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Turkey Tips

Thanksgiving dinner. Roasted turkey with pumpkins and sunflowers on wooden table

Are you planning on preparing a Turkey for Thanksgiving?  Planning ahead can make the traditional Thanksgiving meal safer and less stressful.  Here are some tips from your local County Extension Office to help make this year’s holiday meal a success.

Before purchasing your turkey, make sure you have ample space in your refrigerator.  Turkeys look smaller at the grocery store, so be careful not to underestimate the size of your bird.  Think about using a cooler to thaw and store your turkey.  The turkey should be kept on ice and should stay 40°F or below to prevent bacteria from growing.  Storing the turkey in a cooler will free up space in your refrigerator and will help keep the raw turkey juices from contaminating other items in your refrigerator.

Thawing and handling

Never defrost turkey on the counter! Turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water. The refrigerator method is the safest and will result in the best finished product. Leave the bird in the original packaging and place in a shallow pan and allow refrigerator thawing time at a rate of 4 to 5 pounds per 24 hours. To thaw in cold water, keep turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink or pan and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze. If buying a fresh turkey, purchase it only 1 to 2 days before the meal and keep it refrigerated or on ice.  Once thawed, remove neck and giblets from the body cavities and keep bird and parts refrigerated at 40 °F or below until it is ready to be cooked.

Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling the turkey.

Cooking and stuffing

The single most important thing to know about cooking a turkey, no matter the cooking method, is that the turkey must be cooked to the proper internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. An unstuffed turkey will generally take 14 to 20 minutes per pound to cook and a stuffed turkey will take additional time.

Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it’s placed in the oven at 325°F. Mix the wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing separately and combine just before using. Stuff the turkey loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey. Bake any extra stuffing in a greased casserole dish. Cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing and dressing recipes must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 °F. (For optimum safety and more even cooking, it’s recommended to cook your stuffing in a casserole dish.)

Take the temperature!  Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.  If the turkey is done and the stuffing is not yet 165 °F, remove the stuffing from the turkey and place it in a greased casserole dish to continue cooking to temperature.


Size of Turkey Cooking Time Size of Turkey Cooking Time
Unstuffed  Stuffed
8 to 12 pounds 2 ¾ to 3 hours 8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 ½ hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours 12 to 14 pounds 3 ½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours 14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4 ¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours 18 to 20 pounds 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 ½ to 5 hours 20 to 24 pounds 4 ¾ to 5 ¼ hours

Safe carving and serving

It’s best to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to set, so the turkey will carve more easily. Use a clean cutting board that has a well to catch juices. Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavity. Make sure your knife is sharp before you start carving. Do not leave any extra turkey, stuffing or other leftovers out for more than two hours.

Storing leftovers safely

Remove the stuffing and carve the extra turkey meat from the bones. Within two hours, store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or the freezer. Use cooked leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy within 3-4 days. Cooked turkey keeps for 3-4 months in the freezer. When using leftovers, reheat the foods thoroughly to 165 °F or until hot and steaming; bring gravy to a boil before serving.

For more information:  you can reach USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free at: 1-800-535-4555, Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 4 pm Eastern Time. It also will be open from 8 am to 2 pm ET on Thanksgiving Day.   Additional food safety information is available on the Web at http://www.fsis.usda.gov  You can also contact Angela Treadaway your Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety/Preservation/Preparation from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System  at #205-410-3696.

Happy Holidays from your County Extension staff!  We hope you have a safe and joyous season.


Turkey and Broccoli Quiche


2 (9 inch) ready-made piecrusts

4 eggs

1 cup low-fat or skim milk

¾ cup low-fat cheddar cheese

¾ cup cooked, chopped turkey

1 (10 ounce) package frozen, chopped broccoli

¼ cup carrots, shredded

¼ cup finely chopped onion

¾ cup teaspoon garlic salt

Pepper to taste



  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake piecrust according to package directions.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Cook broccoli according to package directions. Pour off liquid.  Let broccoli cool; squeeze broccoli to remove some more water.  Make sure broccoli is well drained.
  4. Layer the turkey, vegetables and cheese into baked piecrust. Pour the egg mixture over the ingredients.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes or until top is brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Makes 12 servings | calories 270 | total fat 16 g | saturated fat 6 g | protein 16 g | carbohydrates 17 g | fiber 2 g | sodium 450 mg


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!


