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Garden Help Desk: Proper tomato care and advice for your lawn in the fall

By USU Extension - | Oct 15, 2022

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Tomatoes with "zippers" are still flavorful and sage to eat.

Some of my tomatoes this year have a thin, brown, crusty line down the side of the fruit. Is this a disease? Is the fruit still good?

This is called zippering, and yes, your tomatoes are still perfectly safe to eat.

That “zipper” mark on your tomatoes is caused when an anther from the tomato blossom sticks to the side of the tomato while it’s very small, leaving a scar. Sometimes the scar is thin, but it can also be quite noticeable. It’s not unusual for a hole to form alongside the scar.

Zippering is more common in cool weather, and you may notice that some tomato varieties in your garden are more prone to zippering than others. I usually grow the same varieties in my own garden every year, and I’ve noticed that I never see zippering on some varieties and almost always see at least some zippering on one of my favorite varieties. Since I like that variety so much, I don’t mind a little zippering.

Tomato fruits with zippering will still be firm and flavorful, even when the scar or hole is quite large. Simply trim away any damaged parts and enjoy the rest of your tomato.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Vertical zippering on tomatoes is common, but sometimes it affects the blossom end or circles a tomato.

Autumn is here, and a gardener’s thoughts turn to fall yard and garden cleanup. Some tasks are important, and some can wait. Here are some tips for planning your yard work.

Trees and shrubs: Skip the fall pruning! Established shade trees need very little pruning at any time, but this isn’t the time of year to prune fruit trees, either. Go ahead and remove branches that are dead, diseased, damaged or create hazards, but save your routine pruning for springtime. Pruning can stimulate new growth, and you want your trees to transition to dormancy instead.

Fall also isn’t the time to fertilize trees. Shade trees seldom need fertilizer, but fruit trees usually need some nitrogen every spring.

Evergreen plants need to start out the winter well-hydrated and with some soil moisture, too. Evergreen needles and leaves lose moisture throughout the winter, and you don’t want them to start out the winter at a disadvantage.

Lawns: Mow your lawn short (1½-2 inches) in late fall and do an application of fertilizer. It doesn’t need to be anything special; 20-0-0 or whatever you have on hand is fine.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Some gardeners like to leave old annuals and perennials through the winter as habitat for beneficial insects, but you'll have an easier time in the spring if you clean up in the fall.

There won’t be many leaves to rake up for a few weeks, but once the leaves drop you can add them to your compost pile or garden soil. Don’t leave a thick layer of leaves on your lawn.

Hard to kill weeds: Fall is the time to work on perennial weeds like field bindweed (erroneously called morning glory) and white top. Like other perennial plants, they are drawing nutrients from the leaves down into the roots. An herbicide will move down to the roots more efficiently and you’ll get better results from your efforts. Make sure you use a lawn-safe broadleaf herbicide for weeds in your lawn. Glyphosate or another systemic herbicide will work well for weeds in shrub and flower beds where you can safely apply it without damaging other plants. Unfortunately, organic herbicides aren’t effective for tough perennial weeds.

Annuals and Perennials: Many annuals will keep their good looks until November, but you can go ahead and start remove any fading or frost-nipped annuals now. Perennials can be ignored until the tops are killed by a hard freeze, then cut them back to within a few inches of the ground.

Vegetable gardens: Go ahead and remove any plants that have declined or stopped producing. Leave the rest for now while we’re still having mild weather. Once we have a killing frost, clean out your garden completely. Turn under dead plants or take them to your compost pile. There shouldn’t be any plants left except overwintering crops like carrots.


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