When to Harvest a Pumpkin or Winter Squash

when-is-a-pumpkin-ready-to-pick

I get asked now and again when to harvest pumpkins or how to tell if a squash is ready to pick.

Well, on Friday I posted a video demonstrating when to harvest a pumpkin or winter squash:

Though those aren’t the best demonstration specimens, I covered the basics in the video.

I know for most of you this is EXACTLY the wrong time of year to share a post like this as pumpkin season is long gone. Perhaps it will help you later this year, though, once you all thaw out and get your gardens going.

Here’s a quick overview on how I know when to harvest pumpkins and winter squash.

Is the Stem on the Fruit Still Green?

Stem-still-green

Then don’t cut it. That means the fruit is still receiving nutrition from the main vine.

But…

If the Pumpkin Stem is Yellow or Brown, Cut it!

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The fruit is no longer receiving sap from the plant, so it’s time to cut that pumpkin or winter squash off and bring it inside.

If the Main Vine is Dead, Harvest That Squash!

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Sometimes, as was the case with at least one of the pumpkins in my video, the stem on the fruit may still be green but the main vine is withing away and dying.

Chances are nothing else is going to happen, so cut the fruit and bring it inside.

If the Fruit is Damaged, Use it for Soup!

damaged-squash-fruit

If there’s a rotten spot on your pumpkin or winter squash, chances are it’s not going to keep well on the shelf. Go ahead and cut it, then use as soon as possible. The flavor won’t be as good as a “cured” pumpkin or squash, so I like to remove the damaged portion, peel and seed the fruit, then use them for soup.

How to Harvest a Pumpkin or Winter Squash Properly

It’s important to leave a bit of stem on your pumpkins or winter squash when you harvest them.

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Like this:

when-to-harvest-a-pumpkin

I usually leave about an inch. I don’t pluck the pumpkins from the stems or break them off, I cut them nicely.

In the video I’m using these Felco picking and trimming snips (which I love for taking cuttings and precise trimming work). Those have been a go-to tool for me since I bought them for my old plant nursery. Great little snips.

Any pair of pruners will work, though. Just be gentle and don’t accidentally break the entire stem off the fruit. That leaves an entry for decay microorganisms which can lower the storage time of your squash significantly.

Taste Takes Time

SeminolePumpkinDavidTheGood

Unlike most vegetables which are at their best when fresh harvested, pumpkins and winter squash improve in flavor when stored for at least a few weeks.

I like to pick on a dry day, if possible, then let the fruit dry a little further on the back porch. Once they’re good and dry, I bring them inside and set them on a shelf to “cure” for a bit.

Seminole pumpkins will keep for as long as a year… or longer.

Other varieties tend to keep for at least a few months, though some winter squash, like Delicatas, don’t keep long at all, so use those first.

And speaking of using pumpkins and squash, Rachel recently posted a video on how she likes to cook and use the many pumpkins and squash we grow and purchase from farm stands.

Roasting Pumpkins and Squash

Roasting a pumpkin in the oven is simple – here’s how Rachel does it:

Enjoy the winter, everyone.

May this post encourage you to look ahead to spring and plan out those amazing gardens with lots of pumpkins and squash.

I just planted some more a few days ago. Can’t stop the pumpkins!

Planting Garden Beds and Potting Up Avocados

planting-garden-beds

Over the last week Rachel and I loosened the little garden beds with my broadfork, then dug in some good compost and biochar.

Then it was time to plant. Since I post funny videos on my YouTube channel now and again, and there are always a few people that totally don’t get my sense of humor, I decided to play a bit of a prank on everyone and embody the typical, clueless, Windows Movie Maker-using YouTube gardening host.

I named this version of me… Dave2000.

I had fun and the comments section was hilarious. My favorite comment by far was from Perma Pen:

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 9.08.50 AM

(Thankee, luv – stop on by me allotment anytime, wut wut!)

One of my friends on Gab (that’s the new Twitter killer – it’s an awesome free speech platform) also made a graphic for me after seeing the video.

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5PxFuk

Anyhow, in the video, ridiculous as it is, you can see what I planted in the beds: amaranth, sunflowers, black amber cane sorghum and some Seminole pumpkins. I also snuck a perennial cucumber into one corner.

I love those.

Yesterday afternoon, after much outcry, I retired Dave2000 in a rather funny video that contains not just one, but TWO rap segments.

The avocado puts I planted a few months back germinated and grew quicker than I expected. Now I have 17 of them all potted (er, bagged) up and ready to plant whenever I get some land.

