Sunday, August 26, 2018

September 2018 Edible Garden Planner

Zinnias in the edible, decorative garden

Sunday, August 26, 2018

End of summer is a great time to tidy garden beds and harvest herbs.  As the days get shorter, growth slows and before long the sun cannot support all the greenery from summer.  Peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers will keep producing through frost.  Keep the fruits picked to keep them producing.  Beginning of September is time to sow seeds of cool weather lovers for fall and early winter harvests.  

Harvesting Herbs
This is the perfect time to harvest your herbs.  You can cut them back so they remain lush, improving the tidiness of your garden, and providing herbs for the winter ahead.  Cutting them back will help the plants build stronger root systems.  Trimming does encourage new growth as well.  You just don't want to prune too close to frost as new growth makes the plant less hardy.

I dry my herbs to preserve them.  I put loosely in a paper bag in a dry, warm area out of the sun and let dry naturally.  Loose is the key here so they get good air circulation and do not mold.  They should be completely dry in about 3-4 weeks.  I like putting them in clothes closets to dry as they release such great fragrance and the darkness helps keep the flavor in the herb.

Once dried, remove the leaves from woody herbs and store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.  With a soft herb like chives, you can just crumble into the airtight container.  I use wide mouth canning jars for herb storage or freezer bags kept in a dark location.


If the winter is not a bad one, most perennial herbs like chives, oregano, sage, savory, and thyme can be harvested year round straight from the garden.

Fall planting guide for cool season crops
In September, plant more greens, carrots, and radishes.  October is the month to plant garlic for next year's harvest. Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......  Buy your garlic early because the most popular varieties sell out early.  I will plant the best cloves from this year's harvest.  I have both regular garlic and elephant garlic to plant.  I like elephant garlic because it produces such huge cloves.

You can pick up transplants like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kale, as well as herbs at some nurseries since gardening has become so popular, buy them on line or grow from seed.  Everything that loves spring also thrive in fall into early winter.  Lettuce is a favorite for fall.  Plant a variety daily the first two weeks of September.


Caring for your new seeds and transplants
Like in the spring, newly sown seeds need moisture to sprout.  Keep seeds and transplants moist until they get their first real set of leaves and are well established.  Then water as needed.

Many crops you can harvest into December and beyond, depending on how cold fall is.  Some get sweeter with some frost, like carrots, chard, and lettuce.  With cover, you can harvest all the way through winter!

A quick reminder, save the seeds from your best performers to plant next year!  You can replant seeds from any heirlooms or open pollinated plants.  Not only does it save you money, but it also gives you the plants that do the best under your garden and zone conditions.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

What's happening in the late September edible garden

September edible garden in the evening
Saturday, September 23, 2017

The plants that like this kind of weather are tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, Egyptian walking onions, cucumbers, okra, the Mediterranean herbs like basil, rosemary, sage, oregano, chives, savory, dill, tarragon, chard, parsley and thyme.  

Typically, we would be preserving lots of veggies for year round eating at this time of the year.   We had good rain all summer again this year.  The green beans, peppers, eggplant, okra, chard, walking onions and herbs did great.  The tomatoes did okay, but some plants either died or died back.  I did a second planting of tomatoes in July.  Those plants are now producing ripe tomatoes.

For the plants that survived and thrived, it would be a great idea to save their seeds for replanting in your garden next year.  These are the really hardy ones.  This is how farmers over thousands of years have done seed saving.  Save the seed from the plant that has the characteristics you want and are adapted specifically to your garden.

I finally found a sweet pepper that produces well and is tasty.  I am definitely saving the seeds from these plants!

Italian Red Pear on the fine
I have been putting about two quarts of tomatoes away a week.  Sometimes more.  I just slice them and put them in freezer bags.  When it cools down outside, I look at the frozen tomatoes I have left from last year and cook those into sauce.  You really want to clean out the freezer each year.  The veggies will still be edible if kept longer, but some will loose flavor.  Since last year's harvest was not the best, I don't think I will be doing any canning this fall.  

