Reader Ray from Chilton, Wisconsin, has shared a brilliant idea on an easy way to attract bees and bumblebees with fast-growing radishes! Here’s the method he has devised:

“Your recent column on helping pollinators prompts me to share an anecdotal experience verified over the past 10 plus years — one that I hope you’ll be willing to share in writing or in talking to others with similar interests.

“My experience since the mid-2000s has been noticing how bumble and honey bees love radish blossoms. To attract the bees, growers should plant several varieties of radish and let some of them go to flower. This should happen by mid to late June in most areas.

“Most of the radish that the bees love in my growing plots are volunteer plants from the seeds of the previous season. Those seeds will be ripe by mid-August. Then they should be rubbed out of their pods onto open soil and perhaps raked to obtain better seed to soil contact. They’ll then grow into the wonderful radish such as those I enjoy in October and early November every year.

“The ideal situation is to have cross-pollination of several radish varieties at the start of the season. I achieved my seed base through cross-pollination with the Spanish winter radish (those with the black skin and fairly large bulbs). To ensure a year to year crop, save some of the seed heads during the winter and plant or just scatter them in the spring. I find it a perfect way to support the bees and to have absolutely excellent cross-pollinated radish in the autumn.”

And as a reminder from Bev, early-season dandelions, creeping charlie and violets provide vital nourishment for early pollinators.

I don’t have room to grow pumpkins so we buy them from local farmers during the great pumpkin harvest in October. Mostly we make jack-o-lanterns from them, but I have also tried making pumpkin pies. The pies never turn out very good. Do you know what the problem might be?

Pumpkin farmers generally grow pumpkins bred to be the size and shape needed for making jack-o-lanterns. Taste is not of prime concern, although these pumpkins can work well in a pumpkin soup. If you are looking to make pies, bread, or puddings, look instead for a pumpkin listed as a “sugar pumpkin” or a “pie pumpkin.” Large jack-o-lantern farms might not have these varieties but farmer’s markets probably will. Once you have the right variety, instead of steaming or simmering it, roast or bake it for the driest flesh. After roasting, if the flesh is still wetter than you like, let it drain in a cheesecloth-lined sieve for an hour or more to help dry it out. Save the drained liquid. It’s tasty and nutritious. For the absolute best-tasting “pumpkin” pie, use butternut squash instead. Substitute cooked and pureed squash for pumpkin cup for cup. You will end up with the sweetest and tastiest pie ever.

What’s the best way to store pumpkins for use in the winter?

This brief article from Oregon State University https://tinyurl.com/y3nkxkob is the best piece I have seen on storing winter squashes and pumpkins. Many sites tell you that the squash must be cured for several weeks at 85 degrees and that is impossible in our climate. This piece confirms my experience that well-stored pumpkins and squash cure at their proper storage temperature of 50-55 degrees. While the article says to discard any squashes that have started to deteriorate, I always cut out the bad spot and eat them. I have never worried too much about humidity, and my squash have always done fine.

Beverly Carney can be reached at cultivatingcountry@gmail.com.