Hopefully I won’t have to pot them up again before we get a place but you never know. Live moves slower near the equator… except for the growth rate of trees.

Have a great Friday night and a wonderful weekend. I’ll be back again tomorrow.

Get in Shape this New Year with YAMFIT!

yamfit

yamfit

My sister Christi spent almost a week with us and while she was here, we had to make a video together:

What says “family togetherness” better than filming a crossfit parody?

This is yam season right now and there are yams growing wild all through the jungle. When the vines start to die back, the roots are ready to dig. They’ll sit in dormancy for months, then spring back into growth sometime in the spring.

These are my old friend Dioscorea alata, though they are the white/yellow type, not the purple variety. I haven’t seen any purple ones here.

Digging yams is a pain in the clay here. You can see the trouble they give me in this recent video:

We got a good harvest, but man… the clay is thick. It’s probably better for pottery than gardening! If you want to know more about growing yams, I have an in-depth post here.

If You Don’t Think I’m Funny It’s Your Own Fault

Though I’ve been posting goofy videos for years, people still don’t seem to get my jokes.

Or that they are jokes.

This comment on my “Machete Safety” video is a case in point:

it's-a-joke

My IQ is in the top 2% of the population. At least.

If you don’t understand why I’m doing something, it may just be because you’re unable to grasp it. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all have our own gifts.

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Machete Safety is a meta-narrative that works on multiple dimensions.

I claimed it was a joke – but it’s not just a joke. Though on its face it appears to be Rachel wearing my clothes and re-enacting my machete injury, in reality it’s a treatise on my fears that String Theory fails to adequately explain the physical universe.

Seriously – is it that hard to grasp that the machete represents quantum gravity? Anyone?

Of course, it’s possible that Michael’s comment was representative of perturbation theory… which would completely blow my mind. It could make sense, as the complexity of my theory might be challenged by his simplistic “not actually informative” rebuke, following the natural chain of Hamiltonian disruption.

However, the “good info mixed in with noise” sounds like the popular Chaos Theory silliness that took off after Jurassic Park instead of a rational response to my symbolic shrug in the face of the blurry edges of modern physics.

Well, you can’t win them all.

Alternately, these interchanges may occur because my sense of humor, though funny to me, simply doesn’t translate. I know a very high IQ guy who doesn’t think I’m funny at all.

I don’t care. I still giggle like a middle schooler when I put together some of these videos. I can’t tell you how much I laughed creating In Seach of Bilimbi, even though the critics panned that one.

Bilimbi_4

An alternate theory: maybe I just want to know what love is?

Seriously, though – the yamfit video is funny. Enjoy and share on Facebook.

Christi is a natural comic – let’s make that girl a star!

Have a great Monday.

Seminole Pumpkins – an Amazing Crop!

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seminole pumpkin harvest 2015

As you plan your seed-buying for spring, you really should try Seminole pumpkins. There’s a reason I sing their praises in my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening… it’s because they’re totally crazy easy to grow!

As reader Mike Healy commented recently on The Seminole Pumpkin Project page:

“This is our fourth year of growing this amazing crop!

In 2016 we had 1 planned and 2 inadvertent Seminole pumpkin crops!

Our planned crop was seeds saved from our 2015 crop planted into two-15 gallon containers. The seeds germinated, the vines took off, covering most of our 50’ X 12’ space reserved for SPs! Not satisfied, our SP vines grew over and through our 6’ high shadow box fence into our Neighbors yard. They let the vines grow and had their first crop of SP!

Later we added SP pulp to our compost pile…the seeds in that pulp took off, producing fruit in our compost pile before heading over and through the shadowbox fence, giving our neighbors a 2nd crop of SP!

Later we gave SP pulp to our laying hens; some of the seeds escaped the chickens peaks, germinated, escaped the run, and covered an area in front of the coop, producing our third crop!

Seminole pumpkins-an amazing crop!”

Gotta love something that grows so easily.

Big Green Seminole Pumpkins?

Another reader comments:

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“I have what I’m told are seminole pumpkins. I got the seed from a local seed dealer in oviedo, florida.

They are all green like this photo:

http://oldsalem.quadland.org/files/2014/10/Seminole-Squash-fruit-green.jpg

But, they are huge. several have to be over ten pounds already and they are all still that same color green.”

My response was:

“They look like a variety of Seminole pumpkin to me. A few of mine hit 14lbs! Once fully ripe (as in, the stem of the fruit has yellowed up) and brought inside to cure, the green ones often start to turn tan over time.”

