You've finally gathered your Squashies for the long, cold winter season. Now comes the hardest part - freezing those delicious little bugs. If you've followed the directions to the last letter, your little buds should be safely tucked into their Winter squash gift basket by early January. However, the earlier you start storing your squash gems, the better!
Start by making sure your plants are not exposed to very high temperatures, as this can kill them. Scoop out the winter squash seeds from your squash of choice and put them in an empty large bowl of water. Bring the bowl to a boil over high heat, then let the water simmer for about five minutes. Then, strain the seeds and put them in an airtight container. Place them in the fridge for up to two weeks, which is just long enough to give them room to grow.
In the meantime, you can fill your refrigerator with some wonderful recipes for winter squash soup and butternut soup. You can find recipes for both online and at your local grocery store. Fill the butternut version with some whole butternut squash pieces, some butternut ham and cream cheese, and some cranberries. Cook it down until it's warm and serve it with crackers. Or top the soup with some croutons dipped in butternut sauce and served with plain yogurt for a delicious treat.
For a quick and easy dinner idea, try roasting some baby bok choy with some butter and salt. The flavor of the Bok Choy is very strong, so you'll almost forget that it's inside of the winter squash seeds. When it's time to add the seeds, use your hands or a mortar and pestle to crush and pop the seeds into the vegetable. It will be very rare for the seeds to come out and you can eat this winter salad in about 110 days.
The next time you are out harvesting your winter squash seeds, think about the types of vegetables you're going to have to harvest as well as the different colors and textures of fruits. If there are a lot of berries around you can easily harvest the majority of the berries and keep them for your summer planting. When the squash starts to come up, it will be time to get rid of the berries and prepare them for the winter planting.
If your garden has not been turned over yet, and it likely hasn't been, then you have three weeks after the last frost in your garden to get your plants in. This means that your garden will have a fresh supply of nitrogen, which helps plants grow healthy and strong. Keep an eye on the soil temperature, which is often affected by the weather. A cold frost will kill your plants, so be sure to keep an eye on the soil temperature.
After the last frost, be sure to fertilize your garden with compost, which will help with the weeds and insects. In addition to the compost, cover the soil between your crops with a layer of wood chips or redwood shavings. If your seed company or local nursery grows Acorns, be sure to request a container of acorn meal, which is the unripe fruit of the acorn. You can save the meal for the winter months when you are planning your next plant. You can save the acorn pulp in the fall for making butternut soup or sausage.
One other thing that you will need to be aware of when it comes to preparing your plants for the winter season indoors, is to make sure you treat your seedlings with a special powdery mildew or fungicide, according to the manufacturer's directions. Powdery mildew and fungi attack your plants as they develop and are very difficult to get rid of once they are fully developed. Powdery mildew will not harm your tomato plants when they are still growing but can harm the plants if you expose them to the air while they are developing. Do not try to spray your plants with any sort of chemical before they have a chance to develop a natural defense against these fungi. If you follow these steps, you will be able to enjoy your new tomato garden all year around.