Now that I’m retired, I am spending more time than ever on tending my landscaping. I just noticed that my Scotch pines have needles turning yellow. They are all on the inside of the trees. The outside needles on the branches are still green. This is terrible. What’s going on?
What’s going on is that you retired and have more time to notice what’s been happening every fall to these trees. The term “evergreen” means that needles stay green throughout all the seasons. Notice they are not called “live-forevers.” Needles have a life span. Depending on the evergreen, needles can live three to five years.
For pines, there should be about three years of retained needles on the tree. There is this year’s new growth and at least two years of growth behind that. The older needles turn yellow and fall off.
For evergreens, all the action is taking place on the portion of the branch farthest from the trunk. Next spring, that brown bud at the end of the branch will expand and lose its outer covering. The newly green bud will grow into a candle. Needles grow along the candle and finish growing in mid summer.
The new growth is highly important to the tree. Loss of older needles is expected. For white pines, the older foliage to be shed turns a brilliant, lemon yellow. Scotch pine will be yellowish while many spruces and firs just turn brown and drop. It’s September. If the only needles yellowing are on the interior of the tree are closest to the trunk, your Scotch pines are right on schedule.
If the ends of the branches are discoloring, be very afraid. If there is less than three years of growth remaining on a branch, this is another reason for concern. But normal needle loss could be celebrated with a cold, adult beverage.
When am I supposed to pick my winter squash? The plants don’t look really good but they are still alive. Some gardening friends say now and others say wait.
He who hesitates will be rewarded. The longer that winter squash can stay on the vine and develop a tougher skin, the better. Durable hides mean that they will last longer with correct storage.
They are called winter squash because they can be stored to be eaten then. Genetically, these squash develop a hard rind. This includes acorn, butternut, buttercup and many more. Pumpkins usually never get a tough enough rind to make it much beyond Christmas.
Wait until the vines go down. If the garden area is staying wet, it may be necessary to harvest early. Moisture on the side of the squash touching the ground can create decay. But be sure to harvest before the first killing frost. Frost means freezing and frozen skin decays almost as you watch. Use pruning shears or a knife to cut the stems. Cut with at least an inch of stem remaining.
If the squash has the stem broken off flush with the top, it may decay at the place where the stem has been removed. Wipe the harvested squash gently to remove any soil or debris. All that stuff can bring more bacteria and the ability to stay damp. Store them in a cool area with air circulating. Don’t pile them up. The less piling and crowding, the less opportunity you have to bruise or damage them.
You can store them in the garage until it gets really cold. Then, select the less than perfect to cook first. The best way to cook you harvested goodies is to cut them in half, scoop out the seeds and put them cut side down on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Bake until the liquid coming out from under them is golden and the squash is soft. The golden color means that the sugars have caramelized and the squash is sweet and tender. Pass the butter.
Contact Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator, at (517) 546-3950.