Jim Murphy & Sons

Extend your harvest as frosts threaten garden

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Kelly McGowan digs for garlic in the Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden at the Springfield Botanical Gardens. Garlic is best planted in fall for an early summer harvest.

A killing frost usually signals the end to the growing season, not to mention a slew of pesky bugs.

But are there ways to prolong your vegetable garden?

According to Kelly McGowan, a horticulture educator with University of Missouri Extension, there are several actions you can take.

“First, if you have tomatoes left on the vine and don’t want to see them go to waste, I recommend picking all of the mature green fruit one day before the killing frost,” says McGowan, who writes the Growing Organic column for Ozarks Living as well as serving as a liaison and coordinator to Master Gardens.

Wrap the tomatoes individually in paper and store between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Those tomatoes will continue to ripen slowly over several weeks. Another method is to uproot entire plants and hang in sheltered locations, where the fruit will continue to ripen.

Another common question this time of year is how to prolong the harvest period of root crops like carrots and turnips without digging and storing them.

“Summer-planted carrots and fall turnips may be left in the ground until a killing frost. Some gardeners place straw mulch over the row so these crops can be harvested until the ground freezes solid,” says McGowan.

For more information, contact one of MU Extension’s horticulture specialists or educators in southwest Missouri: Patrick Byers in Webster County at 417-859-2044; Kelly McGowan in Greene County at 417-881-8909 or Robert Balek in Jasper County at 417-358-2158. And don’t forget the gardening hotline operated by the Master Gardeners of Greene County at 417-874-2963.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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