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Apples and pumpkins

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It is fall and the weather is starting to seem like it. Two of my favorite things about fall are pumpkins and apples, which can both be grown in your own backyard. They are both so delicious and can be used in all kinds of baked goods as well as give us great fall scents.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins can be used for carving, decoration, and many food products. Pumpkins need to be harvested prior to a hard frost. They can tolerate a light frost, but a hard frost will damage the storage potential or cause pumpkins to rot. They should be cut off the vine. Do not cut the vine too close to the pumpkin, this can lead to decay.

For purchasing pumpkins, look for a healthy pumpkin with no damage. Ensure that the pumpkin has a bit of stem attached to the top and choose the correct pumpkin for the use you have planned. Pie pumpkins are best for baking while jack-o-lantern types will be better for carving.

Grow your own pumpkins

You can grow your own pumpkins next year. Purchase seeds from a nursery or seed catalog in February or March to ensure they don’t sell out of what you like. There are a lot of great choices including blue, warty, or white pumpkins, and pumpkins of all sizes.

Plant pumpkins into your garden next spring, a little later than when you plant your other warm season crops to ensure that they are not ripe in August. Count backward from the time you would like to have pumpkins to know when to plant, using early October as a deadline to be ahead of the frost. Most often, pumpkins are planted in late May to early June. Then just keep them watered and keep the squash bugs and squash vine borer out for best production. And, for fall next year, you will have your own, home-grown pumpkins to enjoy through fall.

Apple harvest

Each variety of apple differs on harvest time. To determine the harvest time for the apple, identification helps but is difficult. There are so many different varieties, it’s only practical to give a general idea of possible cultivars. So, if you don’t know the variety, you can look at the color, flavor, and texture of the apple.

For mature apples, look at the “ground color”, which is the color of an apple’s skin disregarding any areas of red. For red-fruited cultivars, observe the portion of the apple that faces the interior of the tree. When the ground color turns from leaf green to yellowish green or creamy yellow, the apples are ready to harvest. In yellow cultivars the ground color will become a golden color when they are ready to harvest. You can also taste one to ensure that it is the correct sweetness and make sure it is firm and not overripe and soft. Overripe apples will detach from the tree more easily than those that are at the correct stage of ripeness.

Grow your own apples

Landscape trees can be planted in spring or fall, but with apple trees it is best to wait until spring to plant. When selecting your tree, choose trees resistant to cedar-apple rust and apple scab. These 2 diseases are very problematic for apple trees in Nebraska and require spraying multiple times throughout the growing season to combat.

Some good apple tree choices include Liberty, Enterprise, and Freedom which all have good disease resistance for the most common diseases. Enterprise is self-unfruitful and therefore does require a pollinator tree be planted nearby. Honeycrisp is an apple that many people enjoy. However, it is susceptible to many diseases and has weak growth leading to more storm damage.

If you have any further questions please contact Nicole Stoner at (402) 223-1384, nstoner2@unl.edu, visit the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu, or like my facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NicoleStonerHorticulture and follow me on twitter @Nikki_Stoner

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