|Heavy with seeds or
staring at weeds?
Our thermometer read 54°F early this morning—a refreshing temperature for sleeping with open windows—but also a hint to central Maryland gardeners that fall is coming with a “first fall frost” sometime in October.
The cool temperature also reminded me to keep tomatoes picked as they ripen because prolonged temperatures below 55° will turn them mushy—just as they turn when we put them for a few days in our 38° refrigerators.
The brisk morning temperature isn’t the only hint of fall in our gardens. The bright faces of sunflowers have faded and now heavy with seeds the heads seemingly glare at Amish Paste tomatoes that need picking—or are they staring at weeds that need hoeing?
Throughout the Tomato Patch, early blight is working its way up tomato vines, killing leaf after leaf, even on supposedly blight-resistant cultivars such as Juliet Hybrid, one of our favorites. Powdery mildew and other leaf diseases have decimated our zucchini and Pic-N-Pic summer squash, so I’ve pulled the plants so adjacent strawberry plants can get a good dose of September sun. After harvesting and eating or giving away buckets of squash, I’ll not miss the squash one bit. Nearby, unpicked Red Sails lettuce has bolted and displays delicate yellow flowers—and leaves of a Short ‘n Sweet carrot plant are waist high and threaten to bloom.
|Bolted lettuce and carrots decide to bloom|
And the brightest spot in the Tomato Patch? Yellow Plum tomatoes still beam like happy faces, and I cannot ignore the last few Celebrity and Amish Paste tomatoes that will make great last-of-season sandwiches and sauce with “real” tomato flavor—just like it used to be and still is for backyard gardeners.
But the chill in the air sparks a thought beyond “last pickings.” I need to get serious about cleaning out the dead stuff.
Brown marmorated stink bugs and a variety of other insects may think the collapsed squash leaves will make great overwintering quarter. And I think it “best gardening practice” to cart away the mildew- and blight-damaged squash and tomato plants rather than letting them lie overwinter to encourage disease outbreaks next year.
Two thumbs up! Fall is in the air! Now it’s time to use those thumbs to get a grip on my hoe and pitchfork and clean up this year’s garden refuse.