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Even though we have lots of green tomatoes on our plants, they are not ripening very fast. Is there anything we can do to make them turn red?
Tests have shown that tomatoes ripen best at temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees F. Ripening is slowed considerably when Fahrenheit temperatures drop below 65 degrees or rise above 80 degrees.
Snipping off the top 8 or 10 inches of the plant helps (the small tomatoes won't make it before frost anyway). The sudden loss of vegetative growth appears to hasten the ripening process.
Another reader asks about pulling the plants before frost and hanging them upside down in the garage, expecting to get some ripe ones later.
The ones that are turning from deep green to faded green will likely ripen on the vines. You could also pick the green tomatoes, wipe them off with a cloth dipped in mild household bleach solution (2 tablespoons to a quart of water) to inhibit rot, dry thoroughly, and then place on trays or wrap separately in newspaper.
Store them in an airy place (65 to 75 degrees F.) and check them every few days. Sunlight is not necessary.
As you know, there are many great recipes for using green tomatoes. We have a leaflet with several which readers have sent to us over the years. If interested , send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for: ''Green Tomato Recipes.''
Our impatiens have been beautiful this year. We have tried to take some slips (cuttings) so they can be rooted and later potted up for growing indoors during the winter. Our coleus and begonia slips root very quickly but the impatiens wilt completely. We haven't been able to get a single one to root.
Impatiens cuttings are tricky to root. Using a sharp knife, take tip cuttings 3 or 4 inches long. Snip off all but the topmost leaves and remove all blooms and fat buds. Put immediately in about 2 inches of tepid water with a pea-size piece of charcoal.
We find they root better if the cuttings are taken just below a joint and if a rooted cutting of coleus is put in the water with them.
Some folks prefer to put impatiens cuttings in moist perlite or a mix of perlite and vermiculite.
We have a hanging basket on our patio filled with gorgeous Blue Picotee petunias. Now we're wondering what special treatment it would need if we were to move it inside for the winter. It has gotten quite sprawly with most of the blooms on the tips, but we can't say enough about the continuous bloom of the three Picotee varieties we've tried: Blue Frost, Velvet Picotee, and Blue Picotee.
We suggest you cut the stems back to about 6 inches when you take it in. New growth will come back soon, so don't despair!
Put it where it can get at least four hours of sun a day and see that the soil is kept moist. It should put on a good show most of the winter.
We agree about the new Picotee varieties and think that those you mention, plus Rose Parasol and Cherry Frost, are terrific!
When I bought my heart-leaved philodendron about two years ago it was trained on a wide piece of rough wood and had lush leaves three to four inches long. About a year ago I put it in a hanging basket and ever since it has been getting straggly looking with smaller and smaller leaves. What happened?
The derivation of the name is: philo (to love) and dendron (tree).
In other words, philodendrons are tree lovers. When you had the wood, representing a tree for the plant to cling to with its aerial roots, it had good growth. But when a philodendron is grown in a hanging container or allowed to ramble horizontally, its leaves get smaller.
And another thing, they seem to grow best when they are slightly potbound.
We planted some kochia this year and it grew fast, making a nice background plant for our flower bed. Will it come up again next year?
Kochia, or summer cypress, is an annual, but it reseeds itself and will come up by the millions. You can separate the plants, give some to your friends, and then transplant the seedlings about 10 inches apart so they won't crowd one another.
A close relative of the ordinary kochia is Acapulco silver which has variegated green and silvery white leaves. Both turn ruby-red in the fall.
You may want to try this 1983 All America bronze-medal winner next year. It is quite handsome.