I tried some new tomato varieties and also planted my standbys.  
-Lucid Gem had fun colored fruits but the vine wasn't sturdy enough to hold the fruit and I didn't get a lot of them either.  
-Cherokee Purple did well.
-Italian Red Pear an heirloom paste had a health vine, but ripened late and took a long time.  I planted it in more shade than last year, so will plant in full sun next year.
-Principe Borghese did not do well.
-I tried the Chocolate Pear again this year and the vine died back early.  I don't think I will try it again.
-Small and medium yellow storage tomatoes from Sicily.  The small ones did fine.  The medium just never ripened.
Black Vernissage-did not do great.
-Patio Princess for the pot did very well.  I will do it again
-Rosella did great.  They are the size of marbles.  I don't think I will grow again.

The squash did well early in the season, then the zucchini died from disease.  The yellow prolific kept producing into the beginning of this month.  I liked both varieties I tried this year and will do those again next year-Early Prolific Straightneck and Cocozelle.  It is recommended you either wait until the second week of June to plant your squash or do a second round of planting in July to have healthy plants for the entire summer.

I have several eggplants going this year.  The Turkish Orange did not do as well as in years past.  The flea beetles loved it.  The white and purple both did well.  The white varieties have the least bitterness, but are very hard to grow from seed.  I think I will bring the white one inside for the winter instead of trying to get a new plant started from seed next year. 

I have been able to freeze about a pint of sliced peppers every week.  I had 6 sweet pepper plants.  I had planted a few seeds from sweet banana peppers I bought at the store that I grew out last year.  They didn't look anything at all like a banana pepper, but they tasted great and did extremely well.  There are three that I  saved seeds for next year's garden (a yellow, a red, and a maroon).

I also grew from seed the red hot pepper from Sicily-Bocca Rossa.  It did very well.  It is always covered in peppers.  The Pablano pepper plants have done okay.  I grow those to make chili powder.
I have a small hot pepper plant that is ages old, Chiltepin.  It took 3 tries, but I was finally able to get it to grow.  I have them in a pot that I will bring in to overwinter again.  I like putting small hot peppers in my seasoned salt and wanted to grow my own.  They are covered with the tiny hot tots!  

If you want to maximize your pepper harvest, pick them as soon as they get to full size versus letting them fully ripen to red, yellow, or orange on the plant.  This stimulates the plant to produce more.  If you let them ripen on the plant, the taste will be sweeter.  I compromise and take them off just when they start to turn.  They complete ripening on the counter in a few days.

The cucumber vines did okay.  The first set of cukes had 50% die back.  The one left produced for a couple of months.  I started another in the garden and it is still producing, but not a lot.  The plant looks healthy.  The cukes I get from this plant have a shelf life of 2 months or longer just sitting on the counter.  It is amazing.  They will also get huge.  This heirloom (Jaune Dickfleischige) produces yellowish orange skinned fruits.
View between the pole beans in the edible garden
The pole green beans did great this year, but have died back in the last couple of weeks.  I planted purple and green Romano types.  The beans and flowers were very pretty.  The green Romano were stringless and the purple Romano type had a small string that was easy to remove before freezing.  I will definitely keep these (Romano and the purple Blauhilde) in my garden next year.  Also interplanted with Scarlett Runner beans, too, for their beautiful flowers.  These are edible as well either as green beans or if left on the vine as storage beans.  Next year, I'll keep them separated so I know when to pick them.  

I tried three pole storage beans this year-Portal Jade, Good Mother Stollard and King of the Garden lima beans.  The Portal Jade and the Lima beans did not produce much.  Good Mother Stollard went to town!  I got quite a lot from these vines and they are still producing.  I'd do these again.  I'll likely try some other varieties with this one next year to figure out a variety that likes our garden conditions.  I think it is fun to have different color and sized beans in the chili I make.

I planted okra for the first time this year and these guys did fabulous.  I planted two varieties-Red Burgundy Okra and a green variety.  Both did very well.  I think I will stick with the Red Burgundy for future gardens.  I didn't realize how tall okra gets!  Some of these plants grew to 8+ feet tall.  They produced all summer long and are still producing and growing in height.  I think we got enough this year that I won't need any in the garden next year.  I just sliced and froze them.  I am planning on using them in soups and roasts.  They were pretty tasty just boiled in a pan of chicken broth.
Our very tall okra
I am still fertilizing monthly.  I use Espoma as it is all natural, organic.  This year we added a nice thick layer of compost in the spring.  Compost increases organic matter and supercharges the microbes in the soil.  The microbes help your plants roots to take up the nutrients they need.  I think we'll put the compost on this fall instead to let the nutrients seep into the soil over the winter.

