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In A Pinch, Get Your Veggies To Mature Before The First Frost (Plus Some Worm Advice)

cucumber plants
Pinching can help fast-growing fruit and vegetables like cucumbers ripen before the first frost.

Recent heavy — though quick — rainstorms, paired with heat, have created monsters in the garden! And those gigantic squash, cukes and melons need containing, and they need you to ensure the fruits that are forming can ripen before the first frost. Say hello to *pinching.*

"Pinching" means you are cutting off the growth point and taking off any new fruit or flowers that are just beginning to form. Doing this will send enough energy into the existing fruit and flowers on the plant to ensure they ripen before the frost.

Garden veggies growing in the Northeast Kingdom or in mountainous areas tend to grow slower. If you live in early-frost areas like this, now is the time to start pinching your fruiting veggies like peppers, eggplants, squash, watermelons and tomatoes, though don't do it for cherry tomato varieties. (As soon as your tomatoes have a blush of color and a frost is imminent, you can harvest the tomatoes and have them ripen indoors). 

If you live in the Champlain or Connecticut River Valleys, you can wait to pinch your fruits and flowers till early September. 

Q: I have two mounds of squash plants. The plants have continued to flower, but the rot is progressing out. The second mound appears to be doing fine, although there are a couple yellow leaves. They are putting out flowers and starting fruits. Should I get rid of the buttercup plants now before the disease, whatever it is, spreads to the healthier plants? — Claire, in Sheffield

It may be a squash vine borer. Check the base of the plant for small holes in the vines, then take a knife and cut it open. When you do, you may see a small white worm. The worm tunnels through the stem and it opens it up to infection, and that is what kills the plant. Remove the vine borer and you can help your squash plants!

Q: This summer I discovered a worm in one of my raised organic vegetable beds which didn’t look like a regular Vermont earthworm. It was shiny and dark, and when I picked it up for closer inspection, it wiggled so much it seemed to jump out of my hand. I was alarmed to learn that I have invasive and destructive snake worms in my garden. Are there any measures that can be taken to eliminate or at least reduce their population? — Tatum, in Essex

The snake worm or the jumping worm is causing a lot of destruction in the forests. Take a look at some of the research from the Entomology Research Laboratory at the University of Vermont. Then try this method to see if you have snake worms in your own garden:

You can take some ground yellow mustard seed mixed with water and pour that onto the soil where you think you might have the worms. This causes the snake worm to come up the surface. Try that method to make sure that's what you're dealing with. And always check your soil to see there are no unwanted insects in there.

The snake worm cocoons can survive the winter, but if you can solarize a garden bed or ensure that your compost reaches above 100 degrees Farenheit, that can kill them off, so you'll be good to go for next season!

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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