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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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Watermelon: Don’t harvest too early

QUESTION: How can you tell when a watermelon is ready to harvest?

WatermelonIt’s tempting to cut that beautiful watermelon from the vine as soon as it looks like it’s big enough, but size is not the only clue to ripeness. Before you cut the melon from the vine, turn it over and note the color of the ground spot – where the melon rests on the ground. The spot should be creamy yellow. If it’s white, the watermelon is not ripe enough to cut.

A tendril grows at the end of the watermelon. If it’s still green, wait a few more days before you harvest. If it is half-dead, it’s likely the melon is ripe. The age-old method of giving the fruit a thump may also work; a ripe watermelon sounds hollow when you thump it.

Cantaloupes and other small melons don’t have the tendril or a significant soil spot, like watermelons, but there are other clues to gauge its ripeness. Cantaloupes develop a golden color under the netted rinds when the melon is ripe. They also soften at the end opposite the stem when they ripen, which you can feel if you press gently. Ripe cantaloupes also have a sweet fragrance, and the melon will separate easily from the vine.

 

 

A bountiful harvest: sunflower seeds

We grew sunflowers this year, and I’d like to save the seeds. What is the best way to harvest them?
sunflower 2As summer begins to wind down and the sunflowers begin to droop, you know it’s time to harvest. Sunflower seeds are ready to harvest when the back of the flower heads turn yellow. The seeds themselves will turn dark.

Seed-loving birds may begin to find them before you do, so if you’re planning a seed harvest, you may want to find a way to protect them until they’re fully mature. Extension services and other experts suggest covering the flower heads with brown paper bags. (Don’t use plastic bags, which may cause moisture to form around the flower head and cause the seeds to rot.) When you’re ready to harvest, use scissors or a knife to cut off the flower head with several inches of the stem.
You can harvest sunflower seeds to save for the birds to enjoy later, or for a nutritious snack for yourself and your family. Hold the flower head over a large bowl and rub or pluck out the seeds. Store them in a dry spot in sealed containers until you are ready to set them out for the birds.

Writers at the Mother Earth News website have an easy method for preparing sunflower seeds for snacking. Soak the unshelled seeds overnight in salt water – about 1/8 to ¼ cup salt for each quart of water. Drain off the water and spread the seeds on paper towels or clean towels and allow them to dry for several hours. When they are completely dry, spread the seeds evenly on a cookie sheet and bake them at 300 degrees F for 30 – 40 minutes. After baking, place the seeds in a bowl and toss with one teaspoon of butter for each cup of seeds. Season with salt, if desired.

Sunflower seeds are high in potassium, calcium, and phosphorus.