure for the next layer.  Then apply about 1 inch of soil or finished compost.  Check the pile occasionally for watering needs.  The center should reach a temperature of 130 to 160 degrees when it is working properly.  Use a pitchfork or shovel to turn the pile once or twice a month to keep the materials supplied with oxygen and to bring the outer contents to the center for heating.

Compost has so many uses.  Adding it to your garden increases the water-holding capacity, aeration and nutrient exchange sites in the soil. It can be added as an organic media in potting soil or for starting seeds of garden plants.  It’s also useful as a garden mulch to conserve soil moisture, keep the soil cool and helps to keep the weeds from growing.

Recycling is very important to me as it is to many other people. This is one way of reducing the waste that goes to our landfills.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information is available on line at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html. http://ohioline.osu.edu/lines/hyg-list.html.

The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Oct 6

by Rene Hostetler

For some people, planning ahead for the holidays begins immediately after the holidays.  So, like in January?  And, yes, I have bought Christmas wrapping paper on sale at Target in January, so I guess I could fit into that illustrious category.  But that’s so not normal for me!  I’m somewhat of a last minute kind of a person.  I like to think that it has more to do with my need for things to be relevant than that I put things off, but that’s a little too analytical and way too deep for this Monday morning.

I do, however, like to have a plan!  And since the months of November and December can become just a little hectic I have begun to think about the right blend of entertainment, shopping and indulgence.   And indulgence always means good food, right?

When it’s time to take the relatives somewhere or keep the grandkids busy, my plan usually includes something in Shipshewana.  I can’t believe there are people who live in my community who have never been there, but it’s true.  It is my best resource and whoever I take there always has the best time.  It helps that November and December are some of the busiest months in Shipshewana.  They know how to do the holidays, and I’m sure it brings people in to do some shopping.  It’s all good!

It also helps that the holiday schedule stays pretty much the same each year.  I can depend on the Light Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony to always be on the same weekend in November every year.  This year it happens on November 8th, and  it’s called “The Colors of Christmas.”  I’m sure it will live up to its name.  It’s a magical event and kids line the streets to catch candy and get the best view of the lit floats and wagons as they go by.

For me, the holiday season in Shipshewana begins with the Light Parade in November and ends with the Ice Festival after Christmas.   Those two are definitely on my calendar, but there are a whole lot of other choices in between like Chocolate Day, Gingerbread Houses, Christmas concerts at the Blue Gate Theater, Kids Day (Santa too!) and shopping! Shipshewana truly is the place to find that one of a kind gift, not to mention the great food to be had when you need to rest.

To plan your own special time for you and your family in Shipshewana during the holidays, please check out all the details at www.Shipshewana.com.  There’s a handy dandy calendar to help you fill up your calendar!

Now all this talk of the holidays is putting me in the mood!  I’ll have to dig out some Christmas CDs and make some fudge. Shopping?  Oh, I’ll get around to it….probably around mid-December or so!

Hey, it’s not relevant until then, right?!

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  • Oct 3

Preparing Garden Soil for Spring
by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

As I have been cleaning up my garden this fall the thought came to me that I need to plant a cover crop before cold weather sets in.  It is important for a healthy garden to take good care of the soil that works so hard to grow all the great produce that has been planted in it.

Fall is an excellent time to prepare garden soils for spring, for several reasons. There is a chance that in the spring soils remain too wet to “work” for long periods.  Amendments added in fall have time to incorporate before spring.  Removing diseased plants in the fall keeps those diseases from overwintering in the soil, only to reemerge the following growing season.  Of course if you are planting crops such as spinach or garlic in the fall for the following season you’ll need to prepare the soil first.

When removing old vegetation, whether vegetables or weeds, don’t put them in the compost if they are diseased, if the weeds have seeds, or thick stalks that are difficult to decompose.  If weeds have gotten away from you and gone to seed, try to carefully cut off the seeds first and remove them so that they won’t disperse around the garden as you pull up plants.

For perennial weeds, make sure to remove any roots, or they will sprout and grow again next year.  Tilling them in will only break up the roots into many more pieces, making your weed problem even worse next season.  For weeds with wide-spreading root systems, such as some grasses, you may need to use an herbicide to kill them off.

If you can get the garden cleaned up by early fall, you can plant a cover crop.  This is simply a crop such as oats or clover that will protect the soil from erosion, and add important organic matter when tilled in later.  If later, winter rye is about the only choice.  If frosts have begun, it is probably too late to establish a cover crop before winter.

