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WSU extension Q&A: Oct. 23, 2010

Q. How can I tell when my winter squash is ready to be harvested?

A. Winter squash can be harvested at anytime for fresh consumption. For winter squash to store, wait until the skin of the fruit becomes hardened and cannot be scratched off with your thumbnail. It is best to harvest before the first hard frost for best storage.

Q. I like the red maple tree I planted in my backyard as a shade tree, especially the Autumn Flame with its smaller leaves, but I really don't like the seeds that maple trees drop all over. Do red maples produce a lot of seeds?

A. Yes, red maples can produce an abundance of seed "helicopters," but there are seedless varieties of red maple and red maple hybrids. Those reported to be seedless include Autumn Flame, Autumn Blaze, Brandywine, Autumn Spire, New World, Scarlet Sentinel, Somerset and Sun Valley. Before buying a specific cultivated variety, check to see if it is reported to be seedless.

Q. I have these tiny white bugs in my houseplant. They seem to jump when touched and there are lots of them. What are they?

A. You likely have Springtails. They are a harmless insect that lives in soil and moist habitats. They help in the decomposition and recycling of nutrients. Sometimes they can get into houseplants if we move the plants outside for a while or add new soil to the pot. Change out the soil to minimize the problem.

Q. I brought all of my tomatoes inside before the frost hit. Is it still safe to home-can these tomatoes once they ripen?

A. Late-season tomatoes ripened indoors may not be safe for canning. They are lower in acid than tomatoes ripened on the vines. As an alternative, you can freeze these tomatoes. Raw tomatoes can be frozen without blanching and can be frozen with or without their skins. The best uses for frozen tomatoes are in cooked foods because they become mushy when thawed.

* Questions should be called in to the WSU extension offices in Kennewick at 735-3551 or Pasco at 545-3511.

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