As you can see on the Seminole Pumpkin Project page, Seminole pumpkins are a wide-ranging land race vegetable rather than a tight breed. That’s why I started breeding them for specific qualities.

When I get some land I’ll get back to it.

Why not get yourself some Seminole pumpkin seeds for your spring garden? They grow half-wild and make delicious pumpkins that will usually store on your shelf all the way until next Christmas.

And now you don’t have to take just my word for it. The Seminole pumpkin testimonies keep rolling in.

Updates from The Great South Florida Food Forest Project: Fall 2016

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Updates-south-florida-food-forest

It’s been too long since the last update on The Great South Florida Food Forest Project.

Mom sent me photos from just before Hurricane Matthew limped past the coast. There was no damage after the storm but the clouds in the pictures look amazing.

First, take a look at the tropical almond (background) and the black sapote (foreground, right):

Black-sapote-tropical-almond-florida-food-forest

See that little Senna alata (AKA candlestick cassia) growing to the left of the chocolate pudding fruit tree? We planted some of those when establishing the food forest and they seem to have naturalized… all over the place.

Now take a look at the avocado seedling:

avocado-coconut-palm-florida-food-forest

It’s over 6′ tall now and is a Thai type which makes huge avocados the size of honeydew melons. It just needs to get big so it can start bearing!

Here’s another look at the chocolate pudding fruit tree:

black-sapote-south-florida-food-forest

Definitely getting taller and it looks very happy. Those are passionfruit and yam vines growing in the fence behind it.

Now check out the starfruit tree:cassava-starfruit-florida-food-forest

Mom reports that this tree produces gallons and gallons of fruit twice a year with long harvest seasons. The fruit are very good and sweet. Quite refreshing. Note the cassava on the right side of the image. The fallen sticks all over the ground are chopped-and-dropped Tithonia diversifolia stems. Great food for the soil.

Here’s a good looking chaya growing in front of the neighbor’s fence:

chaya-south-florida-food-forest

That’s the deeply lobed variety as opposed to the maple leaf type. I have both growing in The Great South Florida Food Forest.

Out in the front yard, Dad prepared for Hurricane Matthew by cutting back the acerola cherry:dad-cutting-back-acerola-cherry-florida-food-forest

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That tree bears year-round and has sweet fruit. It’s been a huge blessing to my nieces and nephews, not to mention the children of the many friends who visit my parents’ place. They all love fresh-picked cherries!

Another big blessing has been the mango tree. It bears large crops of fine-fleshed wonderfully sweet orange-fleshed mangoes.

mango-chaya-southfloridafoodforest

The ferns on the ground beneath it planted themselves. I love those “accidents” of nature.

Here you can see the mango to the left, coconut palms in foreground left, moringa tree in center and the Thai avocado to the right. Yam vines (Dioscorea alata) are draping across the trees through the center.moringa-avocado-yam-mango-florida-food-forest

Now here’s a nice tree to see: the 6th Street Mulberry is flying!mulberry-south-florida-food-forest

That is going to be a lovely, multi-branched tree. It’s already been bearing fruit. Hard to believe it looked like this not long ago:

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Here’s a view of the profusion from the other side. Isn’t this MUCH more interesting than a lawn?south-florida-food-forest-2016-fall

Moringa, cassava, mango, yams, sunflowers, mother-in-law tongues, ferns, orchids, starfruit, bananas… it’s a lovely mess of great plants!

Here’s another view of the starfruit with the moringa on its right:starfruit-moringa-florida-food-forest

And back around to the front yard again, on the other side, to see the tamarind and the canistel:tamarind-canistel-south-florida-food-forest

That canistel is now my height (tree in foreground) and the tamarind is almost 4 times my height. I love to see them both growing happily.

If you’re interested in starting your own Florida food forest, you’ll find inspiration and lots of ideas for plant species in my little book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest.

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It’s also available in audiobook form, read by me.

This is a great way to use your property. As the trees mature, you get more and more fruit… for less and less work. My parents aren’t even “plant people” and they greatly enjoy seeing the trees grow and having all the extra fruit to share with friends and family.

Go for it – you have nothing to lose but your boring grass!

Carving Out a Florida Food Forest From the Palmettos: Possible?

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I recently received a quite interesting question in my inbox relating to pine scrub food and Florida food forest planning:

David,

FloridaFoodForestsCoverNewBLwebI recently found your books, bought and read the (ones) for Florida, and have handed them off to my home school children to get them started! We were blessed and got a great deal on some 15 acres – 3 is wetland – in St. Augustine surrounds. The uplands was cut and left to regrow about 30 years ago. I’m struggling with palmettos everywhere.