Catfish Recipes – More Than One Way










When people think of catfish they automatically think of fried catfish. Delicious, fried catfish can become tiring after eating it over and over again. These catfish recipes put a new spin on catfish and give you a variety of options to choose from.

Catfish Gumbo


1 pound skinned catfish fillets, fresh or frozen

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

½ cup chopped green pepper

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 beef bouillon cubes

2 cups boiling water

1 1 pound can tomato

1 10 ounce package frozen okra, sliced

2 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper ¼ teaspoon thyme

1 whole bay leaf

Hot red pepper sauce, to taste

1 ½ cups hot cooked rice


Thaw fillets if frozen. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Cook celery, green pepper, onion and garlic in oil until tender. Dissolve bouillon cubes in water. Add bouillon, tomatoes, okra and seasonings. Cover and simmer 15 minutes longer or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove bay leaf. Place ¼ cup cooked rice in each of six soup bowls. Fill with gumbo. Serves 6.

Lemon Pepper Catfish  


1 ½ pound catfish fillets

2 tablespoons melted margarine or butter

1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning

Salt, to taste


Clean, wash and dry fish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place fish in a single layer in an oiled baking dish. Drizzle butter over the fillets and sprinkle with lemon pepper. Bake 16 to 18 minutes. Fillets are done when a fork slices through the thickest part of the fillet with little resistance and the fish flakes easily

Comment: Lemon Pepper Catfish cooks well in a microwave oven. Use a microwave-safe dish. Very thin ends of fillets can be turned under to lessen the chance of overcooking. Cover with waxed paper and cook on high for 5 to 7 minutes per pound. Rotate the dish a quarter turn during cooking.

Grilled Catfish


6 or 8 whole catfish (about ½ pound each, dressed)

1.4 cup oil or melted margarine

Barbecue sauce for the Catfish

½ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup ketchup

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard


Rinse catfish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place on oiled grill rack four inches above hot coals. Cook 6 to 8 minutes on each side, basting regularly with oil. Larger fish will require longer time. Fish flakes easily when done. Season with salt, pepper and lemon or use the following barbecue sauce. Serve immediately.

Variation: For barbecued catfish, combine ingredients for barbecue sauce and pour over catfish in a shallow glass dish. Cover and marinate in refrigerator and cook as above, basting frequently with marinade sauce. Serve with additional sauce, if desired.


Featured Image: msaandy033/shutterstock.com


 The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Planting Blueberries This Fall










Blueberries are a healthy, delicious fruit. They can be baked into muffins and breads, added to cereal or eaten out of hand. They are one of the few plants that offer beauty and taste throughout most of the year. Rabbiteye blueberries are one of the easiest fruit for homeowners to grow.

Planting Blueberries

Being native to the Southeastern United States, the rabbiteye blueberry is tolerant of the high temperatures of the region. It is found growing wild in southern Georgia, Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

The best time to plant blueberries is in late fall through late winter. Around the time the plant blooms, late-season frost or freeze can occur. The plant should be put in a place where it will be the least susceptible to frost damage.

Elina Coneva, an Alabama Extension specialist in commercial horticulture, said cross-pollination is needed to produce a good berry crop and takes place when more than one cultivar of blueberries is planted.

“By selecting several cultivars with various period of ripening, you can spread out the length of your harvest season,” Coneva said. “Blueberries on the same bush do not ripen all at once. One cultivar may have berries that mature over a four-to six-week period.”

Coneva said choosing the right site for planting is important.

“If you want your blueberry plant to produce a lot of fruit, select a site that is in full sun,” Coneva said. “Choose a site with well-aerated, well-drained soil high in organic matter.”


