It has been a strange growing season what with late June rains and cold weather, few days of high 90′s, and already a nip in the air the first week in September. I hate to say it my friends but I’d put my money on an early autumn, quick and cold.
So where does that leave our lovely tomatoes? Those wonderful orbs of GREEN that just don’t seem to want to ripen. There are a few tricks to get the most out of our late tomato harvest.
* Keep tomatoes consistently warm and watered. They do not like shocks to the system, so keeping them at an average temperature, day and night, of 70+ degrees helps them ripen. Keeping them watered deeply and slowly allows them to draw on the water and produce full, unblemished fruit, that is full-bodied and flavorful.
* Keep an eye on the forecast. We’re seeing forecasted night temperatures in the 40s already so make sure your tomatoes are covered or protected to get the most out of them.
* Get out your green tomato recipes. Green tomato salsas, sauces, chutneys, and relishes are delicious and are an easy way to use those under-ripe tomatoes.
* If frost is in the forecast pull or protect your tomatoes beforehand. Frost hit tomatoes are no longer suitable for canning nor fresh eating. If you do have frost hit tomatoes you can still freeze them for use in soups and sauces but they must be preserved as soon as possible after frost hit.
* Once the temperature drops you can pull the entire plant out, roots and all, and hang it upside down in a basement, garage, or shed that stays a moderate temperature, preferably dark. The tomatoes will slowly ripen, generally through Thanksgiving. Cherry tomatoes do not work well for this method. You can also wrap individual tomatoes in newspaper and store them in boxes in an area with good air circulation and cool temperatures.
Planning for Autumn
September is that great month of transition, from warm to cool weather, layed back to school schedules, and from summer to autumn seasons. It is also a great time in the garden. A time to reflect, plan, and question whether you like something, need to move or remove something, and start dreaming of what to add during the autumn planting season. In the PacNW especially, our garden season starts in September/October. This is when the majority of your garden and soil prep should be done to ready it for winter rains and spring planting. Need a little help? Plan a consultation or better yet invite your friends and family over for a hands on “Put the Garden to Bed” or “Lasagana Gardening” garden party.