Hands in the Dirt: MLT gardening tips for September 2020

The rain on Monday and the cooler nights are starting to make it feel like fall. Have you noticed signs that your plants feel it, too? Luckily our gardening days are not yet numbered since we are projected to get back into the 80s this week, which should help ripen the rest of those green tomatoes.

Many of your summer plants like tomatoes, beans, zucchini and cucumbers will continue to produce this month until the weather starts to turn – just make sure to keep watering and picking! If you are still planning on doing some fall planting and haven’t yet, pull your plants when they begin to show signs of fading to make space for those yummy fall crops like kale, chard and lettuce, which can still be found in most nurseries through at least the first half of the month.

Speaking of yummy fall crops, winter squash and pumpkins are almost ready to harvest. Leave plants on the vine as long as possible to ensure they’re ripe, and harvest when the stem and skin are hard. For winter squash and pumpkins, harvest when the skin has gone from soft like a zucchini to hard enough you can’t easily pierce it with your thumb nail, and usually goes from shiny to kind of dull and dry looking. Harvest with pruners, leaving 2-4 inches of stem. Some varieties of winter squash will keep for longer if they are “cured” – storing in a warm (80-85°F) place with good air circulation for 10-14 days. Curing Blue Hubbard, Buttercup, Butternut, and Spaghetti squash can increase storage time up to several months. However, Acorn and Delicata squash do not need to be cured, and leaving them in warm temps can reduce their storage life and quality.

This is the last call to plant those fall and overwintering crops. I’ll be pulling out the row covers and hoop house for my home garden toward the end of the month to try to steal a few more weeks of lettuce and radishes before total production stops. Kale, planted within the next week or two, may be able to get to sufficient size to provide you with greens throughout the next few months, as they are cold-hardy enough to withstand our mild winters, and even taste sweeter after the first frost.

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About the BOG
The Ballinger Organic Garden (BOG) is a volunteer-led effort to develop a community garden at Ballinger Park. The BOG, in partnership with MLT Recreation & Parks and the MLT Senior Center and funded by a grant from the MLT Community Foundation, is currently in “Phase 0” while larger construction activities (creek restoration and trail installation) are completed. Phase 0 includes maintenance of the existing raised beds and a garden plot on the south side of the MLT Senior Center in Ballinger Park. Phase 1 will involve installation of a larger garden with plots available for community members to maintain. Want to volunteer, or have an idea of what you want to see in the future garden? Please let us know.

To stay up to date on what is happening at the BOG, including what’s growing, work parties, and events, follow us on Facebook or Instagram

— By Robyn Rice

Robyn Rice grew up in Eastern Washington, pulling weeds and picking up rotten fruit as dreaded chores assigned by her Master Gardener father. Today, Robyn is a fisheries biologist for an environmental consulting firm, and has been gardening in the Seattle area since 2010. Her science background leads to endless research about the “correct” way to do things, but her enthusiasm and sense of adventure leads her to garden fearlessly because hey, what’s the worst that could happen?




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