Growers should space plants at least 5 feet apart in a row. This will produce a hedgerow or border as the plants mature. If planting several rows of blueberries, growers should space them at least 10 to 12 feet apart. There are a few important things to remember when planting:

  • Plant blueberries at the same depth they were grown in their containers.
  • Do not pile soil on the base of the trunk.
  • When planting an individual plant, make the hole at least twice as wide as the root ball.
  • Add some form of organic matter to the soil in the planting hole or row. Compost is best, but finely ground pine bark will work, too.
  • Thoroughly mix organic matter into the planting hole.

Soil Requirements

Blueberries need an acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.2.

“If you are planting blueberries as a landscape shrub, combine them with other plants that thrive in acidic soil, such as azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias,” Coneva said.

Watering is crucial after planting, especially during the first year of growth.

“Water the plants thoroughly at planting and twice weekly for the first year until they are established. It is better to water the plants for a longer time once or twice per week than for a short time each day,” Coneva said. “Because blueberry plants have the ability to retract water from berries, adequate moisture, particularly during fruit production, is essential to producing plump, juicy berries.”

More Information

Alabama Extension has the publication Rabbiteye Blueberries that goes into detail about growing rabbiteye blueberries. For further information, contact your county Extension office.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Helpful Tips for Gathering and Storing Pecans










Fall is the time when pecan crops are ready to be harvested. This comes at the perfect time to use pecans to create the Fall recipes that we love. But, before people can use them in recipes, they have to be gathered and stored. An Extension professional offer tips for gathering and storing pecans.


“Harvest your pecans promptly for best quality,” said Doug Chapman, an Alabama Extension regional agent in commercial horticulture. “Don’t let them lie on wet ground for extended periods of time. “

This process improves the quality of the nuts until they reach their optimum appearance, aroma, flavor and texture. If nuts get wet after initial drying, the seed coat will darken and the oil in the kernel increases the fatty acid levels. This condition causes nuts to be stale and rancid.

After gathering, take pecans to a dry location inside. Drying is one of the most important steps in assuring a high-quality appearance and flavor in pecans. If possible, spread pecans out in a dry, moderately warm place and dry several days before storing. Refrigerate or freeze pecans when they are dried to a crisp texture.

Crack and shell your pecans as soon as possible. Shelled pecans can also be frozen until you are ready to use them.


Pecans stored below freezing can keep for two years. Make sure kernels are dried properly before freezing. Lay the nuts out several days in a warm, dry place. Kernels should be crisp and break easily in half if dried properly.

Don’t store pecans in packages with apples or other fruits. Also, don’t store them in rubber-like packages or in rooms that may be musty. Pecans absorb gases from the storage atmosphere, which can change the flavor and the pecan’s stability.

Caring for Pecan Trees in the Fall

If you need to apply lime or zinc to pecan trees, fall is a good time to do so. Soil testing will provide detailed instructions on fertilizing and liming. Clean up and destroy pops, shucks, leaves and limbs to reduce pest problems. If trees have lost their leaves by Nov. 1 because of aphids, downy spot, pecan scab or other damage, expect to see a reduced pecan crop next year.

More Information

Alabama Extension has the publication, Pecans–Keep Them Fresh Year Round, that discusses a variety of topics on pecans. For more information contact your county Extension office.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!












Question: Fall is finally upon us, and thankfully so. As I spend more time outdoors, enjoying the almost perfect weather, I have noticed that the leaves are beginning to fall.  How can I put these leaves to use in my landscape or garden?

Answer: Composting is simply the acceleration of the natural process of decomposition.  A process that could take years to occur in nature is compressed into a period of months, and in some cases, even weeks in the yard or garden.  The key to successful composting is maintaining the proper balance of all components involved. Have you thought about starting a compost bin? Composting is fast becoming a growing trend for homeowners, and thankfully so. Alabama produces around 2.6 million tons of solid waste every year.  Roughly 20 percent of that amount is made up of lawn and garden wastes – grass clippings, leaves, tree and/or shrub prunings, home garden refuse, and kitchen wastes.  The massive amount of solid waste produced in our state is creating disposal problems in landfills, and as a result, many disposal facilities have been forced to close.  While composting is not the only answer to this problem, it is an extremely important step in the right direction.

