8 fritillaries on milkweed

Some milkweeds are still blooming. Look for butterflies, like these great spangled fritillaries , on the flowers

Taking a walk around the yard, garden and woods, we are never at a loss of finding interesting, and sometimes annoying, plants and insects. Below are a few favorite and fun things that we found last week.

wineberry upclose

Wineberries, Rubus phoenicolasius, are non-native plants with edible fruit.

Wineberry is native to China and Japan and is a relative of raspberry and blackberry. It was originally brought to this country in 1890 as breeding stock. Today it is classified as invasive due to its aggressive tendencies. https://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/invasive-plants/wineberry

Tobacco hornworms shown above are actively feeding on tomato plants. If you find a stem of your tomato plant with few or no leaves, scout for this caterpillar. Remove and dispose of as you see fit.

Hibiscus border

This hibiscus border is colorful in August

Many plants can make a suitable border, as seen above on this property featuring a hibiscus border. Perennial hibiscus Hibiscus moscheutos is easy to grow and gives a tropical, colorful look in the summer.

Check undersides of squash leaves for the egg rafts of the squash bugs. If, found, you can crush or use the sticky side of tape to remove them from the leaf. Dispose of tape in the garbage.

red spotted purple on clethra alnifolia

Clethra alnifolia and red spotted purple butterfly

 CLethra alnifoilia is a native shrub often found on edges of ponds, streams or in other places where soils are wet. Flowers are very fragrant and attract many pollinators and butterflies.


juvenile red- tailed hawk on rock wall late summer

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

This juvenile red-tailed hawk has found an ideal spot on top of a stone wall to wait for prey like chipmunks, voles and squirrels. Young red-tails have blue eyes.

grapevine beetle 2019 Pamm Cooper photo

Grapevine beetle resting on a grape leaf

The grapevine beetle, Pelidnota punctata, is often found on or near wild or cultivated grape. The beetle is attracted to lights and is frequently found in swimming pools where lights are on for part of the night. Although it feeds on grape leaves, it is not considered a pest. Larvae feed on organic matter.


In the spirit of ” gung ho” (Gung ho!, motto (interpreted as meaning “work together”)  Carol Quish and  Pamm Cooper did this blog together

As the gardening season is winding down, produce is piling up in the kitchen. Potatoes have been dug, peppers are picked and squash is in a basket. Now is the time to store the rewards of your hard won labors.

vegetables psu.edu.jpg

Photo from PSU.edu

When I was a child, my grandmother’s home had a root cellar with a dirt floor and field rock walls. It was the ‘room’ between the wooden stairs up to the outside and the cellar, which was filled with scary, old things that made loud noises,  smelled of kerosene and musty clothing, and housed the occasional snake.  I did not like the cellar, but loved going into the root cellar. It smelled of the earth, like soil and the hay bales we placed to hold wooden boxes off of the floor. The boxes were filled with clean sand for the keeping of carrots, beets and turnips buried in the damp sand. None of vegetables where supposed to touch each other to prevent a rotten spot from occurring or spreading to the adjacent root vegetable.  Cabbages were laid on other hay bales, up off the floor, as were wooden boxes of winter squashes and pumpkins. Onions were braided together hand hung from nails on the beams overhead or put into burlap grain bags repurposed. The root cellar was dark and moist, perfect for holding vegetables. Yes, we had a refrigerator but it wasn’t as large as today’s, nor did it provide enough room for all the garden excess intended to get us through the winter. The root cellar was a form of primitive refrigeration using the cool and constant temperature of below ground to store food. Our modern day homes don’t come equipped with root cellars, but we can still store the bounty of our gardens.