Fall is a very good time to have the soil tested.  This is especially true if your soil needs lime added to it.  Most forms take some time to work, so adding it in the fall gives the soil time to be at the right pH by spring.

One of the most important amendments you can add to your garden is compost.  Add about a one inch layer to your garden and work it into the top several inches of soil using a garden fork, rake or claw.  Add a bit more if you have poor soil or if it’s a new site.  Other sources of organic matter include shredded leaves and dehydrated cow manure.  Do not use fresh wood products like sawdust as it can rob the soil of nitrogen as it breaks down.  Organic matter loosens heavy clay soils, helps sandy soils hold more water and nutrients and by attracting all those soil microorganisms makes soils healthier.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Sep 29

By Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Mixed feelings abound this time of year for many of us gardeners.  We are relieved to get a break from the work of pruning, watering, weeding and more weeding but we are also sad to see the end of our beautiful flowers and fresh produce.  As I was in the garden yesterday working on clearing the last of my  tomato plants, many other fall “things to get done” came into mind.  Here are a few.

Evergreens are particularly susceptible to drying out over the winter.  The above-ground parts, like twigs and leaves, are very much alive and are constantly losing water through a process called transpiration.  When the ground is frozen the plants’ roots are not able to take up water to replace that which is lost through the tops.  As a result the leaves, buds and twigs dry out.  Fighting the winter battle will be made easier by making sure the plants have a sufficient supply of moisture before the ground freezes.  Give your evergreens an extra drink.

Now is the time to purchase spring flowering bulbs for forcing.  Forcing, which is the process of coaxing bulbs into thinking they have overwintered and are ready for spring, allows you to produce beautiful blossoms when you need them the most – during the drab days of winter.  Hardy bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, crocuses and hyacinths are good choices for forcing.  Mix together equal parts of peat moss, sand and garden soil.  To ensure adequate drainage I like to cover the bottom of the pot with broken clay pot pieces.  Add some of your soil mixture and place the bulbs into the pot according to the depth measurement on the package.  Cover with soil mixture and water generously.  The potted containers must be kept in a cool location, 40 to 50 degrees.  A refrigerator will work.  I keep mine in a cardboard box at the bottom of an outdoor basement entrance.  When you see the roots peeking out of the bottom of the pot or growth at the top of the bulb, move them to a warm, sunny spot and enjoy!

This is also the time of year to put flower bulbs in the ground.  Planting bulbs in September and October will allow time for the bulb to become rooted before freezing weather arrives.

Winter mulch is not critical for all garden plants, but it can mean survival for some of the less hardy ones.  Winter mulch protects against wide temperature fluctuations in the soil and prevents extreme cold temperatures from harming plants.  The soil has a tendency to heave when subjected to wide temperature changes, pushing the plant roots out of the ground.  Shallow-rooted plants, such as strawberries and newly planted stock that have not had a chance to develop a solid root system, are most subjected to the heaving process.  Using mulch such as bark chips, hay, pine needles or straw will give your plants protection.  2 to 4 inches should do the job.  More protection is needed for some plants such as roses (see HO-128 Roses).

The sunny days of winter are a welcome sight to us humans, but they can cause trouble for some landscape plants such as young thin-barked trees.  The bark tends to split vertically on the sunny side of the tree because as the temperatures quickly drop at sundown the outer bark cools down and contracts faster than the inner bark.  Therefore the outer bark must split to accommodate what’s happening underneath it.  You can protect the tree be wrapping the trunk with a commercial tree wrap.  I like to use the black plastic, flexible drain pipe.  Purchase the size that will fit around your tree plus an inch or two and the length you want to cover.  Cut a slit in the length of the drain pipe and fit it around your tree.  In the spring I take it off and save it for the next winter.

Apply fertilizer to the lawn.  Fall fertilization helps to produce the healthiest turf with benefits lasting throughout the year.

Lastly, mulch those leaves.  Layers of leaves can smother and kill the grass beneath it this fall and winter and contribute to disease.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information is available online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html

The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Sep 12

Organic Pest Control in the Garden by Karen Weiland,  Purdue Master Gardener

I have come into contact with gardeners who are seeking information on organic pest control for their gardens.  Their reasons range from wanting healthier options for their own consumption to environmental concerns.

There are chemical free control methods that can be used to keep chemical use as a last resort. Perfect vegetables are not realistic.  You may have to tolerate a bit of insect damage on your produce come harvest time.

Learning about a pests life cycle and when it is most susceptible to whatever control method you choose to use is of much help.  For example, a squash bug can be controlled better with a chemical in its younger stages than it can in its adult stage.