  • Water – 40 to 60 percent is the ideal moisture content range of the compost pile.  When squeezed, the compost should be moist, but not dripping wet.  Too much moisture results in a slowing of the decomposition process.
  • Carbon and Nitrogen – the ratio of carbon (plant residues) to nitrogen (manures, kitchen scraps, fertilizers) is very important.  The optimum ratio of carbon to nitrogen is about 30:1.  Too little nitrogen results in reduced microorganism numbers, causing a slowdown in the decomposition process.  Too much nitrogen rapidly increases microorganism growth, therefore speeding up decomposition, but can result in oxygen depletion and foul odors.
  • Temperature – as decomposition occurs, heat is generated.  In moderation, heat is beneficial because it destroys many disease organisms and weed seed.  However, temperatures above 140°F create an unsuitable environment for the microorganisms, and they begin to die.  Overheating can be prevented by turning the pile when temperatures begin to exceed recommended levels.

Beginning your compost pile is not difficult – it simply requires following a few fairly easy, but very important steps.  A successful compost pile is constructed of alternating layers of yard wastes, a source of nitrogen (if required), and soil or finished compost, which provides an inoculation of beneficial microorganisms.  You should start with a 6 inch base layer, consisting of coarse material, such as twigs or small branches.  Then add a 6 to 8 inch layer of leaves or grass clippings.  One note – other materials, such as wood chips, can be used in the place of leaves or grass clippings, but require the addition of fertilizer or manure to maintain the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio.  The final layer should consist of 1 to 2 inches of soil or finished compost.  Continue this layering pattern, omitting the base of coarse material, until the desired size is reached.  To achieve the proper internal temperature, a compost pile should be 3 to 4 feet tall.  The width of the pile can vary, but should be a size that can be easily managed, generally 3 to 4 feet.

While my comments are just a basic overview of the composting process,   I hope that I have made things a little less confusing and a lot less intimidating.  For more detailed information and answers to commonly asked composting questions, please check out the following links.  Happy gardening!




The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

The Whoo: Owls of Alabama










Have you ever been outside at night and heard a soft hoot coming out of the darkness? It was probably one of the several species of owls that call Alabama home. There are several things that people can look for to help identify what owl is hooting in their backyard.


Dr. Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist, said there are four species of owls commonly found in Alabama.

“These owls include great horned, barn, eastern screech and barred owls,” Armstrong said. “These owls are commonly found all over the Southeast.”

General Characteristics

Owls have several characteristics that make them excellent hunters. They have asymmetrical ear placement which allows them to use sound to find their prey. An owl’s eyes are located on the front of their face which allows them to focus on objects. Their feathers have slots that let wind pass through so they make no sound in flight. All of these things allow owls to capture prey easily.

Armstrong said that an owl’s diet depends on the species.

“Small owls, such as the screech owl, feed on everything from insects to mice,” Armstrong said. “Larger species, such as the barred owl or great horned owl, eat squirrels and rabbits, etc.”

Great Horned Owl 

Generally, when people picture an owl, they think of the great horned owl. One of the larger owls in Alabama, they have a wingspan of 48 to 60  inches and weigh between 2 and 3.8 pounds. They are brown with gray mottling on their back and breast and have white necks.

Armstrong said that great horned owls use a variety of habitats.

“Most great horned owls are seen in open woodlands or trees that have regrown after being cut, near agricultural fields, in swamps or in orchards,” Armstrong said. “Often, these owls take over old hawk or crow nests instead of building a nest.”

Great horned owls usually spend most of the day perched in a protected area or tree. They are active mostly in the early evening and early morning hours.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great resource for information on owls and other birds. To learn more about the great horned owl, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website.

Barn Owl

As their name implies, people often find barn owls in the loft of a barn. These owls only hunt at night and prefer open country land for hunting. Because they feed almost entirely on rodents, people often find them near old fields, farmyards, grain elevators and in any area that may attract mice and rats.

This owl has a white to light cream colored breast and belly and may have brown spots. Their back is pale-yellow with streaks of gray.


Armstrong said that barn owls have a distinct face.

“A barn owl’s face is white, with dark black eyes. Their face is heart shaped and their beak almost disappears in the feathers,”Armstrong said

To learn more about the barn owl, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website.

