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Q. I recently overheard someone talking about cutting back tomato and squash plants this month. Is this something you do? I’d appreciate the why, when and how of this undertaking. My winter squash plants and my staking tomatoes continue at this time to open new flowers and form tiny fruits.
A. Staking tomatoes, like winter squash plants, are “indeterminate.” That means they will keep on flowering and forming new fruits through the summer.
This habit becomes an issue in August, when newly formed fruits on most varieties of both winter squash and staking tomatoes have little chance of ripening before the cold weather.
The solution is to trim the stems back. I look for the last formed fruit on each tomato and squash stem, and make the cut right above the first leaf or leaf stem growing beyond that last formed fruit. This pruning will provide the best chance for those last formed fruits to ripen before cool temperatures arrive to stall the ripening process
In past years it has been my custom to do this pruning in the first week in August, but weather patterns in recent years call for re-thinking this timing. Warm, sunny weather lasted far longer than usual last autumn, and the same is predicted for this year. With this in mind, I think I’ll delay this pruning project until around mid-month.
Q. A family situation called us away from our home and garden this summer. Now we are back home, we would like to know whether we have missed the best timing for planting vegetables to harvest in the fall and winter. We live at the coast.
A. This is an ideal time for an outdoor sowing of hardy types of lettuce and of hardy greens such as spinach, arugula, mustards and corn salad. For vegetables that needed an earlier start such as sprouting broccoli, winter cabbage and kale, look for transplants at local garden centres.
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