Photo from University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Winter squash and pumpkins need curing for long storage of several months. Squash will last longer is the stems are left on. After picking, let them lay in the sun off the ground, on a picnic table perhaps, for about a week. Turn them over every couple of days to make sure all sides are exposed to the sun. Curing hardens the skin of the squashes, making them less likely to rot in storage. Once cured, brush off any remaining dirt, then wash the squash with a 10 percent bleach and water solution, or a 50/50 vinegar and water mix. Either mixture will disinfect any fungi or bacteria which harm the squash once stored. Wrap each squash in newspaper and place in a basket or box with slats or openings on the sides to promote ventilation. The newspaper will create an air space between each squash. Store in a cool, dry area of the home that will not go below freezing. 50 degrees F is optimum. I put mine on the bottom step of my basement hatchway.

winter squash storage

hatchway storage

Potatoes must be cured also. After the foliage has died back, dig up the potatoes. They need to cure and be stored in the dark, out of the sun or they will develop green spots on the skin that can have toxic properties. A dark tool shed or garage without windows will work well. After digging, lay tubers on newspaper in the dark space for about two weeks at 50 to 60 degrees F. Potatoes should not touch during the curing process. After the two weeks, wipe off any dirt without washing at all. Remove any tubers with spots or damage to eat first as they will not store well. Place storage potatoes in a bushel basket or cardboard box. Cover with newspaper or burlap to exclude any light. Place in a space that will not freeze and not get above 50 degrees F for longest keeping quality.


Potatoes, photo by Carol Quish


Onions can be dug and laid right on top of the ground for about a week as long as there is no danger of frost or rain. If rain is threatened, move them to a shed, porch or garage with good ventilation.  Necks will dry and brown. They can then be braided together or kept in mesh bags or bushel baskets as good airflow is needed. Keep them out of the light and a cool, 35 to 35 degree F location.


Photo from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension

The root crops of carrots and beets can be dug, wiped clean and stored in airtight freezer bags in the refrigerator. Leave an inch of the green tops on the vegetables and do not cut off any root material from the base. Cutting into the flesh gives fungi and bacteria a place to enter. An alternative method of storage is in damp sand just like in the root cellar with a temperature of 35 to 40 degrees F. Some people leave them right in the ground, only digging up what they need before the ground freezes. Covering the in-ground crop with a thick layer of hay or straw will delay the ground from freezing until it gets really cold.


Carrots, photo by Carol Quish

Green tomatoes can be gathered before the first frost. Select only fruit with no bad spots. Get out the newspaper once again, to wrap each tomato for protection and airflow. Alternatively, lay tomatoes in single layers separated with layers of newspapers. Keep out the light and keep in a cool spot below 50 degrees F. Check them all once per week to remove any that develop rot. Hopefully they will ripen by the New Year.

tomatoes end of season

Tomatoes not ripe yet, Photo by Carol Quish

One crop I gather to remind me of years gone by and out of style is Quince. My local orchard has a quince tree as most farm houses had outside its kitchen. Quince fruit has a very high pectin content which was commonly boiled along with any fruit to make a jelly or jam before powdered or liquid pectin was commercially available.

Surejell and Certo has made the backyard quince tree fall out of favor. I admit I don’t use the quince fruit to make my jellies and jams anymore, but at least I am still preserving the harvest in an updated manner.


jars of jam.jpg

-Carol Quish,  photos copyright, Carol Quish

It’s that time of year. The weather has been hot and the garden is producing vegetables faster than we can consume them. The squash, zucchini and cucumbers are coming in fast and furious. A batch of ratatouille has already been processed and this past weekend it was time to put up some pickles.


There are several varieties of cucumbers in our garden including the smaller pickling cukes, the long English cucumbers (it doesn’t seem proper to call them ‘cukes’), and a fun variety known as the lemon cucumber. All of the cucumbers are grown on trellises which enables us to grown vining plants in a smaller space. By going up instead of out, air circulation around the plants is increased, the fruit can grow straighter, and it is easier to harvest.

Pickling cucumbers

English cucumbers

Lemon Cucumbers

The lemon cucumber variety has been around since 1894 and a package of the seeds were offered in the 1901 James Vick & Sons catalog for 10¢. The description was as follows: “The flesh is exceedingly tender and crisp, with a sweet flavor surpassing all other cucumbers. They have none of the bitter or acid taste so generally found in cucumbers”. I confess that when I was first attracted to it a few years ago I planted it as more of a novelty than anything else. I was surprised to find that it is a vigorous plant that sends out yards of growth. It is andromonoecious, with male and female elements in the same blossom, results in more natural self-pollination than that of monoecious cucumbers which have the sexes in separate flowers on the same plant or gynoecious which has only female flowers. Seed companies will generally include 10% of a monoecious variety to ensure pollination for gynoecious varieties. Why choose a gynoecious or andromonoecious variety? They will generally out-produce monoecious varieties since all of their flowers are capable of becoming fruit. How can you tell a male flower from a female flower? The female flower (the image on the left) will have an immature fruit at the base of the blossom while a male flower (the image on the right) will only have a petiole connecting it to the stem.

