Green tomatoes will occasionally drop from their parent plants, either of their own accord or inadvertently nudged off while you work around the plants.
Now what? Do you throw them away or use them? Being that I hate to waste anything from the garden, I say "use them." Use them to make fried green tomatoes, green tomato relish, green tomato salsa or pickled green tomatoes. If none of these uses appeal to you, take the tomatoes to the next protest rally you attend. As the old saying goes, "sticks and stones will break bones, but green tomatoes -- eh, they’ll only sting a little."
Being that you are the more intelligent of the two people who read this column -- not to mention the writer, you are thinking, "Why don’t I just ripen the tomatoes on the windowsill?" Good question! If tomatoes are shiny dark green, they are too immature to ripen off the vine. Use these for green tomato recipes. However, if the tomatoes are at full size and are light green, they will ripen, though the flavor is not as good as vine-ripened tomatoes. Tomatoes can be ripened on a windowsill but they’ll ripen faster if placed in a paper bag with a ripe apple. The apple gives off ethylene, a natural ripening agent.
Never try to ripen tomatoes by putting them in the refrigerator. It just won’t happen. I mentioned in last week’s column that the chemicals responsible for the red color of tomatoes are not produced at temperatures above 85 degrees. The same is true when tomatoes are exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees.
After finishing prepping green tomato recipes, turn your attention to these weekend tasks:
n Determine the cause for decline or thinning of a lawn area before beginning renovations. Soil compaction, poor drainage, excessive shade and poor fertility often can lead to thinning of turfgrass. Whatever the cause, it must be corrected before reseeding or over-seeding a lawn. Otherwise, the problem will return.
n Carefully snip off the shoot tips of garden weeds with mature seed heads before attempting to pull up the weeds. Common garden weeds, such as annual and perennial grasses, lamb’s quarters and pigweed, are now setting seed. These seeds easily fall to the ground when the plants are yanked out. As the old saying goes (not another one), "one year’s seeds yield seven years’ weeds."
n On the other hand, allow black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) to go to seed. In other words, resist the temptation to deadhead the plants. Black-eyed Susan is a short-lived perennial -- some would say it’s biennial -- so let it reseed itself. Also, let Rose of Sharon reseed itself. It’s not short lived, but next spring’s seedlings can be dug and shared with friends.
n Fertilize strawberry beds by applying one half pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer (or equivalent) per 100 square feet. Make the fertilizer application before Labor Day. Organic gardeners can apply fish emulsion, dried poultry manure, dried blood, or other natural sources of plant nutrients. This fertilizer application is important since June-bearing strawberries will soon be setting buds for next year’s fruit.
n Keep spraying or dusting the microbial insecticide B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis) onto cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale to control cabbageworms. I still see the adult butterfly of the cabbageworm flitting about laying eggs on these crops. Add a drop of liquid soap to liquid mixes of B.t. to help it stick to leaves.
n Apply water to the soil around garden plants rather than over the plants. Foliar diseases are common at this time of year and wetting the leaves of plants facilitates fungal infections. Do continue to water gardens since it has been rather dry of late. There’s still plenty of growing season left.