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Fall is busy time in garden

Fran O’Leary Cherry tomato plant
TONS OF TOMATOES: This is a great time to use plentiful tomatoes to make family favorites like salsa and fried green tomatoes.
Through the Garden Gate: Fall is no time to give up on your garden and call it quits. Keep harvesting, deadheading and watering plants.

Because it’s late August, you may be thinking it’s time to finish harvesting fruits and vegetables and wind down your activities in the garden. Think again!

Fall is a great time to work with certain fruit crops:

  • Raspberries. Cut back the fruited canes of your raspberries, if you haven't already, leaving the new green canes for next year’s crop. Tie in next year’s raspberry canes to support wires or fencing.
  • Strawberries. Tidy up strawberry plants and clear away any used straw to prevent pests and diseases from overwintering. Pot up strawberry runners to add extra plants for next spring.
  • Apples. Pick apples. To test when they are ripe, gently lift them in the palm of your hand or give them a gentle pull. They should come away easily.
  • Fruit trees. Mow long grass under fruit trees to make it easier to spot windfall fruits. Pick off rotting fruit from apple, pear and stone fruit trees, including peaches. They will spread disease if left on the tree.

In the vegetable garden:

  • Keep harvesting crops. If you have a lot of fruit and vegetables, try freezing, drying, pickling and storing them. This is a great time to use plentiful tomatoes to make salsa and fried green tomatoes.
  • Harvest sweet corn as it ripens. If you have three dozen or more ears of ripened sweet corn, or your friends or relatives share several dozen ears of sweet corn with you, you can husk it, blanch it, cool it in a sink full of cold water, and cut off the kernels on a large cutting board. Bag up kernels in quart-size freezer bags and fill your freezer with the sweet taste of summer.
  • Prep for potato harvest. Pull or cut off the foliage of potatoes at ground level about three weeks before harvesting them. This will prevent blight spores from infecting the tubers as you harvest them. Spread out newly dug potatoes to dry for a few hours before storing them in a cool, dark place.
  • Give pumpkins a boost. Help pumpkins ripen in time for Halloween by removing any leaves shading them. Raise pumpkins and squash off the ground to prevent rotting. Place them on a piece of wood.
  • Save herbs. Pot up some chives and parsley to put in your kitchen windowsill for fresh herbs through the winter.

Finally, don’t forget your flowers:

  • Containers. Continue deadheading and fertilizing flowers in hanging baskets and containers. If cared for properly and watered every other day, they often will look good until the first frost in October. 
  • Annuals. Keep deadheading annual flowers to extend their performance. Deadhead roses and dahlias to keep flowers coming.
  • Perennials. Divide perennials, like peonies, as the weather cools, plant and water well.
  • Bushes. Keep rhododendrons well-watered to ensure that next year’s buds develop well.

Fall is no time to give up on your garden and call it quits. What you do in your garden now will boost the quantity and quality of your harvested crops, and will set the stage for a successful garden next spring.

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