       Female flower 2 Male flower

The fruit of the lemon cucumber is as its name suggests,  the size, shape, and color of a large lemon and when cut is has the appearance of a lemon wedge.

Lemon cucumber

I enjoy pickling them as much for their taste as for the beautiful and unique way that they look in a jar. The following text and images are a quick overview of the boiling water canning bath process but full details can be found at the USDA Complete Guide to Home  Canning. After the cucumbers have been washed and the ends trimmed I then cut them into wedges. They are placed in a large bowl, sprinkled with coarse salt and covered with crushed ice. After 2-4 hours of refrigeration they are ready to be drained and rinsed. While the cukes are in their ice bath I prepare the pickling syrup of sugar, vinegar and pickling spices. I also add powdered turmeric to add flavor and a tint of yellow to the finished product.

Cucumber wedges

Ice bath

Cucumbers in pickling syrup

The hot cucumber wedges and the pickling syrup are ladled into sterilized glass canning jars, sealed and put into a hot water bath. Due to the high acidic content of most pickled food they do not need to be pressure canned and can be processed by being submerged in boiling water for the USDA recommended amount of time.

Ladled into jars

Once cooled, the jars can be stored in a clean, cool, dark, dry place ready to be enjoyed all winter long.

Finished product

Susan Pelton

Lots of squash and pumpkins, P.Cooper photo

Lots of squash and pumpkins, P.Cooper photo

The farm stands and farmer’s markets have been abundantly overflowing with multiple varieties of winter squashes and pumpkins this year. Was it the beautiful and colorful fall that lingered unceasingly this year that made me want to get out and visit many produce places, or was it the autumn recipes and foods which included pumpkin everything that sent me seeking different types? I don’t care, just glad I took some time to ‘go squashing’ with a friend. I like this new verb phrase. We went in search of a cornucopia of different varieties, hoping to find a new favorite and quite possibly a new addition for next year’s vegetable garden.

Honey Nut Butternut Squash, A new find! P.Cooper photo

Honey Nut Butternut Squash, A new find! P.Cooper photo

We did find a new squash we love! Honeynut Butternut, (Cucurbita moschata), is a mini squash,  developed by the Plant Breeding and Genetics department at Cornell University.  Honeynut squash is a combination of butternut and buttercup squash types. It is only about one to one and half pounds, dark tan and adorable. The inside is darker orange than standard butternut and a bit denser and sweeter like a buttercup squash. Being smaller in size, it bakes more quickly than a larger three-pound butternut. It is still a butternut, which the squash vine borer pest avoids, which is good news for me. I will be growing this variety next year. Seed is available through Harris, Rene’s Garden and High Mowing seed catalogs and online. Probably other companies will be selling this wonderful squash also.

Peanut Pumpkin aka Galeux d’Eysines. P.Cooper photo

Peanut Pumpkin aka Galeux d’Eysines. P.Cooper photo

Another unusual find was the Peanut Pumpkin. (Cucurbita maxima “Galeux d’Eysine”).  It was developed in France in the Eysine region during the 19th century. The peanut looking growths on the outside skin are formed from hardened sugars that weep out of the skin. It is very decorative and is very edible with a rich pumpkin flavor. The more warts on the outside, the sweet the flesh will be on the inside.

Blue Hubbard and Waltham Butternut. P.Cooper photo

Blue Hubbard and Waltham Butternut. P.Cooper photo

Blue Hubbard Squash,(C. maxima)  is an odd, large shape and uncharacteristic grey color. They are best baked in the oven, as they tend to be watery when peeled and boiled. They are hard to cut open, even dangerous to attempt. We heard the best way to open them is to drop out of the car onto a driveway and they split right into pieces. The person passing on this tidbit of advice didn’t plan it that way, but it works. Blue Hubbard plants are highly attractive to the pest cucumber beetle. The plants have been used as a perimeter trap crop surrounding the field or cash crop of other species of squash. When the cucumber beetles fly into a field of  squash, they will stop at the blue hubbard first for a glorious feast. The farmer or grower can then spray only the blue hubbard to kill the cucumber beetle since almost all will be feeding there, and keep the other squash inside the perimeter beetle free. The blue hubbard squash was not intended to be harvested, only used as a sacrifice crop. Blue Hubbard plants are fast growing and strong, quickly replacing any leaves damaged by the cucumber beetle’s feeding. I am glad some farmers grow blue hubbard as the intended crop and do harvest their fruits. Perhaps these farmers do not have many cucumber beetles in their fields. Lucky them!

