Persimmons are fruitful in the park Trees: The native variety is fine for big spaces, but the Japanese kind is better for the back yard.

Garden Q&A

October 12, 1997

I recently moved here from Minnesota and noticed some tall trees in Druid Hill Park with deep checkered bark and green fruits. Someone told me they are persimmon trees. When should they be harvested? Can I grow any dwarf varieties in my rowhouse back yard?

The American persimmon tree is common to our area. The fruits are highly astringent when green. Upon ripening they turn a dull orange color, soften and become very palatable. They can be eaten fresh, although the seeds are large. To enjoy this harvest you'll need to begin foraging on the ground for the dropped fruits beginning in mid-October.

There are no dwarf varieties of the native persimmon, and you'd have to grow more than one variety to get any fruit. Your best bet is to buy a Japanese persimmon tree -- 'Jiro' and 'Fuyu' are good, self-fruitful varieties (you only need one tree to get fruit). The Japanese fruits are larger and less astringent than American persimmons, and the trees are more compact and well-adapted to our climate.

I still have loads of tomatoes hanging on the vine -- from green to almost ripe. I'm listening to the weather forecast every day to be prepared for the first frost. If I still have green tomatoes when the frost hits, will they ripen indoors?

Yes, they will. Fruits that are completely green but full size will slowly ripen indoors. Carefully pull them off the vine and remove the stems. Place in paper bags containing an apple -- a few tomatoes to each bag -- and they will ripen at room temperature within days. The apple produces extra ethylene gas, which triggers ripening.

You can also lay green fruits on a cookie sheet and cover with newspaper for slower ripening.

I had some fabulous geraniums in pots this summer that I don't want to part with. Can I bring them indoors?

You can cut back your geraniums (repot them if necessary), bring them indoors and place them near a window receiving direct sunlight. They will grow and probably flower during the winter months.

You can also take 6-inch-long stem cuttings with a sharp knife or razor, remove the bottom leaves, root them in a soil-less potting mix. Keep the cuttings moist at room temperature and they'll begin to root in a couple of weeks.

How should I dry my crested celosia, strawflowers and peegee hydrangeas for indoor arrangements?

Cut long stems, 18-24 inches, of the celosia and strawflower and tie them in a bundle near the stem ends. Leave enough twine so you can hang the bundle upside down in a dry, indoor location with good air circulation. Keep the heads in a paper bag or place newspaper under the heads to collect the ripened seeds. Peegee hydrangea blooms can be cut when cream colored or pink. Cut them and place the stems indoors in a dry vase.

Checklist

* Remove the debris from your pond and cover it with small-mesh fencing to keep leaves out.

* Renovate weak and diseased ground covers by mowing them close to the ground and raking out all plant debris.

* Make a final sowing of spinach and corn salad and cover the seedbed with a floating row cover or small cold frame.

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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