Q. I have a large pumpkin growing in my garden, and I’m afraid something will happen to it. Can I pick it now and keep it for Halloween?
A. Pumpkins are cultivars of squash plants in the family cucurbita. Squash plants can be harvested at any time, but in order for it to store well, wait until the outer skin of the squash is tough enough that it doesn’t scratch easily with your fingernail. Once the skin has toughened, it should keep for several weeks if stored in a cool, dark and dry location.
Q. We have identified a plant called Birdsfoot Trefoil in our pasture. Is it beneficial or should we try to remove it?
A. Birdsfoot Trefoil is a perennial legume that, under favorable soil and moisture conditions (irrigation or adequate rainfall), is moderately long-lived and high in forage quality. Being a legume, it has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil and is therefore beneficial in pasture mixes that include grasses because of the increase in soil nitrogen fertility. Birdsfoot Trefoil has been used for erosion control along roadsides, as a source of food for wildlife such as Canada geese, deer and elk, and as green chop, hay and pasture for livestock. Another beneficial characteristic is that Birdsfoot Trefoil is less likely to cause bloat in ruminants as compared with alfalfa or clover. Your Washington State University Extension professionals can assist you in the establishment and management of pastures and hay land on your farm or ranch.
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Q. What kind of fertilizer should I use in the fall on my forage crops?
A. A soil test to determine existing nutrient levels is the best way to decide if you need to fertilize crops. A complete soil test costs about $50 and should be processed by a commercial laboratory. Phosphorus and potassium applied in the late summer and early fall help in tiller formation, which is necessary to maximize production for the following year. Use caution when choosing a fertilizer because combination products containing high proportions of nitrogen cause forage growth spurts in late fall and may reduce winter hardiness. Field fertility requires additional nutrients like sulfur, boron and zinc, so checking these levels on the soil test report is important, because they are more likely to need supplemental application.
To submit a question for this column, call the WSU Extension office in Kennewick at 509-735-3551.