Let tomatoes ripen indoors to avoid frost damage

Garden Q&A

  • Goldenrain's fragrant, yellow-flowered panicles -- up to 2 feet long and 18 inches wide -- are followed by rosy pink seed capsules that hold color for weeks before browning.
Goldenrain's fragrant, yellow-flowered panicles --… (Courtesy of Ginny Williams,…)
September 24, 2014|By Ellen Nibali | For The Baltimore Sun

According to the frost/freeze chart on the Home and Garden Information Center website, I'm thinking that if I cover my tomatoes with row cover or something during light freezes, I can have sun-ripened tomatoes into November. Will this work?

Fortunately, tomatoes do not need to ripen on the vine to have good flavor. At the end of the growing season, tomato plants fade as days shorten, sunlight weakens and temperatures drop. But long before a hard frost hits, the tomato fruits start exhibiting poor flavor and texture, plus uneven ripening or blotches. We'd recommend that you pick tomatoes when they have enlarged and the color begins to change, and let them finish ripening indoors for the best results.

This morning I noticed brown leaves on my "Otto Luyken" cherry laurel bushes. On further investigation, I see the trunk and branches were coated in white, which I assume is scale. Two adjacent plants are starting. Please recommend a remedy.

Your cherry laurel is infested with white prunicola scale insects, which have three generations each summer. First, brush off the loose scale residue using a stiff brush — but don't do this so firmly that it damages the bark. Then spray with a summer rate of horticultural oil. Read the label to dilute the oil properly. Avoid spraying oil when daytime temperatures are in the mid-80s. Also spray bark and twigs with dormant oil in winter to kill overwintering females.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to its website at extension.umd.edu/hgic.

Plant of the week

Goldenrain tree, Chinese flame tree

Koelreuteria bipinnata

Rare is the tree that blooms spectacularly in late summer. Goldenrain's fragrant, yellow-flowered panicles — up to 2 feet long and 18 inches wide — are followed by rosy pink seed capsules that hold color for weeks before browning. Its fall leaf color is yellow. Dry seed pods can be used in flower arrangements. At a moderate rate, goldenrain grows about 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide. While it may require watering in dry periods, goldenrain tree grows in any soil, and its noninvasive roots allow underplanting. Remove multiple trunks and space branches evenly along the central leader. Imported from China, it can seed prolifically, so avoid planting it near natural areas. Use as a street tree or near patios where it gets full sun.

—Ginny Williams

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