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Growing Our Own November 2014

I didn’t expect to still be writing about gardening in November, when the frost is outside and we’re fully into our winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves!

The main reason I am is this – our Butternut Squash plant.

In total we’ve had 5 fully grown squash from the plant, which I’m pleased with. At least 3 were lost when a new fence was put up in the garden, and there is one left in the garden which is still too green to bring in.

For weeks (if not months) I’ve been boring everyone I know by telling them my confusion regarding what I’m meant to be doing with the squash in terms of when they are ready to be harvested. I’d read they need between 90 and 110 days to mature, but I also knew they needed to be ‘cured’ in the sun once they are, and that the frost will ruin them. Some say that a light frost will be fine and they leave them out until after the first frost, others say any frost at all will ruin them. I couldn’t see how any of mine could be ready in time under these circumstances as they only germinate when the soil is warm enough and that wasn’t until mid to late spring.

To cut a long story short I tried to forget about them, only checking occasionally for signs for ripeness. I was looking for –

  • the colour change – nice tan colour with no green lines. Though I wasn’t sure how tan was enough…
  • a hollow sound when tapped (I think to indicate the hollowed out seed part of the fruit was ready)
  • the finger nail test – poke the skin of the squash with your finger nail and it should resist an imprint
  • a brown and withered vine connected to the squash. When this happens you can be certain that the squash has no more growing to do. (One blog I read said that the squash will rot with the vine if you do that, though I read many more that said the contrary).

I knew our area of the world expected a first frost around mid November, so I kept an eye on the met office website. When the temperature reached 5 degrees Celcius, I read it was time to bring them in.

We had an unexpected mild frost one night so I got out of bed and brought in the two squash which had been ripening the longest. That’s dedication for you, though I desperately wanted at least one squash for all our hard work. I decided to ‘cure’ them on the window sill instead of outside (because it was cold and wet) and that seemed to work.

Then on the 23rd November we had our first all night frost, so I brought in all the remaining squash that fitted the criteria mentioned above. As I already mentioned, one was too green still so I covered it with a sheet overnight which is apparently a method used to protect them. The next day we had indeed had a frost, the plant had clearly been affected, but the squash was still fine. Today however we have more or less a whole day of frost so I’m not going to try and save that one.

We have eaten two of the squash already (the one that had ripened the longest and one which had been damaged so needed using quickly) in a sort of vegetable lasagne recipe.

Squash LasagneVery exciting to be eating them at long last!

Now there are 3 left. Having rinsed them from the garden and leaving them on the window sill I have no idea how long they will last. Probably not until next spring as we have nowhere suitable to store them, other than the kitchen. But I shall keep you updated.

In other news from the garden, our chives have all been trimmed and chopped and are now being stored in the freezer to use as needed. The rest of the plant is still in the garden.

trimmed chives for the winter

The Brussel Sprout plant is looking more alive than it has all summer! Lovely flowers growing, though they are falling off unpollinated because the pollinating bees don’t like winter. I’m just leaving them to see what happens as Brussel Sprouts apparently improve with frost.

And we have two new surprises in our compost trench. I do believe we have an onion and a potato plant growing from our food scraps! I don’t know if they will survive the winter, but they’re not ready to eat yet so I have no choice but to leave them. I know a compost trench is in no way as efficient as a compost bin, but it is much more exciting with our surprise plants we keep getting. :)

Surprise Potato Plant?


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