Ask the gardeners

Because it looked as though our tomatoes wouldn't ripen before frost, we picked them and carefully wrapped each one in newspaper, as a friend suggested. They're ripening gradually but we don't care for the flavor in fresh salads. Is there some use for green tomatoes?

Tomatoes which are picked green never have the flavor of vine-ripened ones.

In some areas green tomatoes were the only choice because of impending frost. However, there are some delicious ''dishes'' made from green tomatoes: green tomato relish, green tomato chutney, and green tomatoes fried, broiled, or pickled, among them.

One of our favorites is green tomato mincemeat for pies and filled cookies. It calls for: 6 cups apples 6 cups green tomatoes (chopped) 4 cups brown sugar 1 1/3 cups vinegar 3 cups raisins 1 tablespoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon powdered cloves 3/4 teaspoon allspice 3/4 cup butter Simmer 3 hours and add butter. While hot, pour into jars and seal; or cool and freeze. Yields 6 pints.

Next month we will be away from home for two weeks. We have no one to take care of our African violets. Is there some way we can keep them watered so they won't be all dried out when we return?

Wicks are the best way to water plants when you are to be gone for a period of time. Some folks use them to automatically water their plants all the time.

Cut very thin pieces of discarded pantyhose or nylon stockings. The best way to insert the wick in the pots is to knock the plant out gently and lay it to one side. Then pull the wick up through the pot's hole far enough so you can circle around the bottom with it. This allows more even watering.

Set the plant back in the pot and run the other end of the wick down through a hole made in a cover of a margarine container. Fill the container with water and put the cover back on.

You will now have a wick running from the pot down into the water underneath the cover. Make sure the wick runs directly from the pot hole down into the reservoir.

May I share a tip with your readers? This year, in order to foil cutworms, I slit large-size plastic drinking straws lengthwise, cut them into thirds, and then slipped each piece around the stem of a vegetable or flower transplant. When planting, I bury half of the the straw beneath the top of the soil. I didn't lose a single transplant. The method is cheap, simple, and effective.

This is a good one to keep in mind. We enjoy hearing from our readers and hope they'll continue to send us tips to be shared with fellow gardeners.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the gardening page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists, authors of several books on gardening, and greenhouse operators for 25 years.

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