Eastern Screech Owl

Weighing in at only 2 ounces, the Eastern screech owl is the smallest owl in Alabama. Small but feisty describes it well. They are surprisingly aggressive for their size and can take down prey as large as themselves.

There are two different color phases in Eastern screech owls; red and gray.

The red color phase owls have a red-colored back with black streaks and an orange face. Gray color phase owls have white faces with brown spotting. Their backs are brownish-gray with white or brown streaks.

Armstrong said that unlike other owls, these do not build nests.

“Screech owls use natural cavities, eaves of buildings or old woodpecker cavities for nests,” Armstrong said. “People commonly find them in open woodlands, field edges and marsh edges.”

To learn more about the Eastern screech owl, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website.

Barred Owl


The most distinguishable thing about barred owls is their wide range of noises.

Armstrong said that people can often imitate these owls.

“Their most familiar noise is the hoot, which has five syllables and sounds like WHO COOKS FOR YOU, WHO COOKS FOR YOU ALL,” Armstrong said. “This call is easy to imitate and if done well, people will often get a return call from an owl.”

Barred owls commonly live in swamps and marshes. They may also been seen or head in wooded areas in neighborhoods. Because they are primarily nocturnal, they prefer thick forests where people will not disturb them during the day.

Barred owls nest in natural tree cavities or take over old hawk nests. They seldom build their own nest.

To learn more about the barred owl, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website.

For more information about owls and other birds of prey, download the Alabama Extension publication Southeastern Birds of Prey. Visit Alabama Extension online to download this publication for free.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Mums: The Flowers of Fall










With every fall comes the beautiful displays of pumpkins, gourds, natural foliage and of course chrysanthemums. Better known as mums, these flowers have a variety of vibrant colors including golden yellow, burnt orange, deep purple, bold crimson and snowy white. If properly cared for, they can provide color all fall long. An Extension professional provides tips on purchasing and caring for mums this fall.


There are more than 200 different varieties of mums, including annuals, perennials and small shrubs. Most people, however, associate mums with three types: reflex, pompon and spider mums.

Sallie Lee, an Alabama Extension regional agent in home grounds, gardens and home pests, said most mums are planted early in the year.

“Mums tend to make their debut every fall,” Lee said. “Most varieties are actually planted in the spring, but they are in their element later in the year.”

Planting Mums A close up of purple and yellow mums

Annual mums, also known as florist mums, are intended to be indoor plants. According to Lee, they can be planted in a sunny area but will not survive through winter.

“These are not hardy enough to last throughout the winter, especially in north Alabama,” Lee said. “Perennials on the other hand can overwinter if given a little extra treatment, such as mulching the root zones sufficiently.”

In-ground or perennial mums generally bloom longer if planted in the spring. They have access to more natural sunlight than those covered under a porch or inside a home.

Caring for Mums

If planting in-ground mums is not an option, buy a potted mum with lots of buds and not full blooms. It is tempting to buy them with buds already opened, but ones that have not blossomed will have a longer bloom period.

Access to moderate water in well-drained soil is they key to helping mums thrive. Before watering them, check the soil (in the ground or in pots) to make sure it is not too soggy. Soggy soil can lead to root rot.

Lee said that sunlight can affect the length of bloom time.

“Potted mums need indirect light rather than full sun,” said Lee. “Placing them in direct sunlight will encourage quicker blooms.”

Cooler temperatures also help sustain the bloom period, but in Alabama, there is no guarantee the weather will be cool.

Eventually, they start to lose their splendor, but don’t toss them out yet. If plants start wilting, it could be because of lack of water. Lee suggests giving them a slow, deep drink. Removing the spent blooms with your fingers or garden pruners also will encourage new blooms.

More Information Mums, pumpkins and hay bales.

Alabama Extension has a publication, Fall Garden Mum Production In Alabama. This publication is directed toward commercial mum production, but still offers valuable information for the public. For further information, contact your county Extension office and speak with a home grounds agent.


