Good Morning Gardeners!
The upcoming weather is promising to be a wild ride in the Denver area starting Tuesday after Labor Day 2020. It's not the first time it's snowed but this is certainly catching us all off guard. Some of you may be out of town, so you'll get to join the scramble before you unpack.
Weather can wreak havoc on plants, especially those you cared for all season long! Many of our personal landscape, trees, perennials and shrubs can handle this weather. Gardens, well there are precautions you can take to help your garden plants through this SNAP! Once it's over, in a few days, it is very possible for a good Indian summer and more growing. Here are some suggestions...
Denver Urban Garden's Master Gardener
Tomatoes: Harvest fruit that is no longer 'dark green' and is a decent size. Wipe off with a damp cloth to insure you are not bringing insects into the house and store in a dry, cool place. I use a cardboard box lined with newspaper & place the tomatoes in a single layer, checking them daily, turning as need as they ripen. I've found that using a cooler spot such as a basement helps. I did this last year and got a lot of additional fruit. If this is too labor intensive for you prune back the top 8 - 10" of the vines to concentrate the plant's energy into ripening existing fruit, instead of producing more blossoms. If tomatoes are supported with cages or trellises, drape a sheet over the whole frame (do not use plastic to protect the plants) & attach it with clothespins or metal fasteners (clips, a gardener suggest binder clips are super strong)
Peppers & Eggplants: As they are more frost sensitive than tomatoes, pick any that are firm & ripen inside using the same newspaper storage as with tomatoes. Cover any plants left in the garden with sheets.
Summer squashes & cukes: Pick all that are firm & shiny. For cukes: prune back all vines to promote ripening of immature fruit. Cover with sheets or towels.
Winter squashes, pumpkins: Prune all vines back to a fruit that has begun to 'color - up'. Any fruit whose rind resists puncturing with a fingernail can be cut from the vine & ripened inside in a cool, dry spot.
Basil: Whole plant can be covered with a sheet, more pesto made ( I freeze portions in ice - cube trays & then store in freezer bags for usage in soups). Plants can also be dried by pulling the whole plant, brushing off as much soil as possible from the roots & hanging upside down in a cool dry place. When dry, strip the leaves from the stems & utilize for the best dried basil ever.
Beans: Harvest any 'green bean' type beans prior to frost. Beans grown for drying (such as black beans, pintos, etc. can be left to dry on the plant.
Things to leave in the garden include cool tolerant plants such as lettuce, spinach, peas, chard, radish, cilantro, beets, carrots, any broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower that may still be producing, arugula.
Other things to consider: All plants you intend to leave in the garden would benefit from a foliar spray (on the leaves) with liquid kelp, or seaweed, (available locally at garden centers) & dilute 2 Tbsp. of kelp concentrate/ gallon of water. Kelp provides several degrees of frost protection & also is a source of vital micronutrients needed in times of stress.
Consider purchasing 'row - covers', made of spun polyester for added frost protection. These can be draped over the entire plant & weighted down with rocks at soil level. They are permeable to sunlight and water.
Additional information from a CSU Horticulture Blog
They Need a Good Long Drink! Be sure to give all your plants at home and garden a good long drink. Moisture in the soil helps moderate soil temperatures and protect plant root systems. This includes your veggies but also trees, shrubs, perennials at home.
Covering Suggestions Cover warm season veggies with frost cloths, bed sheets, drop cloths or blankets. Plants to cover: tomatoes, zucks, peppers, cucs, and squash. Put a heavy rock on corners to secure. PROMPTLY remove the cover in the morning when temps rise. Use stakes to keep the material from touching the foliage. AVOID PLASTIC, it does not breathe.
No NEED to cover cool season plants like chard, spinach, kale, lettuce, root veggies (beets, carrots, onions, garlic)
Please don't obsess over the unexpected weather. This yearly occurrence is an reminder that our gardens need our nurturing during all seasons, whether actively producing, or preparing to receive our care as we contemplate putting them to bed. If you have any additional suggestions please post them on Facebook and share with your neighbors. Indian Summer is around the corner!
For the love of gardening,
Kendra and Leadership Team Rose Roots Community Garden