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Into the Garden: A tip, a technique and a trip

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- People always ask for gardening suggestions and shortcuts. In this job, I get great e-mails and newsletters and publications with all sorts of interesting and useful items. And, much to the chagrin of my teen daughter, people stop me on the street to tell me their own tricks, as well as to ask for more. Here's a tip, a trip and a technique that I've come across in the past few weeks.

Blueberries

If you've been growing blueberries in containers, be sure to move them into a protected area such as a shed or unheated garage after the first frost. Blueberries need a cool period in winter, but extreme cold will kill the containerized plant.

Big pumpkins

Since 1903, the little town of Circleville, Ohio, has hosted the annual Pumpkin Show. What started as a humble agricultural exhibit and street fair has turned into an extravaganza with parades, beauty pageants, amusement rides, craft booths, games and food vendors.

Pumpkins take center stage, of course, and a contest for the biggest pumpkin draws huge entries as well as huge crowds. Last year's winner, grown by Bob and Jo Liggett, weighed in at 1,375.5 pounds. During the four-day event, 23,000 pumpkin pies and more than 100,000 pumpkin doughnuts are sold. Visitors can see 100,000 pounds of pumpkins, squash and gourds in the street display. Join the crowd Oct. 21-24. Last year, 400,000 visitors -- 100,000 per day -- came to this small town of 12,000.

Information: Circleville Pumpkin Show, East Franklin Street, Circleville, Ohio. Call 740-474-4923 or visit www.pumpkinshow.com.

Drying gourds

Speaking of pumpkins makes me think of gourds, and I received this information from Mike McGroarty's newsletter (www.freeplants.com).

"Gourds are an interesting crop to grow in your garden. The plants need no special pampering and the gourds are decorative on their own or in craft projects. There are two types of gourds. The small, oddly shaped colorful gourds often seen in autumn decorations are soft-skinned varieties of the Cucurbita family. These little gourds can be dried and saved, although their bright colors tend to fade over time.

"The larger, hard-skinned gourds are in the Lagenaria family. These include Birdhouse and Bottle gourds, among others. Lagenaria gourds are green on the vine and become tan or brown as they dry. Lagenaria gourd vines produce white blossoms that bloom at night.

"Gourds that are to be dried should be harvested very late in the season, after the vines have died back. Gently wash the gourds to remove any caked soil, then dip them into a solution of 1 to 2 cups of bleach in a 5-gallon bucket of water. Handle the gourds carefully to avoid bruising them. Place washed gourds in an area where they will receive good air circulation. Some folks hang their gourds with a string attached to the stem. The drying gourds can be kept outdoors; rain or freezing temperatures won't hurt mature gourds.

"Check your drying gourds each week and discard any that have soft spots. No matter how careful you are with your gourds, some of them are going to rot. While they are drying and curing, gourds may also develop mold on their skins. The presence of mold indicates that moisture is escaping through the skin, which is a good thing. Unless the gourd is soft and mushy, the mold is not harmful and will leave a lovely pattern on the dried gourd.

"It can take up to six months to completely dry gourds. When the gourds become lightweight and hard and the seeds rattle inside, they are ready for use."

Window boxes

Caldwell Beatty planted beautiful window box-style planters that adorned the front of her home in Kanawha City. Filled with wave petunias, geraniums and spiky Artemisia (wormwood), they were a bright spot to passers-by. Thanks!

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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