Shorter days with fewer hours of intense heat remind vegetable gardeners that we are once again entering the weather cycle that moves us toward fall. To accompany that mode of thinking, here are a few reminders of things to attend to in September.
With the average date of the Rogue Valley's first frost date of October 19 about a month away, it's time to do some pruning on certain vegetable plants. Trimming blossoms and tiny fruit from plants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant will help direct the plant's energy toward fruits that are likely to ripen before frost.
Green beans are very frost-tender, so when you hear predicted night temperatures nearing freezing, cover them with Remay or an old sheet to extend their harvest .
It is time to stop fertilizing, as this will help signal plants to begin to shut down for the winter. Fertilizer promotes new growth, and you don't want to encourage it so late that it gets nipped by frost, thus damaging plants.
If you are planning to grow some veggies over the winter — and I hope you are — this is the time to direct-seed lettuce, radishes and greens such as spinach. The soil is still quite warm for these cool-season veggies, though, so germination may be spotty. Keep the soil moist, and shade it if we get another spell of hot weather.
Spinach is affected more by day length than temperature. By that, I mean that the long days of spring serve as a trigger for it to go to seed and finish its life cycle. When planted in the fall, however, it thrives in the shorter, cooler days. Spinach is amazingly hardy, and with some protection it will usually make it through the winter nicely.
Check your seed catalog and seed packets to be sure your lettuce is one of the many kinds to raise over the winter.
It's too late to start broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, chard, cauliflower and the like from seed, but they are available as seedlings at some nurseries. Set them out now so they have a chance for good root development before cold weather arrives.
Coming up: Sept. 13-22 is the eighth annual "Eat Local" week in the Rogue Valley. As you are aware, I strongly promote raising your own food, or if that's not possible, purchasing food that is grown locally. There are many activities during the week, including local food tastings, Farm-to-Table dinners and a Rogue Flavor Farm Tour. Full details can be seen on the Mail Tribune's "Eat Local" page at www.mailtribune.com/eatlocal.
From 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, members of the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District will present a class on catching rain. Ways of doing that, from constructing a rain barrel to large-scale rain harvesting, will be discussed. The class will be held at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. Cost is $5. Call 541-776-7371 to register.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at email@example.com.