I harvested squash this weekend and it definitely turned out to be a serendipitous event. I had noticed around mid-summer that several volunteer cucurbit vines were growing around my composting area, of which I decided to leave in place just to see what type of fruit would develop. About a month ago, it was pretty clear the vines were producing several 2-4-pound round squash with skins similar in color to butternut squash. In thinking back, I remembered pitching a few over-the-hill 'Butterkin' winter squash for the squirrels to enjoy late last fall and those squash were similar in appearance, though slightly more flattened. Sometimes I like sloppy squirrels!
I prepared the squash by first washing the exterior, then cutting it in half and removing all the seeds. I then quartered each half to make peeling the rind easier. After peeling, I cubed the bright orange flesh into large bite-size chunks, then tossed the chunks in 2 tablespoons of olive oil plus 2 teaspoons of minced garlic and salted and peppered to taste. I spread the chunks in a small jelly roll pan and baked for 40 minutes (until softened and browned). I still wasn't sure until I took the first sample bite whether it "tummy time" or "off to the compost pile." As you can see by the picture, my happy accident paired beautifully with pot roast and some freshly picked yard-long beans drizzled with toasted sesame seed oil. Simple and extremely tasty!
I planted softneck and hardneck garlic in a raised bed this past weekend as well. Although I prefer the more robust flavor of hardneck garlic, I usually plant more softneck because softneck stores longer (6 months compared to 3 months). Fall is really the best time to plant garlic to ensure that it receives the necessary cold treatment for proper shoot and bulb development. Garlic prefers a well-drained loam soil that is high in organic matter and fertile. Before planting, I prepared my soil by working in compost and fertilizer (equivalent to 2.5 lbs. 12-12-12 per 100 ft2). I divided the garlic into individual cloves and graded them from large to small. I find that there are always leftover cloves, so I plant the large ones first and cook with the small one that are left over…note I used minced garlic in my winter squash preparation above. Since I plant in a raised bed, I plant garlic 5 inches apart in all directions. Another option would have been to plant 3-5 inches apart in rows 15-18 inches apart.
I visited Missouri Botanical Garden the first weekend of October to get ideas for plants with colorful berries or bloom to add some late season garden interest. What really caught my eye were the reblooming azaleas, particularly Rhododendron 'Conlep' AUTUMN TWIST and R. 'Conlec' AUTUMN ROYALTY. Both are evergreen azaleas from the Encore® Azalea Series that bloom singly in mid-spring, then again with a lessor bloom occurring late summer to early fall.