This is the transitional time of year when we know that fall is around the corner and we need to make the most of what’s left in the garden. Mother Nature is keeping plants moist — but it’s time to finish the harvest.
Be sure to check winter squash to see if they are ready to pick. Once they are ripe, you can pick them. How do you know when squash are ready to pick? Look at the “ground spot.” That’s the small area on the bottom side of the fruit where it touches the soil. When it turns from white to a creamy or yellow/gold color, the squash is ready to pick.
Cut the stems at least 2 inches long — even longer if you can. Never carry squash by the stem because a broken stem can cause the fruit to deteriorate. Storing squash in a cool, dry place will keep them fresh for weeks.
What about tomatoes?
If you still have tomatoes, the strategy is to maximize what you have. Since we never know exactly when it’s going to frost, we want to encourage the most viable tomatoes on the vine to mature. Prune away the smallest tomatoes so that the medium-sized ones will continue to develop. You can also thin out some of the foliage. Also make sure they have adequate moisture so they continue to grow and ripen.
Herbs are also on the decline
Annual herbs like basil, that have to be replanted every year, are heading into the downside of the season. We never want to waste anything from the garden, so pick these herbs and store them for the winter use.
Herbs can be dried or frozen. To dry, snip long stalks, tie them into a bunch and hang upside down until dry. Then store the dried leaves in airtight containers. To freeze herbs, after picking, wash the leaves and place them in ice cube trays, fill with water and freeze. Once frozen, remove the cubes from the trays and store them in the freezer in airtight bags or containers. Drop a cube or two into sauces and soups all winter long.
Water perennial herbs
Keep perennial herbs, such as oregano and chives, well watered going into fall. As with trees and other plants, this off-season care helps herbs come back as healthier plants next spring.
Courtesy of Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado and Neils Lunceford, a member landscaping company based in Silverthorne. Contact Neils Lunceford at (970) 468-0340.