Take time to enjoy the fruits of your labor

  • Warm-season vegetables like peppers and tomatoes should be picked as soon as they ripen.

    Warm-season vegetables like peppers and tomatoes should be picked as soon as they ripen. Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

By Tim Johnson
Chicago Botanic Garden
Posted9/13/2020 7:00 AM

Continue to harvest vegetables as they ripen. Warm-season crops like peppers and tomatoes should be picked as soon as possible. Full-sized pumpkins need to remain on the vine as long as possible to achieve their maximum size.

Continue to snip herbs to use fresh, to dry or to freeze. Try making some extra pesto and freezing it an ice cube tray. Pop out the cubes when frozen and store in a plastic bag for use this winter.


Collards, kale and Brussels sprouts will have improved taste if they are allowed to be hit with frost before harvesting. Maintain good sanitation throughout the vegetable garden. Remove diseased plants immediately, as well as those that have finished their growth cycle for the year. It is best to compost only healthy plant material.

• Plants that prefer acidic soil conditions, such as rhododendrons and azaleas, can benefit from an application of granular sulfur to the soil in fall, as well as spring. If your blue hydrangeas have turned pink, then sulfur applications may return the flower color to blue.

Avoid contact with the sulfur by wearing latex gloves and keep the dust out of your eyes. Apply to the soil and gently scratch in. Sulfur works slowly in the soil and repeated applications will be necessary from year to year.

• Divide perennials that bloomed in spring and summer as needed. It's best to do this early in the month so plants have time to establish before winter sets in. Mulch the newly planted divisions. Avoid dividing any perennials that are under drought stress.

• There may be some established plants in your garden that could use some supplemental water with the dry conditions lingering. I have been spot-watering plants with consistent wilted leaves, which is a sign of drought stress in my garden at home.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.

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