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Compost some vines, stems; discard others

It is time to prepare the garden for fall.

If you planted potatoes, you need to dig them up, rinse to remove soil and let dry a day before storing. There are always a few potatoes I miss that survive the winter and sprout next spring, so do some digging to get as many as you can.

Old potato vines are discarded (not composted) because they may harbor bugs that like potatoes. Also discarded are the stems of squash family plants (zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, winter squash) and cabbage family plants (broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower). These plants should also be rotated where they are planted to minimize pest problems. I do compost carrot tops, pea vines and herb stems.

This year, I did not grow gourds, but I usually do. I confess, I’m a gourd head. About 40 years ago, looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon, I saw that there was a gourd show, went to it, got hooked.

Gourds are members of the cucumber/squash family and we are most familiar with the little decorative gourds for sale this time of year. They are easy to grow and will not rot if grown long enough and not covered in varnish. In fact, they will dry out and keep their shapes, if not their colors.

The small, decorative gourds are in the genus Cucurbita and have yellow flowers that bloom during the day. The heavy shelled gourds used for birdhouses, bird feeders and many other things are genus Laginaria and have white flowers that bloom at night. A third type of gourd, usually not recognized as a gourd at all, is the luffa or vegetable sponge. It has yellow flowers and bad-smelling vines that attract ants. With luffa, you peel off the thin outer skin to reveal a fibrous interior that does a great job in the shower exfoliating skin.

The reason I got hooked was hard shelled gourds have been used by all cultures that could grow them (I have a collection from all over the world) for practical purposes such as bowls, dippers, fishing floats and containers and many types of musical instruments. The thick shell also lends itself to decoration by carving, burning and painting.

The human imagination can produce some astonishing results when working with gourd material. If you’re interested, the Ohio gourd show is Friday through Oct. 7 at the Delaware County fairground.

This week, I joined Janet DelTurco and the Sandusky Valley Herb Society in making wreaths with dried flowers. A good time was had by all, and the outing helped me realize how many dried plant bouquets there are around my house. Pussy willow branches last a long time if not put in water. Money plant/silver dollar plant is dry now and just needs a shaking to reveal the glossy interior.

The wreath class has opened my eyes to other plants in the yard that might dry well, such as a small red dahlia and marigolds that keep their colors. And now I also am thinking about adding different flowers to my garden next year. There always is something interesting to do with plants.

Susan Carty is a local gardener and a professor emerita of biology at Heidelberg University.

Contact her via:

newsroom@advertiser-tribune.com

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