By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

Hard as it is for avid gardeners to admit, fall is here. 

If you are still waiting for ripe tomatoes, good luck with that. You can cover them with a blanket, or better yet, a sheet of bubble wrap. This may help them to ripen naturally. Do remember to remove the bubble wrap as soon as it warms up or you may have pre-cooked tomatoes by lunch. If you have cherry tomatoes, pull up the whole plant and hang it indoors out of direct sun to ripen. You probably want to wash the dirt off the roots first, however. Check every day or so for ripe ones and remove any bad ones or you will very quickly have a house full of fruit flies and be on the phone to the Extension office wanting to know how to get rid of them.

  For the full-size tomatoes, wrap them individually so if one rots it won’t spread to the rest. Keep them at 60 to 70 degrees and out of the sun. Never attempt to ripen them in the fridge. They rapidly lose – their flavor. Use only fruit that has turned light green or pink. The dark green ones can be used for fried green tomatoes or added to a relish recipe. One fellow pickle lover pickles them just like regular dill pickles. Now that is desperation. 

Do not attempt to store winter squash, gourds or pumpkins unless you are sure they are ripe. The skin should be hard enough so that your fingernail will not penetrate or mark it. Store in a cool dry place and not directly on concrete. 

Take the unripened fruit directly to the compost pile. It is much easier to haul a whole pumpkin than one that is falling apart and spilling its guts all over the floor as you attempt to carry it off the porch. 

Now is the best time to spray broad leafed weeds. They are pulling food down into their roots for the winter. Fool them by adding a little killer to their winter lunch. 

Don’t attempt to control yellowjackets or other wasps now. You may just drive them into your house and then you have a real problem. If they are helping themselves to your late strawberries and raspberries, fool them by picking your fruit in the morning while it is cool. Wasps like to sleep in until it gets warm. A can with pop or sugar water will attract them. Put it in a container with a small opening so they stay there and drown. 

Now that the soybean crop has been harvested, lady bugs are look for a nice warm place to spend the winter. If you have a light colored house with a south or east exposure, you probably have a wall full of them. Try a spray of soapy water for them and for boxelder bugs. If either does get in your house, just vacuum them up. Then chuck the bag out the door as it doesn’t kill them it just ticks them off. 

Now is also the time to protect your thin barked trees to prevent sunscald. You can paint the south and east facing side with thinned latex paint, then wrap them with tree wrap or use a plastic tube. Be religious in removing any wraps or plastic tubes from the trees in the spring. Heat trapped inside the covering can cause the rising sap to boil and split the bark. This may shorten the life of the tree, or at least make it more apt to get disease. 

Fall is no time for gardeners to rest. You can veg-out all winter.