Sally Mullins

The weather is beginning to get cooler during the day and I think 80-degree days are gone for this year.

Heavy sweatshirts are the choice for any outdoor jobs and soon we’ll have to move on to coats and gloves. I am not looking forward to that.

Many of us are all still at home, working or teaching and doing the best we can. I spoke with some friends recently and we’re missing even the smallest personal interactions with each other. The freezing and canning for winter is finished and we’re all doing a lot of cooking. But now that we are at home all the time and not eating out, that daily “what to cook” question lurks every day.

There are online sites where they send you a new recipe each day, but it’s rare to have all the necessary ingredients in the pantry and the days of just running out to the store to pick them up are over. It’s funny what stands out as problematic when you’re all in the same situation. I don’t mean to complain, but oh, my.

The frosts have done their job and everything is cut back except the dahlias. It’s getting colder at night and all the summer plants have been taken indoors.

The stinkbugs have also made their presence known. We have tried many different methods to get rid of them, but they always manage to surprise us in unpleasant ways.

I have found when it comes to transplanting perennials, the best time to do it is when you have time. Many of our plants have been divided and planted in other than the recommended “best time” and there have been very few that didn’t survive.

The same goes for pruning. The big exception to this is spring-blooming shrubs. If you prune them in fall, you’ll cut the buds off. But other than that, chances are that whenever you choose to trim your plants they will be fine.

Of course, there are some perennials like black-eyed Susans that do better if they keep their foliage all winter. But even if you cut them back, the garden police will not be knocking at your door and they will grow just as well next summer.

Don’t have time this fall to cut your daylilies back? Just keep an eye out in spring when new growth begins and cut back the old dead foliage then. The bottom line here is to garden on your schedule.

There are certainly times when something must be done to avoid major problems, but deal with it as best you can when they come up. Gardening can be a pleasant occupation if you begin with the idea it is not rocket science and no one’s going to die.

Possibly a plant will give up the ghost here and there, but we can always replant or replace. So, take it seriously, but most importantly, just enjoy it.

On the other hand, if you sincerely do not like to garden, plant no-fuss plants you don’t need to spend a lot of time taking care of. That way you can sit out in the garden and simply enjoy a book and some iced tea guilt free.

Ornamental grasses are always easy to grow and a flowering shrub that needs very little attention is the butterfly bush (Buddleia). Not only will it have attractive blooms all summer, it will provide shelter for birds in winter. In spring, before new growth appears, cut it and the grass down to 12 inches.

We have many different ornamental grasses and a huge butterfly bush and they all continue to amaze us with the tremendous growth they put out all summer and into fall with little help from us.

It’s time for fall decorating and Spring Valley Farm market has mums, cornstalks, unusual gourds and of course, great pumpkins for carving.

Ordinary carving pumpkins have a lot of water, so the market also has some especially for pies and pumpkin butter, so be sure to ask which ones they are. When the gourds begin to get soft and yucky, put them out at the edge of your garden and next year you should have lots of new ones.

Many varieties of winter squash are available now and although they can be used for decorating, they are excellent winter vegetables.

Orange Amber cup and green buttercup squash are easy to prepare with a meat filling and they provide a welcome change during the winter months. They’re my favorite because you can stuff them and they won’t fall over during baking like an acorn squash will.

Here is a simple recipe, using either one, for a whole meal in each squash.

Cut around the stem (just as you would a pumpkin before carving) remove it and set it aside. Clean out the seeds and make the filling. I mix hamburger or sausage with onion, potatoes and seasoning, stuff it in the squash, then cover with the stem.

Place it in a casserole with a little water in the bottom and cook at 350 degrees until a fork is easily inserted in the side. It’s going to take a while to cook, so be patient.

Since you don’t need a lot, use your own judgment as to the amounts of each ingredient to use. No matter which squash you choose, a minute in the microwave will make it a little softer and easier to cut.

Questions can be left at the Hampshire Review office or emailed to me at thegardenpath@hotmail.com. Please put “gardening” in the subject box and leave a phone number so I can get back to you if necessary.

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