Tomato update; tips for your garden

Columnist turned to Martha Stewart’s “Gardening 101” for advice on ripening his tomatoes.

In a recent column, you were invited to remain tuned to the progress of my 2019 tomato crop. My seven plants included three of my favorites, Cougar Reds.

You might be pleased to learn that in recent weeks, my Cougar Reds have begun to produce a trickle of red tomatoes. My Yellow Pear cherry tomatoes have also produced a half dozen orange tomatoes. These early fruit are lucky to survive a week in my wife’s kitchen before being sliced into a salad or a sandwich.

I discovered two other tomato ripening hints from an unlikely source: Martha Stewart’s “Gardening 101.”

Martha advises snipping off all the short shoots growing from the base of the tomato. After the end of July, she advises pinching off all the flowers on your tomatoes. These will lack time to mature into tomatoes before winter.

These management tips have resulted in few ripe tomatoes this summer and an abundance of green tomatoes ranging in size from peas to oranges.

And while we’re talking vegetables, here are a number of small things you can do to keep your vegetable garden healthy.

1. Plant the veggies in the garden at the recommended spacing on the seed packet so they receive adequate air flow.

2. Plant catnip, dill and yarrow in the garden to attract predacious insects that will consume aphids and other harmful insects. Add a dish of water so predacious insects can drink.

3. Drastically shear off some shrubs and annuals to rejuvenate them.

4. Apply dry manure, shredded grass clippings and chopped leaves as mulch to conserve moisture, recycle nutrients and impede weeds.

5. Plant romaine and red leaf lettuce for late summer lettuce.

6. Carrots and parsnips like loose fertile soil.

7. Cover brassicas like kale with Reemay to prevent looper moths.

8. Trip tops and roots of garlics of harvested garliac within 1/2” of bulb.

9. Warm soil before planting eggplant with a layer of black plastic.

10. Harvest garlic when tops are 1/2 yellow. Dry two to four weeks on a screen. Avoid damaging the paper covering.

11. Fertilize corn when 10-11-inches high and at silk stage.

12. Avoid heavy irrigation and fertilization of herbs.

13. Shear off thyme, rosemary and lavendar.

14. Plant tomato stems horizontally and snip off shoots near bottom of stem.

15. After watering a row of carrot and lettuce seeds, try covering them with a board to boost germination. Remove board after 2/3 emergence.

16. Soak cuke and squash seeds all night before planting but not bean seeds.

Doug Young is a retired WSU professor who loves to share his 65 years of gardening experience.

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