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Covering Tomatoes


You may think I put all this plastic and this Grow-Web material around these tomatoes to protect against those unpredicted freezes that we've been having lately. But what I'm actually doing is trying to ripen these tomatoes. Tomatoes are tropical plants and they need heat to ripen. A lot of times when they're green a lot of people have been calling in and saying, "You know, I have a lot of big green tomatoes and they won't ripen."

They are physiologically mature and all they need is heat to ripen. You can tell when a tomato is ready to ripen, or physiologically mature, because all you have to do is cut it. If you cut into the seeds, see those little white seeds there, if you cut those seeds then it's not physiologically mature and it will never ripen off the vine. But if you take a big one like that, it will have gel around that seed and you'll never cut through it. So all you have to do is put this Grow-Web material over the top to keep the foliage from being burnt by the plastic, or frozen by the plastic, and cover it up. On a clear day it will get 15-20 degrees warmer under here than it would have uncovered. So you'll ripen that fruit and have it ready for the first of the year.

Now, tomatoes and peppers are the only things you need to cover and try to ripen with the heat. Broccoli and Cauliflower and those kinds of things will ripen on their own because they are cool season plants.

This is Jerry Parsons, Vegetable Specialist for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, the Weekend Gardener.

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