by Gene Henson
The vegetable garden in September is slowly winding down for the season. Tomato plants are beginning to look ratty. Carrots and beets are in full swing. Squash is almost finished and early string beans, while starting to get that “look” are mostly still producing. This has been an unusual year to be sure.
A look at any weather service temperature history and it’s readily apparent that this summer was one of the warmest in near history. The National Weather Service tells us that in Connecticut, we had a record 33 days with over 90 degree temperatures.
And as I write this, the weather heads are predicting another over ninety degree day. And the dilemma is that with a hurricane possibly on the way does one hold off on watering? It’s tempting not to, but a good rule of thumb is that if they need watering, water. We were always told to water in the morning so that the sun doesn’t burn through the drops, which act like miniature magnifying glasses. But if the plants need water, and believe me when I say that you will know when the plants need water, the answer is simple: Water.
September is also a good time to amend the soil. Where plants have ended their cycle, another soil test is a good idea, especially if none has been done in a while. Then, if it does need attention, it has the whole winter to restructure and be ready and willing for next spring.
It seems strange to be thinking of frost when the temperature is predicted to be in the nineties, but it’s a good idea to keep a weather eye out for frost in September. A heavy killing frost however, is most likely at least a month away, but light frost is not uncommon later in the month, depending on where you are. Closer to the shore, frost tends to come later. Farther north, valleys tend to show frost effects first. Have you ever driven though a valley and seen how much different the foliage on the trees looks and how all the weeds have that pressed flower look? That’s frost damage, and the line of demarcation is quite evident.
The local weather heads will usually issue a frost warning, although some don’t let you know unless it’s going to be a killer. If there is a chance of frost, use plastic drop clothes, old sheets, or anything to cover sensitive plants. The key here is, keep a close watch. If you are going away for a few days, try and look forward weather wise. As the month goes on, and the threat of frost becomes closer, it’s time to pick any green tomatoes left and either processes them as green, or cause them to ripen artificially.
I like to just place the green tomatoes in a South facing window sill. Turn them once a day or so, and they will keep quite well. Others put them in a paper bag, allowing air to circulate. Some place a piece of apple in the bag with the tomato. But however you do it, it’s not hard to enjoy tomatoes right up to Christmas.
Gene Henson is a University of Connecticut certified Advanced Master Gardner.