The garlic and onions did well this year.  The Egyptian walking onions did great!  I hardened the garlic on our covered deck.  I put it in apple cider vinegar with peppers for keeping in the fridge.  We use garlic year round for cooking and on our garlic cheese bread.  Yum!
I had a bumper crop of basil this year; most were Holy Basil volunteers from last year's garden.  The other herbs did well, too.  We have rosemary, tarragon, bay, sage, parsley, chives, and mint.  I keep peppermint and orange mint in a pot so it doesn't take over the garden. The dill went to seed early.  The cilantro is sprouting again for a second round in the cool weather.  I'll get to add it to our salsa now until winter.  I use tarragon in the summer after the cilantro has bolted.  It adds a different taste, but is still good.
Sprouting lettuce seed in Earthbox

I had also reseeded the Earthbox but something ate most of the lettuce that sprouted.  I'll need to do another round of seeds so we can have some lettuce when the weather cools down.  We will cover the Earthboxes with a small portable green house later this fall so we can have salads throughout the winter.

Make sure you save the seeds from your best and longest producers to plant in your garden next spring.  I also save seeds from organic produce I get from the store that is really good.  Last week end when we were at the grocery store, there were these beautiful medium sized burgundy tomatoes.  I bought the biggest, prettiest one they had.  We enjoyed the tomato and saved the seeds.    Next year, we'll be able to have them in our own garden!

This fall, we will have arugula, mustard greens, lettuce, chard, blood veined sorrel, garden sorrel, French and Italian dandelion, spinach, lettuce, purslane, corn salad, chives, parsley, and sprouting broccoli for salads.  Eggplant, peppers and tomatoes will produce until the first freeze.  The Egyptian onions will produce all through winter.  The herbs will be available for harvesting until the snow covers them up.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?


Saturday, August 25, 2018

It can be confusing buying seeds or produce with all the different terms and descriptors used in seed catalogs and stores.  So, what do all those terms mean that you hear-GMO, Heirloom, Hybrid, Organic, All Natural?

GMO: Genetically Modified Organism 
Typically the Big Ag Chemical/Seed companies inject genetic materials into seeds that kill living things like pesticides.  They have also genetically modified them to withstand  massive doses of herbicides.  I don’t think anything that has been genetically altered to be able to kill other living organisms is the healthiest to be eating, if you know what I mean.  The first field trials of GMO’s began in the 1980’s.  Monsanto is the big GMO (and herbicide chemical company), now bought by Bayer.  Today, farmers are forced to put even more pesticides and herbicides than they did prior to the introduction of GMO's because the weeds and insects have adapted to the chemicals and more are needed to do the same job.  The World Health Organization has said that Round Up is a probable carcinogen.  Be sure if you have to buy conventional produce that you wash thoroughly to remove harmful chemicals.

Heirloom 
Heirlooms are not genetically modified, they are open-pollinated, not a modern hybrid, been developed using classic breeding procedures, are at least older than 1951.  Some believe only those that are 100 years old qualify.  Heirlooms have been handed down from generation to generation.  Open pollinated means that you can grow a plant just like the parent from the seeds.  You can use the seeds from heirlooms you buy in the store to grow them in your own garden.

Hybrid
They are a modern cross between 2 different plants.  Many are infertile meaning they will not produce viable seed. This can be a good thing if you want a seedless variety.  The hybrids that do have seeds will not yield the same plant as the parent.  Hybrids are typically bred to provide plants that have better yields, better disease protection.  Many feel that hybrids sacrifice flavor for their other attributes.

Organic
Seeds can only be labeled as organic if they were grown by certified organic farmers.  The criteria for being certified organic is very stringent.  Organics cannot be genetically modified.  Organics cannot have been grown with any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers being used.  A farmer has to be chemical free for 3 years before they can be certified organic (and keep very detailed records to prove how they grew their seeds and be inspected yearly).  
So, if you want to buy organic heirlooms, you need to make sure that it is labeled as such.  Just being a heirloom does not mean it was raised organically or vice versa.  You can also have organic hybrids.  
You cannot have organic GMO’s as no GMO can be labeled organic!
On a similar note, many are not sure what the difference is between natural and organic labels we see in the grocery store. 

Organic label in the store
It is pretty simple, nothing can be labeled organic that contains GMO’s and it is not raised and/or made with 100% organic inputs and certified as such.  If you want to be sure you are eating produce raised without any chemicals, buy organic.

