Throgmorton: Labor Day

Schools are back in session. Labor Day is upon us. And the calendar has turned to September. Labor Day signals the end of summer but not the end of the gardening season.

There are a lot of vegetables to harvest. Our tomatoes are ripening so fast we can’t keep up. We freeze them so that takes some pressure off. Canning tomatoes is an all weekend project. Corn harvest is in full production. And I think we’ve frozen enough squash for bread all winter.

The harvest will soon come to an end. The next cold front can freeze gardens above 7,000 feet elevation. The foothills and plains will probably have a freeze in the next four weeks. Using season extenders keeps the harvest going a little longer.

A simple cover protects against light frosts. The old bed-sheet over the tomatoes works. There are special frost guard materials that hold off the frost even better. Frost guard cloth and sheets are for rows or groups of plants. They also only protect against light frosts.

To really protect and keep heat loving plants like peppers and basil growing a structure is necessary. A small greenhouse will offer enough frost protection and daytime heating to keep plants growing. There are some excellent passive solar cold frames and greenhouse packages to extend the growing season to eight or nine months.

This time of year is a good time to start a fall crop of veggies. Sow spinach and salad greens it get them up and growing. You may get a some salad this fall. And you’ll get a head start on salads next spring.

Sow snow peas in a sunny spot. Expect them to sprout up in ten days or two weeks. They can take light fall frosts. You’ll have crisp edible peas in a little over a month.

The last weeks of summer and first weeks of fall are great for transplanting perennials, shrubs and trees. The soil is warm but the air temperature is cool. Plants don’t shock as much. They also develop new roots to hit spring growing.

It’s the season to protect what’s growing through the first frost or two. And it’s the season to start new plants for next spring.

Tom Throgmorton, of Throgmorton Plant Management, can be heard on KUNC, 91.5 FM, every Saturday morning at 7:35 and 9:35 a.m.

Originally published on September 23rd, 2011.