I have a small tractor and have been bush hogging some – and now know I could use this for compost – but overall I have acres of palmettos – and a VERY SMALL tractor lol. I have called to have the land pillaged to dirt, and this is very expensive – and I’m not sure ideal after reading your works. I’ve also looked at chemicals – maybe planting as I went to roll in as I try to poison them – but it takes horrible poison, and lots, and I want to grow food…

I searched your site (not yet your videos).

If you have written on how to start a food forest from solid palmettos, I’d like to read it.

Totally_Crazy_Easy_Florida_Gardening_350Your time is precious, and you can’t answer all the emails – and I feel guilty even dipping into your time – but I’m hoping you may already have a simple answer that is different than the rest. I’d rather have acres of food forest. I have time – I have only just found your thoughts, and will be fixing the area I have cleared (with my daughter taking the guiding role – why not, talk about random!). It will be beautiful – but right now I have about an acre clear with all the rest palmetto (though I’m searching your notes for an image guide to find the good that must be mixed in out there).

So the specific question: do you know of a decent way to either eliminate palmettos without going nuclear, or rolling them back somehow to get to food-forest state?

If you don’t have time for specific questions, I’ll still be a fan – and understand – so peace, and keep spreading the good news and writing books even my kids enjoy reading!

Les V.
St. Augustine Fl

Les also wrote a couple of follow-up emails and sent me photos of what they are dealing with:

(It looks) mostly like this – lots of palmettos, islands of gallberry(?) and small trees, pines.

Scrubland-palmettos-5

I’m using your books and videos trying to entice my daughter into loving this stuff – is there a Florida image heavy field guide? We would like to know what treasures might already be here – hard to know which to buy. It may be on your site – I will look.

Some places you must machete thru, but most has trails. Only one bad/aggressive snake (water moccasin) killed to date – in wetland. Rattlesnakes avoid us.

I bought almost no sod, but did plant Bahia around the house in “normal” fashion – where I have planted trees they have not grown – I’ll start feeding them. Soil is sandy, has clay, and is often wet 30″ down due to clay.

Would like to start large trees in front, not sure what – would love pecan, but don’t know if the possible wet feet ends that. Some medium live oaks – I have found 36-40″ stumps at near ground level rotting from their razing some thirty or more years ago. Jerks could have planted something – but then I wouldn’t have afforded the land!

Thanks for your thoughts, I will watch your site!

 

A lot to cover here but I’m going to give my unvarnished opinion on converting this land to food forest, though Les may not be happy.

First let’s analyze what nature is doing here, so ask the question:

What Type of Ecosystem Is This?

 

The answer is “Pine Flatwoods.”

This type of ecosystem is quite common in Florida and has its own rough beauty.

According to UF:

“Pine flatwoods are characterized by:

  • low, flat topography
  • relatively poorly drained, acidic, sandy soil
  • and in the past, by open pine woodlands with frequent fires.

The USDA Soil Conservation Service classification system divides the pine flatwoods into two distinct groups: 

North Florida flatwoods are typically open woodlands dominated by pines.  This ecosystem is most commonly used as woodlands (timber, wildlife, recreation, etc.). 

South Florida flatwoods are typically savannas, a type of vegetation community intermediate between grassland and forest.  This ecosystem is used extensively for range (cattle grazing).”

Les has some aspects of both ecosystems in my opinion.

There are dense areas:

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And more open areas:

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Unfortunately, this is a very difficult environment for most fruit trees and vegetables.

The soil is acid and the alternating dry and wet of baking-hot sugar sand and sodden clay can wreak havoc on root systems.

Even the weeds don’t really look happy in most Pine Flatwoods.

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The happiest plants you’ll see are usually the pines, turkey oaks and of course, the palmettos along the ground.

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You can only push nature so far without having a serious uphill battle on your hands. I urge people to “buy the soil,” then the house, if they are interested in gardening.

This is a beautiful piece of property but it is, frankly, a rough row to hoe for building food forests and gardens. Not that it’s impossible – it’s just that the construction of the soil and its nature fights against growing most of the pampered food-producing trees and plants we love.

Should It Be Cleared?

