I’d say the first thing you need is… a pumpkin. -Fairy Godmother

Hello, again!

We’ve all had the conversation about what defines a fruit and what defines a vegetable. By now, we know that a tomato is a fruit, a beet is a vegetable and a banana is an herb (and a vegetable; it’s complicated). Anyway, botanically classifying plants sometimes tends to be a bit confusing.

Although it doesn’t sound too attractive when put this way, our stores are filled with cucurbits for fall decorating. We’ve been bringing large bins of cucurbits into the stores for the past few weeks to set around to add color to outdoor displays. Members of the cucurbit or cucumber family include summer squash, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe, cushaw, luffa, cucumber... as well as what you’ll find in our stores now - pumpkins, winter squash and gourds. These odd looking members of the Cucurbitaceae family come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Let's look at the differences in these fruits that we all love this time of the year.

Squash consists of both summer and winter squash varieties. Zucchini and yellow squash are summer varieties that mature in the summer and have soft skin. Winter squash has thicker skin which is ideal for storage through the winter. Butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash are all winter types.

Vibrant pumpkins are great for not only pies and soups, but are wildly popular for carving this time of the year. They come in a variety of colors ranging from blue to tan to bright orange. We have some really unique varieties this year! To make matters a little more confusing, pumpkins are considered a squash, but not all squash are considered a pumpkin.

Gourds, on the other hand, are not edible and are mostly used in decorating and crafts, making beautiful bowls, birdhouses, musical instruments, and whatever else one can come up with for these interesting cucurbits.

I hope this clears things up a bit. I think it’s all clear to me now. I think.

As nighttime temperatures trend downward, it’s reminding me that soon enough we’ll have regular cooler temperatures on a daily basis. Not only does that mean it’s time to get our spring flowering bulbs in the ground, but also time to winterize tropical houseplants that we have enjoyed outdoors all summer long. While we can’t officially “winterize houseplants”, we can do some things now to help them through the winter indoors.

First off, insect prevention is most important to successfully bring healthy, insect-free plants indoors. Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Granules are the perfect way to provide long-lasting insect protection. Simply sprinkle the granules on the soil, mix and water in. The roots will absorb this systemic insecticide and move it through the entire plant, providing up to 2 months of protection.

ferti-lome Indoor Outdoor Multi-Purpose Insect Spray controls many insects on indoor plants for up to four weeks. I spray my houseplants with it every year before they come inside. It's also perfect for use in the fall and winter when insects like spiders and crickets come inside.

All of this talk about temperatures dropping and pumpkins reminds me of a recipe. Our stores have a good heat variety of Hatch green chile peppers put away in 2-3 pound bags in our freezers. We’ll have them until supplies run out. Here’s a recipe I’m anxious to try: Green Chile Pumpkin Tortilla Soup. Our small pie pumpkins are simple to bake and use in so many fall recipes from breads to soups and pies. Give it this one try with me and let us know if you also have a good pumpkin recipe!

Your friend in the garden,

Marty Johnson
Owner - Johnson's Garden Center