By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

The garden is full of tomatoes, many green some just getting ripe. Bunkey hates to see any garden produce go to waste or freeze if he can save it, tomatoes in particular.  Here is one way to salvage at least some of them now. Start by cutting the indeterminate tomato vines down to the first set of fruits that should have time to ripen. This stops the vine from putting energy into growing longer and instead ripening. The vine will continue to sucker so keep pinching those off. You want all the vines energy going into the fruit. If the forecast is for a hard frost, pull all the half ripe tomatoes, those that show a bit of color and bring them in. Put them on newspaper or in a shallow box, not on the windowsill as direct sun will toughen up the skins. If you have problems with critters in the garden eating tomatoes or having them crack, ripen them indoors anytime, even in the summer. 

Check your squash and pumpkins for ripeness by attempting to stick a fingernail into the skin, if you can’t, the veggie is ripe, and you can pull or cut it off the vine. Bunkey found, to his disgust, that attempting to store pumpkins or squash on cement floors leads to rotting bottoms. Store them in a dark area off the floor. 

If you have beans, zucchini, cucumbers or any other plants that are still producing, keep picking them as they get ripe as any vegetable left will stop production. You may want to accidently leave a few zucs on the vine. Especially if the neighbors lock their cars now. They may have all the zucchini bread and cake in the freezer they need. 

Keep treating garden plants for powdery mildew and white mold on beans. You don’t want it in the garden next year either. Check vines for signs of borers, a pile of what looks like sawdust under a vine. Either remove the affected vine or pull the whole plant up and bag or burn it. 

It’s not too late to plant cool weather crops, spinach, lettuce, radishes, baby kale (if you can stomach the stuff) and arugula. If frost threatens, cover with blankets or if you want to go a step further, make a miniature hoop house of plastic to cover them.  

Leaves are falling. It is still too warm to cover the flowerbeds, but you can till them into the vegetable garden if you are done harvesting. Remove all vines and any diseased material before you till. Anything else left in the garden can be tilled in. 

Leave any seed heads in the flower garden except lilies and iris.  Birds will feast on them all winter. Annuals that you like can be left to go to seed. In the spring you will have gobs of baby plants to transplant. They are free too. If they are hybrid, they won’t have the same flower, but you might like what does pop up. Calendula and cleome readily reseed, too much sometimes. Petunia likes both of them but Bunkey has to thin like mad in the spring or his flower bed would be overpowered with only those two. Continue to dead head any fall bloomers to keep them flowering till hard frost. Some, like snapdragons, will keep blooming through a frost and even a light snow. 

Winter is still gardening time. That is when gardeners plan for next year. Gardens will always be better next year. Weedless, more productive, prettier, at least in the gardener’s mind.