 

I would argue no, except for perhaps the acre you are working on. I don’t see any reason to take down all the palmettos (or even many of them) in order to try out a food forest. Instead, I would conduct more testing near the house with various species of trees. Les remarks that the fruit trees currently there are not growing – this does not surprise me! The ground is not good for most fruit trees. Don’t expand into new areas until you really figure out how to conquer a small piece of this ground. Your hard work will likely come to naught as the palmetto re-conquer and the trees fail due to harsh conditions.

Instead, if this were my property, I would cut some nice trails through to interesting areas and let nature run free all around the edges. Up close to the house I would do some major composting. I would also have the soil analyzed for nutrients by a good lab, then do exactly what they say to amend it around the fruit trees.

If truckloads of tree mulch from another environment could be found – like a live oak/hickory/wild plum/bay hardwood forest – I would dump those in a quarter to half-acre area a foot deep and start my food forest experiments there. Do a whole acre if you desire, but know it will be hard work!

Whatever you do, DO NOT bring in any manure, hay or straw – or even factory compost – as they can all poison the land for a long time.

My friend The Scrubland Avenger has done some deep mulching and made a pretty darn nice garden in a scrub area similar to Les’s. It took a lot of work, though – and the trees farther out struggle.

Is There Anything Worth Foraging Here?

SmilaxShoots3

Yes, fortunately.

I have led foraging walks in scrubby areas and in pine flatwoods. The best wild edibles are blueberries and their edible berry relatives, along with occasional native passionfruit (Passiflora incarnata).

Sometimes you find good edible cactus as well, plus some edible yucca, pawpaws and maybe even the occasional persimmon tree.

Hawthorn may also be present, with their fruit being good for jam and their trunks being a possible rootstock for pear. I also often get smilax and even wild grapes occasionally.

Before you cut anything down, hunting over and over again until you really know the land is a good idea.

In the article quoted earlier, UF also mentions these species as being in the Pine Flatwood ecosystem (which meshes perfectly with my own observations):

Four Dominant Trees Characteristic of Flatwoods

  • slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. elliottii)
  • south Florida slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa)
  • pond pine (Pinus serotina)
  • longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) 

Understory Shrubs

  • saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)
  • gallberry (Ilex glabra)
  • fetterbush(Lyonia lucida)
  • wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
  • dwarf live oak (Quercus minima)
  • tarflower (Befaria racemosa)
  • blueberries / heath (Vaccinium spp.)

Minor or Infrequent Hardwoods

  • live oak(Quercus virginiana)
  • water oak(Q. nigra)
  • sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
  • red maple(Acer rubrum)
  • ash (Fraxinus spp.)

As you probably noticed, most of these are not particularly edible, though you can eat palmetto fruit if you really desire to do so.

You can usually manage to hunt some game in the Pine Flatwoods, too. That’s a bonus.

Florida Foraging Books

Les asked about Florida foraging books so they can hunt wild edibles.

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I recommend these:

The Shrubs & Woody Vines of Florida

Shrubs-woody-vines-florida-gil-nelson

Gil Nelson knows his stuff and as the publisher states, “more than 550 woody vines and shrubs native to Florida are covered in this easy-to-use field guide with line drawings and color photos.”

Though not focused on edibles per se, The Shrubs & Woody Vines of Florida will help you nail down almost everything you are likely to see, then you can go hit up the internet for edible, medicinal or practical uses for those plants.

To find just the edibles, I have two other suggestions.

 

 

Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants Eastern/Central North America

PetersonWildEdiblePlants

Though not focused specifically on Florida’s unique and wide-ranging ecosystem, this field guide is helpful and covers plenty of species.

As the Edible Wild Plants description notes, “More than 370 edible wild plants, plus 37 poisonous look-alikes, are described here, with 400 drawings and 78 color photographs showing precisely how to recognize each species.”

The downside of this guide is that the illustrations and photos sometimes just aren’t enough for a good ID. I own and use it, though – and would want it with me.

 

Florida’s Edible Wild Plants

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Though I still haven’t managed to get my own copy of Florida’s Edible Wild Plants by Peggy Lantz (dang it!), I have a copy of the author’s previous work with Dick Deuerling titled Florida’s Incredible Wild Edibles. That is another book you should have if you have any interest in Florida plant foraging, and knowing its enjoyable nature and good info I have no problem recommending this second book sight unseen.

This book comes highly recommended from multiple sources and if I still lived in Florida, I would definitely pick up a copy right now, before I even finished this article.

 

What CAN Be Done With This Land?

After starting an intensive little food forest with deep mulch and amendments as recommended by a laboratory, I would look further into what else could be done with these difficult pine flatwoods.

