KUSA - Hot, hot temps well into September aren't the norm and they have some veggies ripening ahead of time - and others needing some special TLC. Lauren Bloom has a few late-season reminders from the 9NEWS Kitchen Garden to help gardeners cope with this season's earlier-than-usual timetable.
What does this hot weather mean for the garden?
First, plants are still very thirsty because daytime temps are in the '90s and the night-time temps are unseasonably warm. That means plants are thirsty. If plants get too dry, they will wilt which means they need water asap. Otherwise, check the soil moisture and water regularly - which will probably mean watering every day as long as temps stay at 90 or above.
Second, some plants are ahead of schedule in terms of ripening. Winter squash, in particular, are ripening early, so it's important to check them to see if they are ready to pick. Once they are ripe, you can pick them. Keeping squash in a cool, dry place will keep the them fresh for weeks.
How do you know when squash are ready to pick? For squash - and also melons - look at the "ground spot." That's the small area underneath where the fruit touches the soil. When it turns from white to a creamy or yellow/gold color, the squash or melon is ready to pick. Cut the stems at least 2 inches long - even longer if you can. Never carry the squash or melons by the stem because a broken stem can cause the fruit to deteriorate.
What about tomatoes?
Hot weather always seems to be what tomatoes need - but it's getting late in the growing season.
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. Most important: keep watering the tomatoes, as needed, 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 now is a good time to pick these herbs and store them for the winter. Pick the stalks, tie them into a bunch and hang upside down until dry. Then store the dried leaves in airtight containers. Herbs can also be frozen. After picking, wash the leaves and place them in ice cube trays, fill with water and freeze. 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 and even during the winter, if it is dry. As with trees and other plants, this off-season care helps herbs come back as healthier plants next spring.
Information courtesy Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado - sponsors of the 9News Kitchen Garden and the 9News Water Wise Garden. www.alcc.com.
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