SEATTLE — A few things gardeners can count on in September in the Pacific Northwest. Shorter, cooler days and a bunch of unripe tomatoes hanging on their vines.
"So it's late in the season, there's nothing more frustrating than watching all your tomatoes that never ripen up rot on the vine when the cold and rain starts. So we’ve gotta do whatever it takes go get these tomatoes to ripen up,” said Ciscoe Morris.
Cut Leaves: “So the first thing you do is you got out there and you cut off some of the lower foliage right toward the bottom. The reason you do that is because if you leave a lot of foliage on there, this time of year, cool nights, a lot of dew, it can cause disease.”
Pluck Blossoms: “The next thing you do is when you see little flowers, any fruit that forms from them, you're not gonna get a ripe tomato this time of year so what you do is you go ahead and pinch those off. You wanna get all those flowers off there because the plant's wasting its energy, trying to grow fruit there and you want all the energy to go right to the tomatoes that are already there."
Ciscoe says if extremely cold weather is in the forecast, and you have green tomatoes that don’t have a hint of color, go ahead and pull them off the vine, and turn them into chutney or fry them. They’ll never ripen up and the cold could make them inedible to boot.
Stop Watering: There’s still a chance for the green tomatoes on your plants to ripen as long as the weather stays mild. But you might have to try some tough love. “Once you make your decision that you're gonna try to get these guys to ripen up on the vine – you cut off the water. This is a gamble I gotta admit it, because this plant may die. But you wanna stress it out. You want the plant to go 'I think I'm gonna die' so the plant sends all of its energy to the fruit to try and ripen it up.” Ciscoe adds that the plant wants to create seeds – or offspring – more than anything else, so stressing it might hurry up the ripening.
Finally, Ciscoe recommends plucking a ripe tomato and munching it right there in your garden. That should provide plenty of inspiration to try a little tough love to get the rest of them to ripen on the vine.