All Natural label in the store
For meat, fish and produce, natural only means that no artificial or synthetic ingredients have been added to it after it was butchered (for meat/fish) or harvested.  It gives you no information on how it was raised.  It can be GMO (70-90% of what is labeled as “natural” contains GMO’s).  It can be raised using synthetic fungicides, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.  It can be from factory farm animals.  Natural refers only to what is added to after it was raised and harvested.  In terms of produce, it can be covered in pesticides and herbicides.  If buying non-organic produce, be sure to clean thoroughly.

The majority of non-organic packaged foods have also been found to contain pesticides and herbicides.  USDA study shows 85% of foods tested contain pesticides

So that is a quick summary of what each term means.  Organic has gotten more affordable in the last few years.  It is also pretty easy to grow a lot of what you eat during the spring, summer and fall.  A mini greenhouse is needed for getting winter harvests.  Growing your own you know exactly how it was raised, saves money, and is more nutritious since you pick and eat!  Another good option is farmers markets and CSA's from farmers that you trust.  That also helps small farmers and the local economy.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Natural, organic pest strategies and how to make your own bug sprays


Cucumber beetle
Monday, August 13, 2018

There are good bugs and then there are the bugs that eat up your harvest or give your plants diseases.  You have to be extremely careful in applying any insecticides (bug killers) as they will kill off the beneficial insects (like bees) that pollinate your veggies and increase your harvests.

The best approach is to let nature take its course.  If you have bad bugs, the good bugs will quickly follow and provide equilibrium in the garden.  When I went organic, there was significant reductions in bad bug pressure by the second year.  I did several things to help accelerate the balance.  I purchased good bugs to release in the garden, planted flowers that deter bad bugs and attract pollinators, applied milky spore strategically, attracted birds to the garden, and used natural sprays and powders judiciously as a last resort judiciously.

You can purchase beneficial insects via mail order or some nurseries carry them.  If you go this route, be sure to release them immediately.  If ordering on line, be sure that you will be at home when they are delivered so that you can get them released that day.
Edible garden filled with returning zinnias and sunflowers
You can encourage good bugs by planting flowers either around your vegetable patch or actually with your vegetables.  I have my vegetable garden actually in my flower garden.  Marigolds are a bad bug deterrent so I added these all around the flower beds.  My flower garden is in bloom from spring all the way through fall.  Many varieties are also edible like the day-lilies, borage, and roses. 
Flowers that are edible

To encourage birds to your yard plant trees, shrubs and flowers that attract birds.  Keeping a bird bath with shrubs nearby so the birds can hide in the shrubs is a great way to get birds into your yard.  We also have a bird feeder that keeps a steady stream of birds at the edge of our garden.  We get an occasional peck on the tomatoes, but this is minor compared to the entertainment of watching the birds and their help in pest control!
Chickens free ranging
This year we also got chicks in April and keets in June.  We let the chickens free range in the evening.  We tried letting them go on their own, but they quickly discovered the garden and how tasty squash and tomatoes were!  Now we only let them out when we can watch them.  The guineas are not yet old enough to let free range.  They are reported to not touch the veggies and love insects so we will give them a try in about another month.
Using a garden hose to dose down the insects can be a good strategy; just make sure that you are not watering a plant’s leaves that are susceptible to fungal diseases such as tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, roses or peonies.  

Manual removal of bad bugs can be very effective.  Just go insect and catepillar hunting and pull off the insects and throw them into a bowl with soap and water.

For Japanese beetles, I use an attractor that is quite a distance from the vegetable garden.  They love roses so I go hunting for them on our roses every day.  We also applied milky spore to keep the grub population down around the roses so we have fewer adults in the summer.  Milky spore is a microscopic bacteria that takes a couple of years to be effective so get started today.  I saw a huge difference in the Japanese beetle population by applying milky spore around my roses.  I am not seeing many Japanese beetles in my garden now so I am not using an attractor.

For ants, you have to control the aphids.  A recipe for catching the ants and aphids:  2 cups of vinegar, 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water in a gallon jug with a lid.  Drill 3 small holes in the lid, large enough for the ants and aphids, but too small for a little bee.  Place in trouble areas.

One non-chemical approach I really like is diatomaceous earth.  It is a white powder of tiny aquatic fossils.  The fossils have tiny rough edges that we cannot feel or see, but cut the insects outer "skin" causing dehydration and killing the insect.  Again, DE doesn't know a good from bad bug so use carefully.  I would use DE only sparingly and not on any flowering plants to spare the bees.

