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Backyard Gardener: Planting a Cover Crop


BANGOR - As the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter, the growth in your garden is probably starting to dwindle. Which means the hardier crops are ready to harvest.  Our Erin Thomas has more in "Backyard Gardener."

The tops of your plants may have started dying back, meaning it's time to harvest several fall crops.


Kate Garland, horticulturalist from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, joined us in the garden this week to teach us how to determine what is ready to be pulled.


She explained that once winter squash has hardened, it's ready to go. When it comes to harvesting, tools can make things easier. Use cutters to snip thick vines, and a hand fork to dig up root vegetables.


Not everything may be ripe, though. Plants that aren't finished growing still need care.


Kate says tomatoes will ripen off of the vine, and you can even speed up the process with a piece of fruit and a paper bag.  The ethylene released by the overripe fruit signals the ripening process in the green tomatoes.


Crops that are done producing should be harvested. The ground should not be left empty. A cover crop will provide your soil with organic matter.


Kate advises sowing feed oats.  This cover crop will grow eight to ten inches tall by mid-October, and protect your soil through the harsh winter months.  You shouldn't worry about fighting a weed in the spring.  The crop will die back in the winter and can be planted in when spring comes.

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