FALL CHORES

Sorry, but fall is right on our heels.  There are always jobs to do before those “unassembled snow men” start to cover the grass.  For instance, if you planted winter squash, how do you know they are ripe and what the heck do you do with them after you pick them?  Squash and pumpkins need to be picked before a hard frost or a cold snap that is followed by an extended period of rain.  Both can cause your fruits to decay prematurely.  Squash and pumpkins are ripe when you can’t stick a fingernail in the skin and the skin has gotten slightly dull.  Cut the stem, leaving a few inches on the fruit.  If you break the stem off, you have a large area exposed to rotting.  Wipe the skin with a damp cloth to remove any debris.  Put them in a warm, 75 to 80, sheltered spot to cure.  This will harden the skin and help any small scratches to heal.  Your squashes and pumpkins should keep well into the winter with this care.  Of course, if the thought of eating either of these except in pie, turn your stomach, you can use them as fall decorations.  Outside they will keep until they freeze and then turn into a yukky mess.

If you have been thinking about planting a tree on your estate, now is the time.  They are usually on sale this time of year and it is more than 6 weeks to the first hard frost, the cut off time to plant.  Dump the tree out of its pot and shake or wash the soil off.  Do this on a cardboard or blanket.  You want to put the soil in the planting hole as it has various “critter” that help feed the roots and generally help the tree to flourish.  Now that you have the naked root exposed, pull them apart and remove any that are wrapped around the trunk.  Dig the hole ½ as wide as the width of the spread-out roots, shallow, not deep.  Plant the tree with the top root no deeper than 2 inches below the soil.  Water the snot out of it, giving it at least an inch of water a week until the soil is so frozen that water stands on top of the soil.  Mulch with about a foot of leaves, straw or shredded bark.  The trunk should be protected against sun scald and sharp teethed critters that think fresh bark is a great lunch.  The tree won’t do a darn thing this fall but will be ready to take off next spring.

Remember to look up before you plant a tree.  If it is under an electric line, the electric company will make it really ugly by cutting off its top when it gets in the lines.  Too close to the house and its summer leaves will make the inside of the house look like it is haunted, dark and gloomy.  With so called foundation trees and shrubs, the trees love to cover up the front of the house on the way to lifting shingles as they grow too tall.  Not only that, the roots will start to invade the foundation.  You really don’t want to surprise a guest when a tree root pops out of the wall in his bedroom.  (Yes, that has really happened).  There are more fall chores, but these should keep you busy until next time.