Know the difference between good and bad bugs. Plants such as marigolds, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, cilantro and dill can attract beneficial insects that will help control pests.  Attracting insect eating toads and birds to the garden is also beneficial.

Crop rotation…it is one of the oldest and most effective control methods known to gardeners.  This involves planting a crop in an area where it or a relative crop has not been grown for one year.  Insects and disease organisms can become established in the soil when a crop is planted there year after year.

The use of floating row covers screens out the pest until bloom time for certain crops.  However, if crop rotation is not practiced, a row cover will trap emerging insects from the soil.

Choose insect resistant varieties.  Hand- pick larger pests.  Yes, it is labor intensive, but it works very well.

Keep your garden clean.  Eliminate weeds and clean up crop residues as soon as you are finished with a harvest.  Don’t leave anything lying around that can be a hiding place for pests.  Remove over-ripe produce.  This will prevent the appearance of scavenger-type insects such as picnic beetles and yellowjackets.

There are a number of naturally derived organic pesticides that can be used.  Some may need to be applied frequently.   Refer to the product label for that kind of information. Organic insecticides include Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensus), pyrethrums, rotenone, insecticidal soap, diatomaceous earth, neem and horticultural oils.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Sep 8

by Rene Hostetler

The only thing good about summer ending is fall beginning.  I have to admit I’ve been reluctant to welcome fall to my calendar this year even though fall is probably my favorite season.  I think it has to do with my most recent winter’s experience which is still fresh in my mind and knowing that inevitably winter comes after fall.  AND…the ever reliable Farmer’s Almanac is predicting another nasty winter.  Is it really all that reliable?  I’m going to choose to stay hopeful or live in denial.  I DO live in Northern Indiana after all.  What do I expect?!

It’s a little early to celebrate fall yet, but I am starting to see some pumpkins appear (or are those still from last year?) and the Burning Bushes are beginning to start their autumn  blush.  The evenings are cooler.  The fire pit is inviting us to its warmth and the idea of putting on a pair of shoes again is causing me to investigate my closet to see what is available there.

Fall is also a time to get out the fall decorations and recipes.  I’ve missed the soup, chili and pumpkin desserts I tend to favor towards the end of the year. To help you get in the spirit of fall, here’s my favorite Pumpkin Bar recipe:
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Peter, Peter Pumpkin Bars

1/2 c shortening          1 c brown sugar
2 eggs                            2/3 c canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract    1 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon           1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda   1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg           1/2 c chopped walnuts

Cream shortening and brown sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in pumpkin and vanilla.  Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and nutmeg.  Add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in nuts.

Spread in a greased 13 x 9 pan.  Bake at 350 for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack.  Frost with orange frosting:  3 TBSP shortening, 2 1/4 c confectioners sugar, 3 TBSP orange juice.  Beat shortening, sugar and orange juice until blended.  Spread on bars and cut into squares.  Enjoy!
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Fall Festivals are also always a part of my fall celebration.  I love wandering through booths of crafters showing off their handicrafts with the hopes I will add one of their creations to my stash of  fall delights.  I always do!  One of my annual festival trips includes the Fall Crafters Fair in Shipshewana.  Between the music, the food (cornbread!), and the demonstrations it always gets me in the mood for fall and cooler weather.  This year the Shipshewana Crafters Fair is October 1st through the 4th, so there’s plenty of time to put that on my calendar and bring the grand-kids along for the fun!
You can check it out at www.riegsecker.com/fallcraftersfair

Each season brings its own beauty and fun.  I hate to see you go, Summer, but I’m throwing out my fall welcome mat with the pumpkins on it and hanging the wreath on the door.  Now, where did I put my red cowboy boots?  I’m going to be needing those!

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  • Sep 3

Bulb Planting and Care

By Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Fall is the best time to plant hardy, spring blooming bulbs and properly preparing the planting site is a must.  Good soil drainage is important to healthy bulb life so if your soil contains clay, amending it with some compost, peat moss or other organic material into the top twelve to eighteen inches will help.  Sunlight requirement is also something to consider.  Check the package label to see if your bulbs need full sun, partial shade or full shade.  Keep in mind that bulbs planted on a south slope will bloom earlier than the same bulb planted on a north slope.

Planting bulbs in September to early October will allow time for the bulb to become well rooted before freezing weather arrives.  In general it is recommended to plant a bulb two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall and the planting depth is measured from the bottom of the bulb.  The planting depth for summer bulbs vary, so check the package label for instructions.  Lightly press the bulbs into the prepared soil with the root plate facing down.  Water the bulbs once they are planted.  This will help to settle the soil and provides moisture so the bulb can start growing roots.

