How to Save the Last Tomatoes

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Go ahead and let the tears flow... September marks the beginning of the end of tomato season! Deciding whether to pick the green tomatoes left on the vine, or risk getting hit by the frost, is a difficult choice. And while some Fall days can be warmer than others, once the days begin to shorten and remain cool, you will need to take some precautions to prevent losing your final tomato harvest. Here are some tips to get those last stubborn green tomatoes to ripen on the vine.

  1. Remove any diseased leaves and dispose of them.
  2. Give your tomato plants a last dose of food.
  3. Once night time temperatures start dipping into the low 70s F., you probably aren’t going to get any new fruits forming. To speed up ripening of the existing green tomatoes, pinch off any new flowers.
  4. If a light frost is predicted, cover your plants with a row cover.
  5. If you still have green tomatoes well into Fall, you can take the entire plant and hang it in a dry, sheltered location, like the garage. The fruits will continue to ripen and will still have some of the benefits of ripening on the vine. Try and take some roots with the plant, but shake off any soil. Do not want to hang the plants in direct sunlight or total darkness.

Raf's Garden Tips: Summer Vegetable Garden

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It’s late Spring and already time to start planning for the summer kitchen garden!  We are eager to enjoy some homegrown, fresh vegetables. You want to be ready as soon as the conditions are right to plant your favorites such as tomatoes, corn, and okra. 

These plants are a few of what are referred to as warm season vegetables that require long days and warm temperatures to thrive.  Unlike spring varieties such as lettuce and broccoli, warm season vegetables sulk in cold soil and can’t tolerate a frost. They also need longer periods of sunlight.

Here are some popular Summer vegetables to grow...
Bush Beans – Beans are easy to grow from seed. Direct sow them in the garden after the soil temperature has warmed to 60 degrees F. Sow seeds every 3 weeks for a continuous harvest. Stop sowing about 8 weeks before the first fall frost date. Bush beans do not require staking. Beans are shallow rooted so be careful when working the soil around the plants.

Corn – Corn requires a lot of space to grow and the pollination must be just right. There are few vegetables that are as tasty fresh from the garden so it’s worth the effort. Corn relies on wind to carry pollen from the tassels to the silks on immature ears. To increase the chances of pollination it is best to plant corn in a square of short rows. Space plants about 1 foot apart. Feed at planting with a general organic fertilizer and again when tassels begin to form. Water consistently and regularly. Corn is shallow rooted so water diligently, especially during dry weather.

Cucumbers – Cucumbers need full sun, at least an inch of water per week, rich soil and pollinating insects to produce. Pick fruits regularly so that the vines will continue to produce. Bush varieties are suitable for containers, but if you have the space try vining types because they will produce more fruit. Just be sure to support vining cucumbers with a trellis.

Eggplant –Eggplant require lots of sunshine and warm, well-drained soil. In spite of their love of heat, once in the garden, eggplants like cool, moist roots. Mulch the ground with straw and keep it moist but not soggy.

Okra – Okra loves hot weather, rich soil and full sun. Treat them like your mother’s best china when you plant seedlings because the roots are very delicate. Pick pods when they become 3 to 4 inches long. If they are allowed to over mature, the plants will stop producing. The over-ripe, tough pods are great for adding interest to cut flower arrangements.

Peppers – Give them full sun, well-drained soil and consistent moisture. Feed with an organic fertilizer after the plants begin to flower and set fruit. Sweet peppers and bell peppers planted in hot climates may not begin to produce until weather cools in late summer.

Summer Squash and Zucchini – Prepare your beds before planting with a generous amount of compost or well-rotted manure and an application of an all-purpose fertilizer such as 13-13-13. Gather squash when they are young and tender. Old, large fruits with tough skins should be removed from the vine and thrown away. This will encourage more flowers and fruit.

Tomatoes – Tomatoes need 6 to 8 hours of full sun. Get your stakes or trellises in place when you plant. Plant tomatoes deep; bury at least two-thirds of the plant’s stem. This will give the plant strong roots and better fruiting. If the plants start looking worse for wear toward the end of summer, cut back for a new flush of growth.