Question: This year I've had more green tomatoes than red in my Oklahoma garden. Frost is predicted soon. Can I ripen the green tomatoes indoors?
Answer: Yes, you can ripen your tomatoes indoors if the fruits are mature enough. Look at the fruits; if they are starting to show any color (other than green), it means they're starting to ripen. Pick those fruits and bring them indoors. Wash off the skins with a mild bleach solution, rinse, and let dry. Once dry, wrap the fruits individually in newspaper and store them in a warm, dark room. Tomatoes don't need light to ripen, just warmth. Make sure the fruits don't touch each other. Check them every few days for signs of rotting and discard decaying fruits. The tomatoes should start ripening in a week. Any green fruits in the garden that aren't showing signs of ripening can also be picked and made into green tomato relish, fried green tomatoes, or salsa. Nothing has to be wasted in your tomato garden!
Question: Last fall we moved into our new Pennsylvania house after all the garden had been cut down. This year a large patch of blackberries grew up, but had no fruit. What happened?
Answer: Congratulations on your new home. The previous owners were probably trying to do you a favor by cutting back the garden, but the blackberries were one crop they should have left alone.
Most blackberry varieties need two years to produce fruit. The first year canes (primocanes) grow up and don't flower or fruit. They overwinter, and in the second year you'll get fruit on those canes in summer, now called floricanes. After they fruit, these canes will die. But new canes also emerge each spring to take their place, producing fruit each year. Be patient and those canes that you see this year will fruit next year. You can build a blackberry trellis this fall to keep the canes upright. In spring, you may have to prune back any winter injured canes.
The exceptions to this pattern of fruiting are the new everbearing blackberry varieties such as 'Prime Jim' and 'Prime Jan'. These varieties bear fruit on the first year canes in fall and again on the same canes the following summer. It's quite a treat. So, if you're planning on expanding your blackberry patch, try these new varieties.