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      U.P. Gardening Tip - August 19, 2009

      Our summer has been a relatively cool one. What does this means to the U.P. gardener? Well, for one thing, cold weather veggies like lettuce, spinach, beets, turnips and pumpkins thrive while hot weather veggies like tomatoes, peppers, melons and cucumbers struggle to absorb sparse available hot sunshine. In my 2009 garden, tomatoes on the vine are a good size but very green. It TMs hard to say when they will turn red and here it is nearly Aug. 25th . If an early frost comes our way, it will force me and many tomato growers to pick green fruit and let them ripen in a paper bag or on the windowsill/floor.

      It could possibly be one of those years. According to my garden journals, there have been many years (at least once or twice a decade) where gardeners harvested green tomatoes. The U.P. could have a hot September but there TMs no predictable cycle or pattern to follow. Anything from a volcano exploding on the other side of the world, El Nio winds (up again for autumn), sunspot activity or just plain cold fronts hovering and lingering can influence our U.P. tomato harvest.

      We TMll just have to follow Karl Bohnak TMs weather news closely (click: and click weather). Also note your own thermometer as temperatures in Ishpeming can differ from lake level towns by as much as 15 degrees. With Karl Bohnaks advance frost warnings, U.P. gardeners can figure out how to yield tomato crops with minimum loss. Master Gardener advice includes: pick unripe tomatoes in advance of early frost warnings. For a slight/possible frost, I usually cover plants with a tarp and tie securely to the plants TM cages or stakes so strong winds will not uncover. In a severe frost warning, I reluctantly pull whole tomato plants, roots and all and hang them upside down in the garage. I pluck them ASAP.

      Often, now through September, my front porch floor is covered with the largest precious green orbs atop old newspaper. I always smirk when the orbs turn various shades of pink, orange and red. It certainly signifies the welcome ripening harvest. Visitors always laugh as they weave their way through a trail to my kitchen.

      I am still hopeful for that first vine ripened tomato. I plan to bite into it like an apple and let the juices sluice all over my fingers and then lick each finger like I do with a drippy ice cream cone. Grown-up candy.

      TV6 Contributor - Donna Campbell, Master Gardener

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