Late Summer: Heirloom Tomato Harvesting and Helping the Goldfinches

* It’s best to harvest big heirloom tomatoes like Brandywine and German Streak a little bit early: completely colored but not yet really dead ripe. This may sound nuts – why else are you growing your own – but most of these “unimproved” beauties are very vulnerable to cracking, even when there’s no last minute rain. Letting them finish up indoors for the last day or three won’t make them taste any less vine ripened; just be sure to keep them in a single layer, out of the sun and somewhere between 60 and 75 degrees.

* If you haven’t tested your soil for a long time – or ever – this is a good time to check things out and see if adjustments are called for. Organic amendments like greensand and lime need time to break down, so if you want their good effects next spring you have to spread them this fall.

* Goldfinches are very food-needy right now; they wait to raise families until wild seeds are ripe. Even if there are feeders around, your little black and yellow neighbors will be grateful – and gratifyingly in evidence – if you stop deadheading the cosmos.

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