The Block Island Times

Late season tomatoes — ripened inside

By Frederick H. Nelson | Nov 15, 2013
Photo by: Fred Nelson The Threadleaf Japanese Maple, seen above, provides some of the most vibrant colors on the island during the fall.

Late season delights — ripened  tomatoes and fall colors

This fall has, in general, been quite moderate in temperature and with ample sunshine (although there was rain and snow this past week). In spite of the good weather, my tomatoes had lost their foliage and all that was left were several decent looking green tomatoes. I picked those that seemed viable, with the capacity to ripen with time. I placed them on top of newspaper on the floor of our basement. Gradually, one by one, they turned red. Now, we have been able to continue with our daily lunch of a tomato sandwich. The “old” process of ripening green tomatoes by wrapping them in newspaper certainly works, but in order to see if they are ripening, one must unwrap the papers to check on the process. By just laying the tomatoes out, without any sunshine, works just fine for me. It is natural that all green tomatoes might not ripen, but this may be because they were immature when picked.

One of the most successful commercial tomato growers in Hartford County used to pick tomatoes well before any had started to ripen in the field. He stored them in the basement area of a barn where they ripened earlier than if he had left them outside. He was always one of the first growers with native tomatoes in the market, where the early crop always commanded the highest price. Plus, by removing these early green tomatoes, the rest of the crop was able to come into production quicker than if the earlier tomatoes had remained on the vine to ripen naturally. Try that out next summer and see if it works for you.

Here it is November and there is still some evidence of fall color on select trees and shrubs. One that I find most attractive is the Threadleaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum). Some varieties have red foliage and some have green foliage. The leaves have multiple leaf lobes, up to 10 or so, giving a delicate, lacy appearance when compared to the “normal” Acer palmatum. The branches are somewhat pendulous, tending to grow downward. This makes for an interesting branching arrangement as the tree grows. One of the features along with the green summer leaves is the brilliant fall color that lasts well into November when most trees have already shed their leaves. When planted it is best to use it as a specimen plant, growing it in the sunshine with plenty of room to expand. My maple currently has a diameter of eight to 10 feet. In order to accommodate its growth, I have had to gradually prune back a dwarf form of spruce that obviously, in hindsight, was planted too close to the maple. My choice is to cater to the maple.

Based upon my observation of the deer activity in our neighborhood, there are more deer than we have seen in the 19 years that we have been living here. While they normally come out during dusk, this year we are being visited most any time of the day. One day there were five on one side of the house and two on the opposite side — during the day! The food supply must be coming up a bit short as they have been feeding upon rhubarb both in my garden and my neighbor across the street. Never before has the rhubarb been touched, that is why I grow it without any protection. As most gardeners know, the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous, while the stems are highly desired, particularly in late spring. Whether or not eating the leaves affected the marauding deer I don’t know, but I haven’t seen any deer carcasses lying about.

Another report that I have received is that some lilacs have been attacked. Lilacs grow all around the island, and I have never seen or heard of any problem with them in the past. What these conditions portend is that with a severe winter — extra cold temperatures, ice and snow — many of these young deer and some of the more mature deer may not make it through the winter alive. It’s a blessing that the DEM has instituted “emergency regulations,” as reported in the last issue of The Block Island Times, to severely reduce the current deer population.

My rain gauge showed that we finally received one inch of rain after almost two months of drought. Our pond (about four feet deep) dried up prior to the rain. That is only the third time that it has dried since our family purchased the property in 1955. Newly planted trees, shrubs or perennials should continue to be watered for another few weeks or until frost sets in the ground to insure that there is ample soil moisture to sustain them through the winter.

A killing frost devastates the heart as well as the garden.”— Eleanor Perenyi, “Green Thoughts(1981)

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