Though you may not like any or all of these options, they would be easier and more suited to the ecosystem than traditional gardening.

You will be going with the grain more than against it.

Beekeeping

Beekeeping isn’t really all that easy anywhere any more, but the bees do like palmetto blooms and will appreciate the nearby wetlands. Some people don’t like palmetto honey but I do.

Blueberry Farming

Blueberries like this environment, provided their roots aren’t flooded. My friend Bill Hall at B & G Blueberries in Ft. McCoy has beautiful acres of berries growing on his U-pick located on clay and sand much like yours. He dug furrows and planted on mounds. His best luck has been with rabbiteye types in that area.

Cattle Raising

These areas are better for grazing animals than for most other forms of agriculture as goats and cows do decently on rough areas. Running goats to lower brush and then planting grass for cows can work and it will also improve the soil over time.

Chickens

Chickens are a good meat and egg source to raise and they don’t mind the pine flatwoods. I would keep them in very good housing, however, as there are many predators in Florida that will see freerange chickens as an all-you-can eat buffet.

Pond Gardening

Malanga, taro, cattails, duck potatoes, kangkong and even the terrifyingly invasive water hyacinth can be useful species, though I wouldn’t introduce the last two on purpose as that’s… illegal. If you have deep enough areas or can dig them, I would definitely look into stocking with catfish and bluegill for easy-to-raise food. You can also go the hot tub pond route for smaller gardening spaces.

Pine Logging

There’s a reason Florida produces a lot of pine timber. It has a lot of areas like yours that are well-suited to pine trees. Dedicating a few acres to this renewable resource isn’t a bad idea and it’s a long-term monetary investment that takes little work once established. Or so I have heard, since I have never tried farming pines myself since I lacked the space and soil.

What Edible Plants Might Work?

Try the following and see how they do:

Loquat

Persimmon (Native and Japanese)

Sparkleberry, Rabbiteye and Native Blueberries

Black Cherry

Pecan (on higher spots)

Chestnut (on higher spots)

PawPaw (Asimina parviflora)

Spineless Prickly Pear (on drier ground)

Passionvine

Muscadine Grapes

Cassava

Malanga/Taro (in wet areas)

Sand Pears (“Pineapple” in particular is good)

Mulberry

Black-eyed peas

Yard-long beans

Chaya

Bananas (in wet areas)

Yams (planted to climb trees)

Yaupon Holly (for home-grown caffeine!)

Conclusion

A few final thoughts:

This is tough ground for traditional gardening, orchards and food forests. Only clear a bit and test. Don’t dive all the way in and take big risks… let nature run most of the ground until you know what will really do decently. You’ll likely need irrigation, mulch and lots of nutrition to get trees and plants established. Build out from “islands” of improved soils with happy plant communities which you’ve gotten to take.

If need be, try container gardening with mulch, compost and decent soil.

Biochar may help, as may planting lots of nitrogen-fixers and other nutrient accumulators you can “chop and drop,” like Mexican sunflower (annual Tithonia rotundifolia and the robust perennial Tithonia diversifolia), Enterolobium (spp.), Leucaena leucocephala, Autumn olive (Eleagnus umbelatta), cassias and even the dreaded “mimosa” (Albizia julibrissin). These can be planted heavily in areas you hope to reclaim from the scrub, then used to feed the ground from above and below. You can also cut back and drop the native scrub plants and trees around your desired species and planted edibles.

Machete gardening!

Good luck, Les. It may not be exactly the answer you hoped for but I want you to have the best chance of success. Great work being a homeschooler – hurray for homeschooling!

May your thumbs – and your Pine Flatwoods – always be green!

 

*        *        *

 

Finally, I do in-depth direct food forest and land consulting like this for a fee, so if you are a gardener or hopeful food forest planter reading this and want help on your own property – get in touch at the link. My goal is to save you lots of work and get you growing in the most appropriate way possible.

 

Update 11/3/16:

Linda Duever just shared a report on Palmettos she wrote – it’s a must read. Get the PDF here. I had no idea they could live for centuries or that so many creatures relied on their fruit. Another thing to consider as you plan your site!

How To Save Pumpkin Seeds

Just in time for Halloween, let’s cover how to save pumpkin seeds.

How to save pumpkin seeds demonstration

Learning how to save pumpkin seeds is a good idea, especially if you’d like to grow next year’s jack-o-lanterns yourself.

I’ve been growing pumpkin and winter squash for a long time and I’ve always loved how easy it is to save pumpkin seeds.

