Q: I have heirloom tomatoes (85–90 days). At this point we are probably less than that many days to our first frost date. Would there be any benefit to removing new flower blossoms, as those fruit most likely won’t ripen in time? I would think the plant could put more energy into the more mature fruit, yes? No?

A: Yes, pulling the flowers off the plant will hasten the fruit that is now on it to ripen. This will make the plant try to ripen the fruit on the plant faster. You can also stop watering the plant, again that tells the plant to get busy and ripen the fruit.

However, any fruit that does set from the flowers you have now may ripen even if not as large as the fruit that has had a chance to go through the entire cycle.

You can pull the plant at the end of the season (the entire plant, fruit and all) and hang it upside down in your garage or somewhere where it will be protected. Most of the fruit will ripen. All the fruit on the plant except the very newest fruit that has set on the plant should ripen.

This does work but the fruit never tastes as good as the tomatoes that have ripened in the ground in the sun, on the vine, in my opinion.

You can also extend your growing season when the nights become cold by using plastic sheeting over the plants. Quick hoops can be made with 1/4-inch PVC pipe, 10 feet long and painter’s plastic sheeting and clamps. Bend the PVC pipe into the ground on each side of the tomato bed (creating a hoop), put the plastic over it and clamp it to the pipe. Plastic can create a very hot environment during the day so it either has to be removed or make sure both ends of the hoops are open. Three hoops are sufficient for about 8 feet. Or if you have the tomatoes trellised, the plastic sheeting can go over the trellis and to the ground. Again, remove it or vent it during the day.


Here is a link on growing tomatoes and ripening them. Also, an article on low tunnels for further info.

— Sheryl Casteen, OSU Extension Master Gardener

Q: Is it okay to prune magnolia trees in August? What about dogwoods? Or any tree for that matter.

A: You won’t cause any harm if you prune your trees in late summer.

But pruning ornamental trees is generally recommended for late winter. At that time, the tree will respond with more vigorous growth than it will if pruned now.

Here and here is more information about pruning trees and shrubs.

— Weston Miller, OSU Extension horticulturist

Gardening is in full swing and if you’ve got questions, turn to Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website and type in a question and the county where you live.