I never thought this day would come. I am tired of homegrown tomatoes. My tomatoes are legendary. The plants reach 9’ tall, the branches so weighty they bend over the heavy gauge chicken wire cages specially fabricated to corral these freaks of nature and the fruit is perfectly shaped and blemish free. Those earthy markets have nothing on my little patch in South Knoxville. From early July I have enjoyed these summertime wonders breakfast, lunch and dinner. Salsa, gazpacho, tomato juice, tomato sauce. The freezer is full. The pantry has an entire shelf stocked with pints and quarts of jewel tinted jars. Colleagues and friends run when they see me get out of the car with a tote. I am officially done with tomatoes and that must mean fall is around the corner. Let’s get ready!
At home, fall is a great time in the Garden. Take advantage of these warm days to empty and clean your pots. You will be glad you did when those bedding plants hit the shelves in March. Once the leaves start changing, it will be time to put your garden to bed. Watch for the stinging insects this time of year. Late summer and early fall are prime time for yellow jackets as they prepare for winter. Did you know they are carnivores? Yuck! As much as you might want to tidy up your trees and shrubs, don’t. While some small trees and shrubs may benefit from an autumnal haircut (glossy abelia, viburnum, althea), pruning can inhibit growth for spring bloomers or even prevent them from doing so.
As my friend Marti says, she is packing her bags and headed our way. As hard as it is to imagine, Winter WILL come to East Tennessee. Take advantage of this time to schedule a tune-up for your heating system. Stock up on flashlight batteries, candles and wood for the fireplace – your power WILL go out. If you wait until the forecast calls for 3-5” (and we get either nothing but clear skies or 10”), Kroger’s WILL be out. Be sure your car is ready for cold weather. Wiper fluid (get the kind that is not hazardous to your pets) and check your tires – place a penny in the tread – if you can see Lincoln’s head it is time for new tire. Throw a scraper into the glove box, toss a couple of blankets and a bag of rock salt into the trunk. Hopefully you will remove them in March without ever having used them.
Before you know it, the garden catalogs will be filling your mail box and the shelves at Lowe’s will fill up with tiny tomato plants that you cannot imagine ever being 9’ tall – which is why you plant twice as many as your family and five other families could eat in five summers. You will forget that you never want to see another tomato. I can’t wait.
Photo: liz west