If you are unfortunate enough to have grasshoppers, DE is a good option.  Here is a link to other strategies for these ancient pests  Natural control of grasshoppers

Lately, I have had extensive caterpillar pressure on my sprouting broccoli plants (last year they were also very happy on all my broccoli plants).  I tried the "let my garden come into balance" but that hasn't yielded results.  I have tried the caterpillar hunting, but am still seeing my sprouting broccoli be ravished.  The best thing to have done was to not grow any broccoli plants this year so that their favorite food would not be around.  These plants came back in their pots this year from last year.  Crop rotation is key to keeping pests at a minimum!  Crop rotation made easy for small gardens

For caterpillars, BT dust is a good option.  The caterpillars ingest it as they are eating the plant and they eventually die.  This is my next move!  Make sure to dust the undersides of leaves so that first rain or dew wash off the dust.  You can get a "puffer" that you can put powder in to dust the undersides.  You just fill it up and compress the container and it "puffs" out the dust.  Much easier than turning each leaf upside down to dust!  I bought mine on Amazon and it was called "pest pistol mini duster".  I imagine it is going to take a few rounds to get them under control.

Here is a nice reference for caterpillar identification  Caterpillar identification.   You can check to see if the caterpillar munching on your parsley is a bad bug or a Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar.

Here are some make your own insect deterrents.  Make sure you test on a few leaves to insure that it won’t adversely affect the plant you are trying to protect.
All purpose spray.  1 garlic bulb, 1 onion, 1 teas dry cayenne pepper, 1 teas liquid soap, 1 quart of water.  Mix water, garlic, pepper and onion together in a food processer, let steep an hour or so, drain through cheesecloth, add liquid soap and you are ready to spray away!
Hot pepper spray.  Good for repelling insects, squirrels, rabbits, and other curious mammals.  1 cup of hot peppers in a quart of water.  Mix in food processor, strain through a cheesecloth and you are ready to use.  Be careful to not get the liquid on your hands and then touch your eyes or mouth.  It will burn.
Tomato-leaf spray.  This is toxic to soft bodied insects like aphids.  It also attracts beneficial wasps.  Take the leaves off the bottom of your tomato plant, 2 cups.  Put in food processor with 1.5 quarts of water.  Let steep overnight, strain out leaves.  Spray on affected leaves, especially the undersides where they like to hide.

If you are just overrun with the bad bugs, you can look on OMRI web site to see what the organic insecticides are:  OMRI approved list  I use Safer Insecticidal Soap, Neem Oil, and Bt for my indoor plants.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

What's happening in the August garden

Garden in the morning
Sunday, August 12, 2018

August sees the full swing of the summer, warm season garden harvests.  Late sweet corn (plant corn in succession and different varieties to lengthen the harvest), summer squashes (like zucchini), peppers of all types (sweet to hot, hot), tomatoes, Mediterranean herbs, cucumbers, okra, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, beans, melons, figs, eggplant, honey, artichokes, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, onion, and fennel are all in season in the Midwest.  

This year for warm season veggies, I am growing zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, greens, sprouting broccoli, Egyptian walking onions, eggplant, cucumbers, goji berry, green beans, and stevia.  I planted my zucchini late and it has not started to produce yet.  For zucchini, it is a good idea to replant at the beginning of August to keep the harvest going.  Many do the same with tomatoes.  I did plant 3 tomatoes later and they all look really healthy.

If you are not growing summer veggies in your own garden, your local farmers market is a great place to pick up these seasonal veggies to either eat or preserve.  The best buy on any fruit or vegetable is when it is in season.  You can get even better deals on any produce that has a few blemishes which have no effect on the flavor.  If you are going to can, freeze or dry them, just be sure to remove any blemishes first.

I pick what to have in our garden based on the harvest per foot of garden space needed.  Our garden is incorporated into the flower garden mulch bed and in pots, so we have to be choiceful on what to grow.

In pots, we have had great luck with  Egyptian walking onions (which can be harvested year round), peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, greens, fig, columnar apple, passion flower, sweet bay, greens, mint, goji berry, lettuce and celery.