Acorn and Butternut Squash, P.Cooper photo

Acorn and Butternut Squash, P.Cooper photo

Traditional and commonly found Butternut(Cucurbita moschata) and Acorn (Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata), squashes are ripe and plentiful. A great starchy vegetable filled with vitamin A. Acorn squashes are perfect vessels for filling with sausage stuffing or grain mixtures.

Spaghetti and Buttercup Squash. P.Cooper photo

Spaghetti and Buttercup Squash. P.Cooper photo

Spaghetti squash is a thin-skinned winter squash with flesh the pulls apart into strands resembling spaghetti once it is cooked. Microwave or bake, then top with favorite sauce or seasoning. The taste is rather bland, reminiscent of zucchini to me, but a good base to carry other flavors. It is not a great storage squash, but easy to grow.

squash 2014

Baked Winter Squash. Photo P.Cooper

Have a squash tasting party to share your finds and new recipes tried. Perfect way to celebrate the fall.

-Carol Quish




Squash vine borer adult, http://www.extension.entm.purdue.edu

Photo by Rob Durgy, UConn

Squash Vine Borer larva and damage, photo by Rob Durgy, UConn

Watching my summer squash’s leaves collapse  just about overnight signals a problem. Further investigation proves worthwhile when I find a small, 1/8th hole on the plant’s stem. I cut the stem lengthwise, carefully splitting apart the vine to reveal the hollow vine filled with sawdust like frass. Frass is the excrement of an insect. About 12 inches away from the original hole lurks the offending caterpillar; the larval stage of the Squash Vine Borer. Not a pretty site from where I stand! Along with the insect chewing the inside of the vine, centipedes have also entered the vine feeding on the frass. All of the these insects introduce bacteria causing rot leaving a mushy trail in its wake. This plant is too far gone to save. It is pulled out after I kill the borer making sure I got them all,  then tossed the plant in the compost.

The life cycle of the squash vine borer, Melittia satyriniformis, has one generation per year. The adult is a clear winged moth active during the day.  There are orange and black rings  on the abdomen. The front wings have greenish to black color while the hind wings are clear edged in brown.  The eggs are laid at the base of the plant on the soil. Once the eggs hatch, they burrow into the vine to begin feeding. Adults are appear late June through July and into August. Signs of an infestation are small holes in the vine and piles of frass on the vine and below on the soil. The larva can reach 1″ in length. They mature after feeding for about four weeks at which time they will leave the vine to burrow into the  soil. Once in the soil they will spin a cocoon in which to pupate. They spend the fall and winter in the pupa state until they emerge next summer as the adult moth.

Control measures are too late for my plant and should have been used much earlier in the season. Row covers made of Remay, a poly spun product reminiscent of mosquito netting, is an effective barrier, light-weight when applied over plants at the beginning of the season. The edges must be pinned down or buried in the soil to prevent the adult insects from crawling under the fabric. The idea is to exclude the adult moth from laying eggs at the base of the plant. Once the plant flowers, the Remay should be removed to ensure bees and other insects are able to reach the flowers for pollination. Turning over the soil at season’s end will expose overwintering pupae to the elements, and hopefully succumb to the cold. Another turn of the soil in the spring will further disrupt their protective site. Pull and destroy plants as soon as they finish producing to possible larvae from entering the soil. Chemical controls are either carbaryl (Sevin) or permethrin applied to the vines once per week starting the last week in June and continuing until the end of July.

If you do find frass and a hole in the vine, cut lengthwise splitting the vine until you find the boring caterpillar. Remove it then put the vine back together and mound soil on top of the damaged area. It might recover!

_ Carol

(cc) 2005, Rasbak.