Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

Make Your Own Holiday Wreath at Windmill Gardens: 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Nov. 21, 11:30 a.m. Nov. 22. Create holiday wreath using an array of fragrant greens, cones and berries. 16009 60th St. E., Sumner; $36 plus tax, includes supplies. (windmillgarden.com/windmill_events)

Lecture by Dan Hinkley, ‘Recent Plant Exploration in Myanmar, Vietnam and China’: 2 p.m. Nov. 22. Port Gamble S’Klallam Longhouse, 31964 Little Boston Road N.E., Kingston; $20, $15 in advance, $5 Heronswood garden members, to support the garden-restoration efforts at Heronswood botanical garden (heronswood.com).

In the Garden

Q: I have beautiful red and orange winter squash out in my garden. When do I bring them in to store for the winter? Can I store it in my garage?

A: It can be a bit tricky to know when to harvest winter squash. If possible, it’s best to wait until the fruit ripens on the vine. If you harvest too early, the fruits won’t store well and won’t develop the sweet flavor that makes them so delicious.

On the other hand, freezing temperatures can harm the fruit. If a mild freeze is forecast before the fruit is ripe, try covering the fruit on cold nights to give it time to ripen on the vine. If temperatures in the 20s are predicted, you’re probably better off picking the fruit and hoping for the best.

It’s usually time to harvest when the vines begin to dry up and the fruit turns its ripe color, which depends on the squash variety. If it takes quite a bit of pressure to puncture the rind with your thumbnail, the fruit is ripe.

Use hand pruners to cut the fruit from the vine and leave at least an inch of stem on the fruit. Leaving a shorter stem will cause the fruit to rot.

Most winter squash need to be cured by keeping them in 70-degree to 80-degree temperatures for 15 days before storing them in a cool dry place, with temperatures around 50 to 55 degrees, such as a basement or garage.

The exceptions are delicata and acorn squash, which don’t need curing, but should be stored where temperatures remain in the 40s. Serve winter squash roasted or steamed, and don’t forget the melted butter and maple syrup!

Q: I have so many snails eating my plants! I have used the pet-friendly slug and snail bait, which helps a little, but is also costly as I have many garden beds. Any other suggestions?

A: It’s alleged that in the 1850s a French chef introduced escargot thinking that American people would enjoy eating snails. Evidently we didn’t like eating them, but they liked eating our plants. They escaped and have become a serious garden pest from California to British Columbia.

There isn’t a silver bullet when it comes to controlling snails. Used regularly, the baits containing iron phosphate as the main ingredient (Sluggo, Worry Free and Escar-Go!) are fairly effective at keeping snail numbers down, but the best control is achieved by using a combination of methods.

Try to eliminate hiding places such as boards, stones, debris, weedy areas and dense ground covers. Of course, it’s impossible to eliminate hiding places completely, so a good strategy is to regularly search for them where they typically hide and remove them from the garden.

Another good strategy is to put traps in the garden to lure in the snails. Be aware that although beer traps work well on slugs, snails aren’t attracted to slug pubs. For snails, an effective trap is a board placed on small stones so that it is held an inch above the soil.

Snails like to hide in dark damp places. In the morning, do them in by simply scraping the ones that congregated under the board into soapy water.

The final method is the barrier. Snails will not cross a 3-inch-wide copper barrier. Copper is expensive, but can be a good long-term solution to keep them from entering a garden area.

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs weekly on KING 5; check local listings.