Recently I posted a new video on how I save pumpkin seeds – and how I make seed packets to hold them until it’s time to plant them in the spring.

Here’s the video:

Now let’s break it down into a nice visual guide with pictures and everything!

How To Save Pumpkin Seeds, Step by Step

Are you ready to pack away seeds like a kleptomaniac squirrel so you never have to buy another pumpkin from the store again? I will help.

Step 1: Gut the Pumpkin and Save the Slop!

How to save pumpkin seeds step 1

The inner cavity of pumpkins and winter squashes is filled with a stringy mess of pumpkin bits and seeds. This isn’t the “good eating” part of the pumpkin, so it’s not worth trying to save any of the stringy mass, except for the seeds. In order to do that, move on to step two!

Step 2: Clean the Pumpkin Seeds

saving pumpkin seeds step 2

I dump pumpkin guts and seeds into a colander and swish them around under running water to clean them out, smashing the goop through the holes and separating the strings. If you’d like to save pumpkin seeds for eating rather than planting, you can just go directly to roasting them at this point.

For seed-saving purposes, I’ve sometimes let pumpkin guts sit on the counter for a few days and rot around the seeds. This smells bad but really loosens up the seeds when you wash them out. I think it may also increase the germination rate but I haven’t tried a side-by-side trial.

Stretch_And_Grow_Your_Compost_Cover+sm

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Step 3: Dry The Seeds

saving pumpking seeds step-3

Seed-covered paper towels on counters, windowsills, shelves, tabletops, dressers and even the bathroom counter are common in our house during the fall as we save pumpkin seeds alongside the other heirlooms we want to plant in our spring gardens.

Spread your pumpkin seeds out someplace where they won’t get wet again. Make sure they aren’t too wet when you spread them out (sometimes I pat them down with one paper towel, then spread them onto a second) and have good air circulation as you most definitely do not want them germinating on your counter. They should dry fast. This will also keep them from molding as easily in storage and potentially losing their ability to germinate.

Step 4: Make Seed Packets and Pack ’em Up!

 saving pumpkin seeds making homemade seed packet

There are better ways to make seed packets, but I just rip a sheet of paper in half, fold that, then fold up the edges a few times and tape them. You can see how in the video – it’s very simple.

Because I’m cheap and hate throwing things away too fast, I use scrap paper from the children’s homeschool assignments or pieces the toddler has doodled upon. My friend Steven Edholm has better looking seed packets, but they’re a bit small for the amount of pumpkin seeds I store.

saving pumpkin seeds homemade seed packet step-6

I also illustrate my homemade seed packets, which is NOT OPTIONAL. You have to draw on them. You just have to. It’s the rule.

Along with a drawing of the mother pumpkin, I also note the variety, the harvest year and notes on type. This is important as I work on my pumpkin breeding projects, but for your pumpkin seed saving you likely just need to note the type or draw a nice picture of the headless horseman.

If you live in a humid climate or need to store seeds for a longer period, you can dry pumpkin seeds a little further in a dehydrator (I like this reliable and inexpensive one for everything from fruit to jerky) and then pack them in tightly shut Mason jars stowed in the fridge.

That’s it – the whole scoop on how to save pumpkin seeds.

If you’re interested in going much deeper into saving seeds of all kinds, Seed to Seed is my own go-to resource on the subject. It’s a must-have for serious gardeners.

Happy gardening and enjoy the rest of October.

Bob Was Delicious!

Pumpkin-closeup

We ate Bob last week. Wow – that was seriously a good pumpkin.

Sweet, fine flesh, rich and orange – much like my good line of Seminole pumpkins back in Florida. Think sweet potato rich; not your typical stringy pumpkin.

This one is a keeper!

Here’s the video I did on this particular pumpkin before it was opened:

Another fine-looking pumpkin I discovered was a great big warty one. Bob is on the right, the giant warty pumpkin is the one on the left:

Two-crazy-pumpkins

That is really a big pumpkin – and its skin is incredible. Here’s a close-up:

Stretch_And_Grow_Your_Compost_Cover+sm

Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

You'll transform your garden forever!

Pumpkincloseupskin

We shall see what it tastes like.

The seeds from Bob are definitely worth planting.

Though it’s a strange-looking squash and in my opinion not as beautiful as my old Seminole pumpkins, it was the most delicious variety we’ve found here yet.

Here’s the inside view of Bob:

Bob-the-pumpkin-interior

All this pumpkin talk reminds me… I have pumpkin hills I need to go string-trim around.

