By Kira Hamman
Around now, things in the garden are starting to look at little scraggly.
Despite my best efforts, and the best efforts of the four hens I have not yet confined to the pasture, the Japanese beetles have had their way with the chard and spinach.
The hot days/cool nights cycle has taken its toll on the cucumbers, peppers, and eggplants.
The potatoes have been dug and those hens, instead of focusing their energy on the beetles, are busy using the potato bed as a dust hole. The winter squash are signaling their readiness for harvest by making their vines go brown and wrinkly practically overnight.
And yes, even the tomatoes are fading.
Ah, but we have our ways of prolonging the season, don’t we? Even if you are not lucky enough to own a greenhouse or a supersized cold frame, you can keep those tomatoes coming until the last possible moment, when frost blankets the ground and you don’t feel like going out to get them anyway.
First, stay on top of things like pest control and watering. Just because you’re running out of energy does not mean that the aphids are, too. And although plants don’t need as much water once the weather turns a little cooler, unless you’re getting a good rain at least once a week (yeah, right) they’re still going to need some.
Second, become a weather watcher. If the overnight forecast calls for temperatures in the 40s or below, cover your plants (carefully, gently) with burlap, sheets, or plastic. If you use plastic, make sure it’s loose enough that they can still breathe. When the temperature goes back up in the morning, go out and uncover them again so they can take full advantage of the day’s sun.
Finally, when that killing frost finally is predicted, go out and pick every tomato you see, in any stage of ripeness. Line them up on your windowsills to finish ripening and enjoy fresh tomatoes for another week or two before you have to start turning to your canned and frozen stash. At that point, it’ll be time to start planning next year’s garden!