By David Wagner
October is a funny month, full of surprises every year. We expect it to usher in the rainy season but it is most unreliable. Some years it hardly rains at all in October and some years the tomatoes and grapes ripen right up to the end of the month. With the crummy tomato summer we’ve had, I’m hoping for the latter. However, this would mean that the mushrooms won’t be as plentiful. Either outcome is good: no rain and the tomatoes ripen, lots of rain and it’s mushrooms erumpent.
If the season does end abruptly it is possible to ripen tomatoes still on the vine, but in the shed. I’ve had pretty good luck uprooting an entire tomato plant, shaking off the dirt, pruning lanky branch tips, and hanging upside down in a cool storage room. So long as it doesn’t freeze in there, the tomatoes will continue to ripen nicely. They are less likely to rot on hanging vines than if picked and spread on newspapers.
I love late season butterflies, especially the little golden brown skippers. They are especially noticeable around fall blooming asters. There are two that might show up in your garden in October, sachem and woodland skipper.
Do not overlook Jupiter putting on a show in the night sky. Late last month it was as close to earth as it will get for many years. It is still the brightest star in the sky. Look high in the southern sky between 11 pm and midnight.
David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for more than 30 years. Every year he makes the Willamette Valley Nature Calendar, available this month at Down to Earth and the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Eugene; First Alternatives and Grass Roots Bookstore in Corvallis. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.