Featured Image: hutch photography/shutterstock.com

First In Text Image: AN NGUYEN/ shutterstock.com

Second In Text Image: Alexandar Iotzov/shutterstock.com


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Garden Talk: Fall and Winter Gardening: Getting Ready for the Change! By: Sallie Lee










Question: Give some suggestions now that [hopefully] our weather is moving toward “real” fall about what we can do in our gardens and yards. Is this a good time to plant things?  What about fertilizing my Bermuda grass lawn?  I don’t want to stop garden activities especially now that fall is here – how about some options?

Answer:  It’s that time of year when many of us are ready to put away shorts and tank tops in favor of long sleeves and blue jeans. In this area of Alabama, in addition to the return of Football season (War Eagle!), it’s also time for yards and gardens to receive a little end of season attention.  Work these activities into your pre-game warmup or post game cool down, so both your body and yard will benefit!

What goes with football?  Or any other activity such as gardening or yard work in which muscles are utilized? Backs and shoulders in particular need protecting; muscles need to be warmed up and stretched out just as athletes do preparing for competition!

What activities are going to benefit our gardens and our bodies?  Raking leaves for use in compost or as mulch not only means we get for free what nature has so generously provided us, but we burn approximately 150 calories an hour. Depending on how many leaves are raked, once the task is completed we have exercised, cleaned up our lawns, and added a carbon source to the compost pile.  Soil amendment for flower beds and veggie gardens, right from our own back yard!

Why not plant cool-season annuals in colors of your favorite team? Either in-ground or  containers, mums (chrysanthemums), sage, aster, ornamental kale, pansies and verbena are available in a range of colors and growth habits.  So remove the tired, sad plants to your compost pile and let them become ingredients in next spring’s garden soil!  Nature loves to recycle; we can do the same by putting leaves from our trees into our flower beds and gardens instead of purchasing the same material in bags from a retail store!

Want to make changes to your landscape by moving, removing, or adding plants?  After the first kickoff of the season, start planning to plant!  Many plant sales occur during September and October, perfect for those wanting to purchase and install trees, shrubs  and bulbs that will flower next spring.  Cooler days make establishing root systems easier on plants, but keep in mind they’ll still need water to survive.  And while you’re digging holes, “dig” that about 100 calories per 15 minutes are burned off, helping to keep those game day snacks from inflating our midriffs!

Got weeds?  If you’re a gardener of any sort, you know weeds are part of life in the garden or yard.  Hand weeding is worth about 240 calories burned an hour, is the most environmentally friendly form of weeding, and makes us appreciate the tenacity of unwelcome plants.  Using a pre-emergent herbicide helps prevent cool season weeds from popping up, but it has to be applied early enough to suppress them, and we don’t get to work off those cheese Doritos!

Weeding, composting, mulching, planting, transplanting – all timely activities to embrace between ball games.  However, fertilizing our lawns is not recommended for our area unless you want bigger, healthier weeds! As our warm-season turf grasses go dormant, we can mow one last time, compost the clippings, and winterize the lawnmower. But back off “feeding” your warm season turf grass at this point.

Pruning is also good exercise, so save the calories burned with that activity until after football season is over.  While we’re trying to get back in shape after watching all those games, and get our landscapes in shape for the spring, work off about 170 calories an hour starting in mid- to- late February if plants bloom in spring.  For plants that bloom early, like forsythia (Yellow bells) and some azaleas, prune them right after they stop flowering.

Stretch to check any materials, including pesticides, stored on shelves.  Be sure they are in weather –and – child- proof containers, preferably in locked cabinets or rooms. One of those situations where an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, chemicals used to treat lawn and garden pests need to be handled with the respect they deserve.

Enjoy the fall and winter seasons, whether burning calories working in your yard or consuming a few watching football games.  Balance the watching and working, both your body and your yard will be in better shape!







Courtesy http://www.greenphillyblog.com/philly/set-your-leaves-to-the-curb-starting-monday-philly/


“Garden Talk is written by Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Sallie at leesall@auburn.edu or call 205-879-6964 x11. 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

Cooking with Pumpkin


Right now the pumpkins and winter squash are ripe and ready. Pumpkin and winter squash are a rich source of Vitamin A as well as fiber. Other nutrients you get from pumpkin include potassium, folic acid, copper, iron, and riboflavin. One cup of cooked solidly packed pumpkin/squash has only about 80 calories!