I harvested the winter squash I grew in the last week, spaghetti squash.  
Spaghetti squash sitting on hummingbird vine
I have tried sweet and hot peppers in pots and the garden.  Overall, they seem to do the best in pots.  I am growing a couple of hot peppers-a pequin type, cayenne, Jalapeño, and Ancho.  I’ll use the tiny peppers in my season salt I make, the cayenne for hot sauce, Jalapeño in salsa, and the Ancho for chili powder.

My sweet peppers are doing well.  I  have gotten many peppers off my Pimento and several off the sweet pepper plants.  I planted all my peppers very late this year so they are doing well for how long they have been growing.

My first summer squash died from the vine borer.  Plant after June 1 to miss this insect.  The zucchini Cocozelle was planted later.  It is huge and has many blooms but no fruits yet.

I have one tomato in a pot that stays small.  Look for compact varieties if growing in a pot or in limited space in the garden.  Weekly care for plants in the ground is sufficient.  A pot with a water reservoir in the bottom is the best solution for lengthening the time between waterings when growing in pots.

I grow all of our herbs in the ground except sweet bay.  Sweet bay is a tender perennial and will not survive winters outside so I keep it in a pot to bring in each fall.    I had one last year that was supposed to be hardy in our zone and it didn’t make it.  I put my new ones in pots and will overwinter them in our unheated garage this winter.  Fall is a good time to plant perennial herbs.

Rosemary is also tender.  I have tried the several varieties that are supposed to be able to survive a Midwest winter and have yet to find one that will last past 2 seasons.  I have tried to also keep in a pot and bring in each winter, but have not had good luck with this approach, but many do.  So, this is an herb I will buy each spring if overwintering does not work out, plant in the garden, then preserve for the winter by harvesting late in the season and drying.

Flowers are doing great right now in the garden.  The zinnias, marigolds, dahlias, Hummingbird vine, and Cock's Comb are putting on a big show.
Red zinnia
A quick reminder, save the seeds from your best performers to plant next year.  You can replant seeds from any heirlooms or open pollinated plants.  Not only does it save you money, but it also gives you the plants that do the best under your garden and zone conditions.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Harvesting winter squash

Butternut squash
Saturday, August 11, 2018

It is winter squash harvest time!  
Winter squash are ready to harvest after the vine completely dies in late summer or fall.  Be sure to harvest your fruits before it gets too cold.  A frost or two is the max cold to leave them out in.  Definitely don't let them  sit through a freeze.

Squash originated in Mexico.  There are cave drawings from 8000 to 6500 BC depicting squash. Squash was grown extensively by Native Americans as part of the “Three Sisters”-squash, corn and beans.  Winter squash is chock full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber  Winter squash-one of the world's healthiest foods


Winter squash are those that take until late summer into fall to ripen and can be stored inside for months.  They include butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, Hubbards, turbans and pumpkins.  Each vine does not produce many fruits.  We typically get 3 butternut or spaghetti squash off our vines, which is a decent yield.

Spaghetti squash sitting on Hummingbird vine
Winter squash is left on the vine until the vine dies and the fruit loses its sheen.
You should be able to poke the squash with your fingernail and it should just dent it, not puncture the skin.  Be sure to leave 2-4” of stem attached when you harvest.  Place in a warm, sunny place to allow the skin to toughen.  Then, store in a cool, dark location until ready to eat.

There are some amazingly diverse and cool winter squashes/pumpkins, from the bumpy and blue hubbards, to traditional pear shaped butternut to the exotic "turban" squash, so named because of the hat it appears to be wearing............  

Depending on the variety of winter squash, it can store well for months.   Butternut and spaghetti squash are long lasting common winter squash.   I have eaten butternut squash into June the following year! 
Acorn squash sitting in the window sill to toughen the skin
If you decide you want to grow winter squash next year, here are some tips.

Since it originated in a temperate zone, winter squash requires a long growing season.  It is best to start them indoors in the spring. Squash love organic matter and warm temperatures.  If you throw a few seeds in your compost pile, you will be rewarded with exuberant vines.
Plant when nighttime temps are 55F or warmer.  Add a fertilizer rich in phosphorous a week after transplanting, when flowers first appear and again when fruits begin to form.  They love water, too.  If growing in a pot, keep well watered and don’t let dry out.  Summer garden tips
Don’t panic when the first blooms fall off without producing any fruits.  There are male and female flowers.  If yours falls off, it was likely a poor guy that withered without the love a gal.  There can also be some false starts with malformed fruits.  Don’t worry, the plant will put on more blooms.  Everything you need to know to grow squash