While walking past my collection of harvested winter squash the other day, I noticed that one of them had a large spot near the stem that looked different.
Upon closer inspection, I found that the spot was soft. Sure enough, it had started to rot. When cut open, it was surprising how the fungus had invaded the interior, too. After cutting away the affected area, the squash was a welcome addition to the dinner menu.
I look carefully at the produce I harvest before storing it. Even so, this one had escaped me. It prompted me to reinspect the rest of the squash, and it seemed to be the only affected one. If I hadn't seen it, the fungus could have easily spread to its neighbors.
Have you checked on your stored harvest lately? Look not only at squash but garlic, onions, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes that are still ripening in the garage, and any plants you are over-wintering. Catching problems early always pays off.
Taking an inventory of seeds and making sure they are stored properly is another good indoor job. Most garden seeds, if stored well, will remain viable for three to five years.
In order to sprout, seeds need moisture, warmth and oxygen. So, it just makes sense that in order to keep them viable from one year to the next, we deprive them of those three things. If you have saved seeds from your garden, the most critical issue is to be sure they are thoroughly dry.
Whether in purchased seed packets or your own labeled envelopes, store seeds in a tightly closed container. I like to use a glass jar with a tight lid. To further ensure that they are kept dry, make a little packet from dry milk and a Kleenex, fastened with a rubber band, and add it to the jar. The little moisture-absorbing packets of silica gel that you find in your new shoes and other products work well, too. Even some dry rice in the bottom of the jar helps.
Store the jar where it is cool, dark and dry. A coat closet is my designated place. Do not put them in the refrigerator or freezer, or moisture will form on the seeds when you open the jar next spring. Moisture deteriorates seeds faster than anything else.
Although we think we will remember garden ideas, triumphs and failures from year to year, we often forget. So, before more time passes, write some notes for yourself. Include new things you want to try or a new way of growing them.
Ever grow popcorn? Purple beans? Armenian cucumbers? Brussels sprouts? Potatoes under straw? 'Tis the time of year for a gardener to dream!
Coming up: Bob Reynolds, Oregon State University Urban Horticulture Extension Agent and coordinator of the Jackson County Master Gardener program, says there are still some openings in the classes that prepare you to become a Master Gardener. Classes begin Jan. 15 and continue each Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for 13 weeks, followed by some hands-on experience. A bonus is developing friendships with your fellow gardener classmates. Call Reynolds at 541-776-7371 for more information.
Yours truly will teach a class called "Think Spring" from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10. We will discuss which veggies do well in early spring and how to get them going without the use of a greenhouse. The class will be held at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, in Central Point. The class costs $5. Call 541-776-7371 to sign up.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at email@example.com.