How to har­vest per­fect pump­kin

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - RACHEL CLARE

HAR­VEST RIPE PUMPKINS

I didn’t in­tend to grow any pumpkins – it just hap­pened. One of those com­post-heap ac­ci­dents. Mine still have some grow­ing and orange spray-tan­ning to do be­fore they’ll be ready to har­vest, so, to pre­vent them from rot­ting in the wet, I’ve bun­dled a layer of mulch un­der them.

A pump­kin is ready to har­vest when you’re un­able to pierce the skin with your thumb­nail. The fo­liage will be dy­ing off around the pump­kin and the wick (stem) will be dry be­cause it’s no longer send­ing mois­ture into the plant.

If you want to sweeten up your pump­kin (or you’re hop­ing a fairy god­mother turns one into a new coach), leave them for at least three weeks af­ter pick­ing them. This al­lows time for the com­plex starches to break down into sim­ple sug­ars. Wipe them clean, keep them off the ground and ven­ti­lated (a slat­ted shelf is ideal) and store them in a sin­gle layer but not touch­ing.

HAR­VEST HERBS

Now it’s time to say good­bye to an­nual culi­nary herbs like basil (which dies when tem­per­a­tures drop below 4°C). Go out with a bang and make a big batch of pesto. Sim­ply com­bine hand­fuls of basil leaves with olive oil, gar­lic, Parme­san, lemon juice, pep­per and salt and sun­flower seeds or pine nuts and blend. Or use rocket or other sum­mer herbs in­stead of basil if you pre­fer.

Other sum­mer herbs that are on their last legs now are fen­nel, chervil and co­rian­der. Col­lect the seed to sow next spring. Let the seed­heads dry as much as pos­si­ble on the plant be­fore you har­vest them. Lay on sheets of news­pa­per in a warm spot in­doors to fully dry be­fore sort­ing the seed from the de­bris. Fen­nel and co­rian­der seed is ed­i­ble too. Use ex­cess seed in cook­ing.

Give peren­nial herbs like rose­mary, sage and oregano and thyme a spruce up. Rose­mary can be pruned back lightly. Cut sage back as well, but be care­ful not to cut it back too hard as it can die back.

If your thyme and oregano are look­ing a bit tired and woody, they’ll ben­e­fit from a hair­cut as well.

I’m go­ing to sow co­rian­der this week­end. My spring co­rian­der bolted to seed be­fore I’d blinked, so I’m hop­ing the cooler au­tumn days will curb its fly-by-night ten­den­cies. Try ‘Slow Bolt’ from Kings Seeds. Al­ways sow co­rian­der di­rect as it has a ma­jor hissy fit when it’s trans­planted, re­fus­ing to grow or bolt­ing to seed. Other herbs that can be di­rect sown now in­clude pars­ley, rose­mary (un­der a cold frame), bor­age and fen­nel. Check out the range of herbs at Kings Seeds.

OUTSLITHER SLUGS & SNAILS

We came home to find six slimy tiger slugs slith­er­ing their way all over our front steps the other night. These gas­tropods will gorge on young leaves in wet au­tumn weather. Pest con­trol us­ing egg shells, beer traps and cof­fee grounds all sound good in the­ory, but tri­als by the late Get Grow­ing colum­nist and gar­den writer Vir­gil Evetts de­bunked these meth­ods.

In­stead, trap ma­raud­ing mol­luscs in up­turned plant pots or lay bait. Tui Quash is a non­toxic bait that is safe to use around pets and chil­dren, be­ing rated less toxic than ta­ble salt, plus the first year of re­sults from a two-year Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety study iden­ti­fy­ing the most ef­fec­tive ways of con­trol­ling slugs and snails, has shown or­ganic pel­lets to be al­most as ef­fec­tive as their non-or­ganic equiv­a­lent. In­ter­est­ingly, lay­ing down mulch, one of the con­trol mea­sures be­ing tri­alled in the study, has been shown to in­crease slug dam­age. Sci­en­tists be­lieve this may be be­cause mulch pro­vides a warm, moist habi­tat for them to hun­ker down in.

Pel­lets aside, go on a night pa­trol, armed with a torch and

GET GROW­ING

This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get grow­ing, from New Zea­land Gar­dener mag­a­zine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for Get Grow­ing at: get­grow­ing.co.nz

bucket and maybe have a snail or slug race or two be­fore you dis­pose of them.

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