Worried about having gaseous tomatoes? Wrap ’em up

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Is anyone else surprised that fall is almost here?
Here on the farm, there are many indicators of the changing of the seasons, but two stand out: football and furball frenzy.
I know most look at the falling leaves and temperatures as signs the season is changing. Not here.
I’ve already printed out my Steelers schedule for Sunday afternoon games, and Spanky and Tiller have begun their daily farm tours.
During the summer they just follow me and find shade. Now they go on walkabout all over the farm with absolutely no regard to the clock. It seems they’re always having fun in the north 40 when I need to leave.
The cats, too, seem to sense the coming season. They want to spend as much time as possible outside, but an incredible amount of time deciding in the open doorway. Other critters have their rituals as well. You almost don’t need a calendar.
We just enjoyed the full harvest moon Monday and fall officially arrives next Friday, and that means we need to hustle. Those of us who wait until the last minute to put the garden to bed are gathering the last of the summer vegetables.
I’ve canned the last of my beans and tomatoes. All the green tomatoes will be individually wrapped in newspaper and placed carefully in boxes to be stored for months in a cool room, helping eliminate the gas they pass when wrapped. The gas is the ripening agent. If you don’t wrap them you get a group fart effect that ripens the whole box quickly. I like to eat them slowly all the way into November. So, I wrap them.
If you have winter squash and pumpkins in the garden you might be ready to harvest. You’ll know they’re ready when the rind is hard (won’t dent with a fingernail) and fully colored. Cut the stem, wash with a 10-to-1 water and bleach mixture, dry and then store them in a cool, dry place.
If you have pumpkins that haven’t finished growing, let the kids carve their names on them with the head of a nail or something like that. Keep the pumpkin growing on the vine. Their names will grow along with the pumpkin.
Cut the heads off your sunflowers now as the seeds begin to brown and the back of the flower yellows. Leave a 6- to 8-inch stem on them and hang them upside down in a cool dark place.
I place the heads in paper bags, twist the open end of the bag around the stems and then hang it. The bag keeps the seeds clean and no mess on the floor.
I’m planting a couple of outside window boxes now with lettuce and spinach seeds. I put clear plastic over the top to help them get started. They’ll produce plenty of salad for months and I can even bring them inside this winter to keep producing. I just use scissors to snip off the tops for supper.
You can also grow radishes and onions that way.
Now, enjoy the sun when we see it. September and October will bring the rain we wanted in August, along with the cool temperatures of fall.
Get those chores done. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is already mentioning the S word for the end of October.
Yikes! I’m really hoping for a mild winter, but Mother Nature hasn’t given me enough signs yet. I’ll let you know.
Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.