The breeding and selection must go on!

Three Ways to Use Logs In Your Garden (Instead of Throwing Them Away!)

GiantHugelkultur2

Don'tChuck-those-logs-hugelkultur

Rotting wood and logs are a great addition to the garden.

I see so many people – particularly in South Florida – dragging logs and palm branches to the side of the road in bins for trucks to haul away.

Quit doing that! As I cover in my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting and in glorious color film in Compost Everything: The Movie, wood is good for the soil. It breaks down into excellent humus which holds water. When you have poor soil, you want to increase humus and soil nutrition, not send it off to the city dump.

Here are three ways to use wood in your garden and increase your soil fertility long term.

1: Use Chunks of Wood for Garden Boundaries

SouthFLFoodForest7-12(3)

When my Dad and I built The Great South Florida Food Forest Project, we picked up all the yard “waste” we could find from nearby neighbors and then piled it up, lining the pathsDirtBeforeAndAfter2with the thicker branches and logs.

In a very short period of time, those logs started breaking down into rich soil.

Most of them aren’t there any more and need replacing… but you wouldn’t believe how nice the sand looks where they used to lie.

The image on the left shows what the sand looked like before and after we piled up organic matter.

People love to complain about how “bad” the sand is down in South Florida and how nothing grows there. Yet they rake up all their leaves and throw away logs.

Poor choices.

2. Make Hugelkulture Mounds

A friend of mine cleared a big area of her yard to open up the light for her edible crops, to get rid of the invasive trees, and to make sure hurricanes didn’t send any 2,000lb chunks of tree through her roof.

Instead of making a big burn pile or sending them off to the city, she made a gigantic pair of hugelkultur mounds.

She dug trenches, filled them with wood, then took all the mustard-covered soil on the left and buried the rotting wood.

GiantHugelkultur2

Now they are rich, flower and food-covered gardens.

Stretch_And_Grow_Your_Compost_Cover+sm

Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

You'll transform your garden forever!

Hugelkultur-mound

Hugelkultur gardens are an idea I picked up from Paul Wheaton, who in turn probably picked it up from Sepp Holzer.

They can improve the soil for decades.

3. Turn Those Logs into Biochar

 

When life gives you fallen trees, why not turn them into charcoal and improve your soil for not just decades… but generations!

Biochar

I burn big open piles because I don’t want to bother making kilns or getting fancy. Plus, I want to fight global cooling.

Though turning charcoal directly into your soil will suck up nutrients and drop your yields, soaking the charcoal first in something like compost tea will allow it to become a resource bank for the soil. Charcoal pieces hold in fungi, bacteria and nutrition like little condominiums, thanks to the intricate pore structure of wood.

Steven Edholm recently shared some tests he did in three garden beds and I reshared it here.

Conclusion

It’s time to think differently about fallen logs and branches.

Don’t view them as “too big for the compost bin” and send them off.

Every time you do that you are exporting fertility from your property. Don’t.

Instead, use one of these three methods and you’ll not only improve your soil, you’ll keep useful material out of the waste stream.

I’ve done all three and my plants love the help. You can too – and can even make it look nice. I once grew a nice cabbage inside a rotting chunk of log I picked up by the side of the road.

HugelstumpCabbage

Worms, bacteria, fungi, beetles… all of these live in and out of the rotting wood and will happily break it down into rich soil for your garden.

Think differently about fallen trees and you’ll improve your soil long term. I guarantee it!

Bob the Pumpkin

Bob-the-pumpkin-interior

I keep finding interesting new varieties (which are really not new at all) of pumpkin at roadside stands and markets as I drive around the country.

This new one is beautiful:

I found out later from a native friend that this variety does have a local name, though pronouncing it is difficult.

It’s a C. moschate almost certainly, with a marked similarity to the “alligator squash” that Baker Creek Seeds used to carry.

Soon we’ll see what it tastes like. And, by the way, this video has one of my best raps yet.

Stretch_And_Grow_Your_Compost_Cover+sm

Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

You'll transform your garden forever!

Finally – don’t forget you can now pre-order my new booklet on growing caffeine.

It’s quite informative and… only $1.99.

It’s fall gardening season, so put the days to work and you’ll be harvesting some good crops before long.

If you live further north, start grabbing those leaves as they fall and pile ’em up for great compost fodder for spring.

Have a great weekend and don’t miss pumpkin hunting at the local farmer’s markets. I’ve gotten – and obviously still get – some great seeds that way.

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