Gardens are full of semi-ripened vegetables and many flower gardens are in full fall color and now the temperatures are going crazy; 80 one day and 50 the next. It makes Bunkey think of all the things that must be done before it freezes.

He had a bumper crop of tomatoes from the one tomato plant he planted. There are still a lot of unripened fruits on the plant and he hates to see them go to waste. Here is what he learned after a call to the Extension office.

Tomatoes taste best when vine ripened, however, if you have some that aren’t quite ripe, you can ripen them indoors. While they won’t taste as good, they will be more edible than the cardboard tasting ones shipped in winter to our grocery stores.

Start by picking only the light green or slightly pink fruit. The dark green ones won’t ever get ripe indoors. Keep them out of sunlight. The temps should range between 60 to 70. Wrap each tomato in tissue paper so that if one starts to decay it won’t spread to the others. A cherry tomato plant can be pulled and hung up by the roots. Pick the fruit as it ripens and discard any bad ones. 

As the weather gets cooler, it is the perfect time to plant trees and perennials as long as we have six weeks of frost-free days left. It’s the time to separate iris, peonies and spring flowering perennials that have gotten too big for their britches.  Quite often a plant will die in the middle or be less floriferous there. Get brutal and throw away the parts that aren’t doing their proper job. Iris is a good example of this problem. Chuck any rhizomes that don’t have a healthy fan of leaves as the only job the bare rhizomes are doing is anchoring the plant. You and the plant don’t need them.

It is a great time to buy perennials now as the nurseries want to keep as few of them to overwinter as possible. This means you should get bargain prices.

Peonies hate to be moved. They are quite happy to flower in the same place for 100 years. If you must move them, be aware that the roots are deeper than you think. To replant, be sure that the red bumps/knobs on the top of the roots are just barely covered. Too deep and you will have a nice green shrub, they just won’t bloom.

Don’t get in too much of a hurry to pull annuals with dry seed heads. They will feed the birds in winter and pop up here and there in your flower bed next spring. Of course, if you are a Martha type, this will drive you totally bonkers. Just pull them up or transplant them next spring.

Remove dead vines from the garden as soon as they stop producing. They can carry diseases and are a trip hazard. Face planting in the dirt is at least, embarrassing and at worst can cause a broken bone. Besides, if you tell people you broke your arm falling down in the garden they will wonder if you have a drinking problem.


Bev Johnson is a Master Gardener with the University of Minnesota Extension. Her column appears in the Weekend Edition.

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