Hands in the Dirt: MLT Gardening Tips for September

I’m not ready for summer to end, but the garden has already begun the season change. Many plants can benefit from a pruning now. Tomatoes and squash plants may continue to flower long after the deadline for fruit to ripen before frost.  Pruning the growing tip can cue the plant to spend energy ripening existing fruit, rather than producing new flowers.

If powdery mildew is beginning to show up on your plans, you can prune the affected leaves to increase airflow, or treat the plant with a foliar spray – a mix of neem oil, castile soap, and water or diluted milk are rumored to work well to treat powdery mildew when sprayed on the leaves. If powdery mildew is already well established and starting to take over, it might be time to pull the plants to make space for fall crops like kale, chard, and lettuce, which can still be found in most nurseries through at least the first half of the month.

This is the last call to plant those fall and overwintering crops. Kale and chard, if planted within the next week or two, may provide you with greens throughout the next few months, as they are cold-hardy enough to withstand our mild winters. Lettuce won’t survive a freeze, but a pack of seeds is about the same price as a head of lettuce from the store, and it can be worth it to experiment with late season varieties.

Are your winter squash and pumpkins ready to harvest? If you’re not sure, 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. Growing Trombochino squash like us? Harvest now and treat it like a summer squash, or let it ripen on the vine and treat it like a winter squash. How versatile!

Big changes are coming to the raised bed area at the BOG. Watch our Facebook page for a work party at the end of the month.

We’d love your help!

About the BOG

The Ballinger Organic Garden 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?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.