While it is much easier to use canned pumpkin, you can use fresh pumpkin and squash that you have cooked and pureed for your favorite recipes. There are several varieties of winter squash available including butternut, Hubbard, turban, buttercup, acorn, banana, mammoth, sweet dumpling, and the pumpkin.





Follow these tips for easy and safe pumpkin cooking:

  • Choose pumpkin or squash that has a bright colored skin, is firm and heavy for its size, with no damaged areas. Smaller pumpkins/squash may produce better products.
  • To use, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Place it cut side down in a baking dish and bake in a moderate (350 degree) oven until the pulp is soft. Let it cool slightly and then scoop the flesh out of the shell. You can puree it in a blender or food processor to make a smoother product and it is ready for pies, pumpkin bread, cookies or other product made with pumpkin puree.
  • To freeze pumpkin, first rinse the outer rind with cold water. Then cut into cooking-size sections and remove seeds. Cook until soft in boiling water, in steam, in a pressure cooker or in an oven. Remove pulp from rind and mash. To cool, place pan containing pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally. Package, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal, label container and freeze. Freeze in quantities that can be used at one time, for example, enough for one or two pumpkin pies.
  • Thaw pumpkin and squash in the refrigerator – not on the counter- before using.
  • To can pumpkin, you must can the pumpkin in chunks. Wash the pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut into 1-inch slices and peel then cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes. Add the cubes to a saucepot of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes, do not mash or puree. Pack the hot cubes into hot jars leaving 1-inch of headspace. Fill the jar to within 1-inch of the top with boiling hot cooling liquid. Remove air bubbles, wipe the jar rims, adjust the lids and process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure – 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
  • When you are ready to use the pumpkin, drain off most of the liquid and mash or puree and use as you would commercially canned pumpkin.
  • Check stored pumpkins occasionally and discard any that become soft or moldy

Orange Date Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup al-purpose flour

2 tsp backing powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 large seedless orange, scrubbed and cut into 8 sections(peel left on)

1 large egg

1 large egg white

2/3 cup fresh unseasoned pumpkin puree

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup honey

3 Tbsp canola oil

¾ cup pitted dates, chopped

3 Tbsp chopped walnuts or pecans


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 12 standard muffin cups with cooking spray.

Whisk flours, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon in a large bowl.  Puree orange sections in a food processor or blender.  Add egg, egg white, pumpkin, sugar, honey and oil and process until mixed good.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients: add the wet ingredients and dates.  Stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with nuts.  Bake the muffins until the tops spring back when touched lightly approx. 18-20 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 5 min and empty out onto wire rack to cool before serving.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!


Community Gardens Workshop











Starting and Sustaining a Garden in Your Community

How Does Your Garden Grow?

This workshop is intended for groups in the initial steps of development as well as seasoned gardeners who would like practical “best practices” for achieving optimum gardening results.  The speakers will address a wide range of issues  from legal considerations in obtaining and using garden property to planning and maintaining a garden over time.

When:  Thursday, October 25th, 2018 9:00 AM-3:00 PM

Where:  2612 Lane Park Road Birmingham, AL.

More Information: 

The day-long workshop will cost $20 per person or $15 per person for two or more individuals from the same organization.  Seating is limited, so please register ASAP.

To register online: https://www.smore.com/cersj-community-gardens










9:00-9:15 Welcome

9:15-10:00 Land Ownership, Funding and Liability

10:00- 10:45 Garden Oversight: Leadership and Succession

10:45-11:00 Break

11:00-11:45 Siting the Garden & Choosing Crops

11:45-12:45 Lunch and Lessons Learned (panel discussion)

12:45-1:00 Break

1:00-1:45 Resources & Stakeholders

1:45-2:30 Trouble-Shooting

2:30-3:00 Questions & Feedback


More Information please contact:

Sallie Lee, leesall@aces.edu 205-879-6964 x 11

Bethany O’Rear, bethany@aces.edu 205-612-9524


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!