Bulbs need phosphorus to develop a good root system.  Note that research has shown that phosphorus from bone meal is only available to plants in soils that have a pH below 7 (www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07410 ).  Refer to or have a soil test done for this information.  Mix bone meal or superphosphate into the soil just below where the bulbs will be located when preparing the site.  In an already established bed it is important to supply the bulbs with additional fertilizer.  For spring flowering bulbs, in the fall, mix into the soil five tablespoons of a 10-10-10 soluble fertilizer plus two cups of bone meal for a ten square foot area.  In the spring as soon as you see the shoots breaking the surface of the ground, apply the same mixture.  Do not apply fertilizer to spring flowering bulbs after they have started flowering.  For summer and fall flowering bulbs, fertilize monthly from shoot emergence to the time that the plants are in full flower.  For a ten square foot area apply seven tablespoons of a 10-10-10 soluble fertilizer split into two or three applications.

One of the issues I have with bulbs is the ugly dying off of the foliage.  The foliage should not be cut or mowed off until it turns yellow and dies off on its own.  The plant needs its green leaves to make food that is stored in the bulb for the next years’ growth.  I like to plant my bulbs under the roots of chrysanthemums or another perennial.  As the perennial grows it hides the fading foliage of the bulb.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Aug 29

Harvesting and Drying Gourds By Karen Weiland,  Purdue Master Gardener

Fall is definitely my favorite season.  I love to sprinkle areas outside my house with combinations of mums, pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks.  It is also a good time to move some  plants around the landscape.  I seem to do this a lot, trying to find just the right place this time for that certain flower or bush.  I have had some people ask me about preserving gourds.  Here is some information that I hope will be useful.

There are three basic types of gourds, Luffa, which are used as sponges, Cucurbita, also known as Ornamental and are for decoration only and Lagenaria, which are handcrafted into birdhouses, dippers and containers.

Gourds should be harvested when fully mature.  Look for a hardened shell and a withered vine. Harvesting before frost reduces the possibility of spoilage during storage.  Bottle gourds can take a light frost or two before harvest without damage.  The gourd will be ripe when the stem turns brown and dries.  Use sharp shears or a knife to cut the stem.  To avoid bruising the fruit, leave a few inches of the stem attached to it.  Do not handle the gourd by the stem.

The surface of the gourd will be very tender, so handle it gently to avoid bruises and scratches.  A cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol will sufficiently clean a slightly dirty gourd.  However, if it is very dirty, wash it in warm, soapy water and rinse it in clean water to which a household disinfectant has been added.  The disinfectant will remove any soil-borne bacteria.

The gourds should next be surface-dried.  Spread them out so they do not touch on several layers of newspaper or on open shelves in a warm, dry place such as a garage, porch or shed.  Do not allow dew to fall on them at night if placing outside.  Turn the gourds every day and replace newspapers that have become moist.  Allowing the air to circulate freely speeds up the surface drying time, which should take about 1 week.  Throw away all fruits that begin to shrink or develop soft spots.  This keeps mold and bacteria from spreading to the healthy gourds.  If molds begin to appear on the surface of ornamental type gourds , wipe clean and continue with the drying process. The surface will be dry when the shell hardens and the color brightens.

Depending on the cultivar it can take up to 6 months for a gourd to fully dry.  Wipe the gourds with a cloth soaked in household disinfectant.  Spread them in shallow trays or on newspapers in a warm, dry, dark area.  An attic, closet or under a bed would be good.  The warmth encourages fast drying, the darkness prevents color fading and dryness discourages mold. Storing gourds in a damp basement, a closed, heated room or in tight, closed containers encourages the development of rot and mold.

Luffa gourds should be handled a bit differently from the other two.  Harvest them when the gourd is lightweight and the seeds rattle inside.  After it is dry, cut off the end with the stem and shake out the seeds.  The skin should come off rather easily, but if it needs a little coaxing, soak it in warm water until the skin softens and comes off.  The sponge will need to be soaked in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.  This will turn the color to a creamy white.  Rinse it well and let it thoroughly dry before using.

Gourds may be displayed in their natural state and applying a protective coating will increase their usefulness a bit longer.  Apply a paste wax to the gourd then buff it with a soft cloth to achieve a shiny appearance with some highlights or spray it with a clear shellac or varnish to give it a glossy finish.

As always, happy gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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