University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science
USING TOMATOES AND OTHER SEPTEMBER
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Making the most of ripe tomatoes, preparing for frost, and planting shrubs
are some of the gardening activities for this month.
Don't let excess tomatoes go to waste. Plum tomatoes and cherry and grape
minis dry fairly easily in the oven. Slice them in half lengthwise, set them
on parchment paper on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil and sea
salt. Roast them in a 250-degree oven until they are no longer juicy. When
cool, pack them in freezer bags.
If you are fortunate to have way too many tomatoes to eat, harvest them all
before they spoil or the frost gets them, and make sauce. This is done
most easily with a food strainer. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks,
put them in the top funnel, turn the crank, and sauce comes out one end and
the skins out the other. You then can heat the sauce to thicken it,
adding garlic, onions, and herbs such as basil or oregano. Freeze it,
and then you’ll have an Italian sauce ready to go this fall for pasta
dishes. Short on time now? Then just freeze the sauce, and cook
with it later. Use containers made specially for freezing to ensure
best quality and longevity.
With frost likely this month, prepare to cover plants at the last minute.
Make sure the cover extends all the way to the ground to hold in the heat,
and try to prop it above the foliage so the leaves don't freeze. Old shower
curtains and sheets are handy for this as are light fabrics sold for frost
protection, available at complete garden stores.
The sales are on. There's still plenty of time to plant trees and
shrubs. Root growth will continue into late fall or early winter, and
plants won't have the heat of spring or summer to dry them out. Be sure to
water well at planting time, and every week until they go dormant.
If you don't have a spot ready for your new shrub or tree additions, or
don’t get to them this fall, sink the pots in empty garden space (such as
the vegetable garden) -- pot and all, and mulch with soil or compost (straw
works if you don’t have rodents). The roots will benefit from ground
warmth, just as if they were planted.
If you haven't ordered spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting, such as
daffodils and tulips, you can find these this month in many garden
stores. If you have deer and other wildlife, think daffodils, as these
won’t be eaten by them. Daffodils require almost no further care, and
will make up large clumps, rewarding you with years of welcoming spring
blooms. Try some of the smaller “minor” bulbs too, such as the early
snowdrops or late spring summer snowflake.
Gradually condition indoor plants that have spent the summer outdoors to
lower light conditions. Move them to a shady spot outdoors for a week, then
move them into the sunniest spot indoors for a couple of weeks before moving
them to their permanent locations. Dunk them in soapy water to clean
the foliage (a sink or bathtub is handy for this), and spray with
insecticidal soap if insects are a problem.
Do houseplants need repotting? Now is a good time before bringing them
inside. Look for roots coming out of drain holes, white salty
fertilizer crust on the pot rim and soil, and lower soil levels in
pots. Potting soil gets worn out, so plants should be repotted every
year or two.
Other gardening activities for this month include washing and storing
feeders after the hummingbirds migrate south early in the month, and
visiting an apple farm.
(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known
horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach;
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