By Paul Hang
That sounds like the tried and true traditional diet of a lot of us Americans, whether we
are Irish or not. Tomatoes can often be the means of meeting people. Offering a few
tomatoes to a neighbor, taking your overproduction to a food bank, sharing them with
the group at church or an organization you belong to can be a way of meeting people
we might not otherwise talk with. This reminds me of an ad on TV where the voice says
“I used to think my father gave away the food he grew because he grew too much. Now
I realize he grew too much so he could give it away.” Leaving zucchinis the size of a
7lb. infant on the doorsteps of strangers in the middle of the night doesn’t accomplish
the same thing. There is something about giving away food that speaks to our desire to
nurture others. It just feels good.
Other acquaintances you might meet with this month, while cruising your landscape, are
the large orb spiders, the Black and Yellow Garden Spider and the Banded Garden
Spider. Many spiders are reaching maturity this time of year and are at their largest
size. These spiders are harmless and can be beneficial to the garden. However, they
can startle the unprepared and trigger an acute case of arachnophobia. You may also
come across bagworm bags festooning your shrubs or trees. Pull, or better yet, cut
them off. Treat them to the bagworm two step and then throw them in the trash.
Pesticides are of no benefit at this stage. For every bag you eliminate you are keeping
hundreds of bagworms from defoliating your trees and shrubs next spring.
Did your tomato plants meet with misfortune this season? Early blight, where the leaves
turn brown and fall off, has been troublesome. It is a disease which doesn’t affect the
fruit but does shorten the season. Sanitation is the key. When done, put the plants in
the trash along with the leaf debris. Don’t plant tomatoes in that spot for at least three
Although the color is fast disappearing with the blooms of our flowering plants, more color is coming. Tomato red sumac is the first to change followed by Virginia creeper, the
maples and then the other trees and shrubs in quick succession. Enjoy those cool
sunny days of September that are sure to come.
Don’t give up on the garden or the yard. In many ways this is the best time to prepare
them for next year and there is still time to plant more vegetables and flowering plants.
Check out the “Things to do in the garden,” and decide which apply to you and to your
“to do” obligations. Gardening should be fun even if it also requires work.
Things to do in the garden:
As plants “give up the ghost” remove them from the garden. If they are annuals pull
them up, if perennials cut them off unless you want their winter interest. Dispose of the
debris in a “hot” compost heap, bury them or put them in the trash. In the butterfly garden you will surely want to leave the host plants as they are harboring the
overwintering eggs and larvae of next year’s butterflies. Those plants that you don’t
want to re-seed by all means remove the seed heads before their seeds are scattered.
Or, leave them for the birds. Clean up old fruit from around fruit trees.
Collect, dry, and store seeds for next year. Use only heirloom varieties, hybrids will not
grow true. Harvest and cure winter squash and gourds if they are ready. Leave a two
inch stem. Gourds should be finished with growth before you cut them from the vine,
store indoors at 60 degrees.
September is the best time to plant grass seed whether you are re-seeding, patching or
establishing a new lawn. If you only fertilize your lawn once a year, or if you have never
fertilized it, fall is also the best time to do it. Cooler, wetter (usually) fall weather
promotes good root growth and your grass will start out next spring healthier and ready
for more vigorous growth. Want to really get your lawn in shape? Fertilize in September
and then again around Thanksgiving. Labor Day and Veterans’ Day are easy to
remember. Read directions for amounts.
In those areas that are not to be fall planted, plant a cover crop or “green manure” that
will be turned in in the spring. Buckwheat, annual rye, sweet clover, winter barley,
wheat, soybeans, alfalfa, and hairy vetch make good green manures.
Now is the time to plant spring flowering bulbs. A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs at
a depth about three times the height of the bulb. Planting irises and peonies this fall
takes advantage of the warm earth. They should be planted about 2 inches deep. If your
peonies haven’t bloomed well because of shade from nearby competing trees, now is a
good time to move them to a sunnier place in the yard.
Watch for yellowing of gladiolus leaves. Dig the corms and hang until the tops turn
brown. Then store in a cool, not freezing, well-ventilated basement or garage. Do the
same with caladium, cannas, and dahlias when their tops turn brown. Fall is a good time
to divide Lily of the Valley, primroses, peonies, day lilies, coral-bells and bleeding heart.
Adding bulb food and humus will be rewarded in the spring.
You can plant onion seed now for early green onions and bulbs. Yes, onions are bulbs.
You can still plant cool season vegetables. It’s not too late to start beets, carrots, kale and lettuce, maybe even bush beans! If you have row covers, or can make them, you
can have these for Thanksgiving dinner. Of course this assumes we don’t have a hard
freeze and if we do you are prepared to cover the plants if it happens. If the ground
temperature stays above 50 roots continue to grow. Order garlic bulbs now for planting
Now is a good time to test your soil. The called for amendments will have time to work
their way into the soil and be available to the plants for the next growing season.
Information on soil testing is available at the OSU Extension Office 474-7534.