Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Pacific Northwest

September, 2003
Regional Report

Harvesting The Last of The Tomatoes

Frost and freezing temperatures will eventually end the tomato harvest season. But tomato fruits harvested prior to a heavy frost can be stored and used for several weeks. Select the largest fruits first. They should be solid, firm, and green. Wrap each fruit in an individual piece of newspaper and pack loosely in a carton or box. Store the box at 55 to 60 degrees F. Remove them from the box as you need them and allow them to ripen for 3 to 4 days at room temperature. Sort through the stored tomatoes occasionally to remove any that are deteriorating or that show signs of ripening. The fruits won't be quite as good as vine ripened but better than imports.

Don't Remove Foliage Yet

Leave the foliage on perennial plants until it turns yellow or brown. Green foliage is still manufacturing food for next year's growth. Once frost kills the foliage, cut herbaceous perennial stems almost to the ground. Leaving an inch stub on peonies, chrysanthemums, and other perennials aids in locating the plants before they sprout next spring. An inch stub won't increase insect or disease problems.

Don't Worry About Yellowing Evergreen Needles

Pine, spruce, and arborvitae are referred to as evergreens because of their habit of retaining needles throughout the winter, but needles don't last forever. Depending on the species, needles remain on the plant for several years until they reach maturity. Once sufficient new growth has developed at the tips of branches, the older needles toward the center, having served their purpose, and will yellow and drop off.

Practice Good Garden Sanitation

Most of the work for next year's garden starts in the fall with clean-up. Sanitation is the key to reducing insect and disease problems for next year. Remove and compost plant debris. Properly managed compost piles (with an internal temperature of 140 degrees F) will kill insects and disease organisms.

Make Garden Journal Entries

Fall is a good time to take stock of this season's successes and failures; sometimes an idea that seemed so good in the spring didn't quite make it through to the fall. Make any necessary changes to the garden plan on paper and note which areas will need alterations next season. Make a list of topics that you would like to learn more about, and this winter, when it's too cold to garden, you can check out some books from the library.


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