Welcome to the Sierra Gardens Blog!

I will attempt with this blog to keep you up to date on timely topics in your garden! Feel free to suggest topics of interest and I will try my best to cover them.  Have any good recipes to share? Photos of your garden? Send them along and I’ll be happy to post them. Let me know how this blog can best inform you!

When to Harvest Melons and Winter Squash:

I have been getting this question a lot.  When are melons ripe? An excellent question…its such a shame when you harvest that beautiful melon too early and its just not as tantalizing as it could be. For watermelons, there are a couple of things to look for. I generally look first at the tendril that is closest to the watermelon stem. If it is brown and dried up, this is a good sign. Also, most melons will have a bald spot where its lain on the soil. On a watermelon, this spot should be yellow. And of course there’s the good old thump test….thump for a hollow sound. This will become more obvious the more melons you thump and grow!

For other melons, it is much the same. Canteloupes will turn a tan color (think of how they look in the store) and will have a distinctive sweet smell from the blossom end of the melon. The stem will naturally “slip” on a canteloupe, meaning crack easily off, which is a sure sign that its ready.

Try to keep an eye on your melons as they get to the ready stage….it is a shame to harvest too early and miss that maximum flavor, but its also a shame to let them stay too long on the vine and start to get overripe. Fruits may even begin to rot if left too long. So thump those melons daily!

Winter squash can be harvested basically when the skin/rind gets hard and obtains its final color. Let butternuts turn a solid tan color. While you can harvest and eat just about any time, it is good to let them stay on the vine as long as possible if you plan to store them….even if the vines are beginning to dry up. This will help it develop a thicker skin for longer storing. Store your squash in a cool dark place for months!

Readying Your Garden for winter: Saying “Later” to Your ‘Tomators

Already many of you have expressed dismay at having to one day pull out the plants you have nurtured all summer long. Alas, this is a necessary part of the growing cycle of annual crops such as those growing in your gardens. All good things come to an end, and pulling out your old plants makes way for the new. But how do you know when? In a lot of cases plants will just naturally peter out and stop producing. When your plants start to look crappy in the late fall, then its probably time. But sometimes the season will be such that things keep going and going….as long as your plants are still setting and ripening fruit, you may want to keep them around.

You will want to clear out your garden in a timely fashion if you are going to proceed with a cover crop. Keep in mind that cover crop seed might not germinate if the soil temperatures are too low (they need temps of at least 45 degrees), so don’t wait until its too late.  As you clear our your garden for winter decide where you  want to plant your garlic….keeping in mind that garlic will be in the ground until July, so will still be taking up space when its time to do your summer planting.