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September 2011: Garden Tip of the Month

From Linda Dodds, Master Gardener

The last two full weeks of August made it feel like summer was finally here.  I picked my first ripe tomato on August 14 which is over a month late from a normal year.  The tomatoes are ripening slowly but surely and hopefully I will end up with enough different varieties of heirloom seeds to save for next year’s crop.  I’m going to tell you how I finally got my tomatoes to ripen, but I must first tell you that Ciscoe Morris does not agree on this process.   I was listening to him just this last Saturday explain his reasons for not doing this.   I removed all the non-producing branches from my plants and also removed the blossoms that were just opening up.  I noticed when visiting my family in the Italian Alps that is how they grew their plants but they also had shade screen covering them.  And even though they live in even a little cooler climate than we have here, they had RIPE TOMATOES in late July.  My 98 year old cousin and 10 million other Italian backyard gardeners can’t all be wrong.  So you can choose to believe my cousin Luigi or Garden Guru Cisco Morris who says that the fruit needs the leaves to shade them from getting sun burnt.  And why not put 4 stakes around your plants and cover them with a sun screen.   I may be risking it but I choose to believe Luigi, as he also recommends great wine.

I don’t know about other gardeners, but I have had a fantastic crop of French green beans, potatoes, Swiss chard, beets, basil and cucumbers.  I picked 50 cukes from about 10 plants the other evening and then spent the rest of the night making pickles.

To keep annual baskets looking their best, trim the ends to stimulate new growth and then give them a good drink of liquid fish fertilizer or compost tea.  Be sure to water the plants well before fertilizing them so that the nutrients will be absorbed throughout the whole pot and not just run along the side of the pot.  Water lawns and shrubs less often, but when you do water, water deeply.  This will encourage roots to stretch themselves as far as possible into the soil.  If you have a lot of run off when you water, stop watering for a bit and give the soil a chance to absorb water and then continue to water until an empty tuna can has 1 inch of water in it.  One inch is enough to keep your lawn looking great for a whole week as long as it is not just running off and being wasted.

Happy gardening, happy harvesting and happy September canning.