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Reader's tomato plant produced whopping 357 fruits

Don Kinzler, Growing Together gardening columnist for The ForumMichael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Q: I don't have a question, but had an experience with a tomato plant I thought might be of interest. I'm a long-time gardener, and this year in late May I bought one six-inch tomato plant from Kmart. The Bonnie Plants label said early maturing, but I had no idea it would yield so many — 357 good eating-size tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes)! This was such an unusual plant, I just wanted to share the story. — Nancy Otto, Moorhead

A: Thanks, Nancy for a great tomato story, and thanks especially for keeping count. Nancy goes on to say "I know how many tomatoes we picked because my granddaughter helped, and each time we would record the date and how many we picked. The plant was taller than me and the lower stem and root were larger in diameter than my wrist. So far, I've canned 47 pints of tomatoes and have enough tomatoes for 21 more. Plus, we gave many tomatoes away to friends and family and ate lots fresh ourselves. I didn't fertilize the plant, but placed it in a tomato cage and also needed four five-gallon pails under the branches because they were so heavy with fruit. It grew higher than the tomato cage, but was able to rest on our chain link fence. When it got higher than the fence, I trimmed off the top because it was leaning and growing into the neighbor's property next door."

Unfortunately, the exact tomato cultivar name wasn't included on the label, which was my first question of Nancy, since many of us would like to try this heavy producer. I did a little research, and tomato plants on average produce 10 to 25 pounds of fruit. If medium-sized tomatoes weigh six ounces each, average plants yield between 25 and 65 tomatoes. Roma and cherry tomatoes yield higher numbers. But a plant that yields 357 medium-sized tomatoes is pretty spectacular.

Q: What should be done with hydrangea plants for winter? — Gene Astolfi, West Fargo.

A: Hydrangea care depends on whether they're the Annabelle type, with large, round, white flowers or paniculata types with pinkish-cream or white pyramidal-shaped clusters such as Vanilla Strawberry, Limelight and others. Both types are best left unpruned until next spring. Annabelle types regrow from the base each year, so should be cut down to six inches above ground level in April. Hydrangea paniculata varieties with pyramidal-shaped flower clusters sprout leaves each year from above-ground branches like most shrubs. In early spring, prune only to remove old flower clusters and shape branches as needed.

Endless Summer hydrangeas are definitely borderline in adaptation, and survive winter best if mounded with shredded bark, leaves or straw.

Q: Why do some people wrap burlap around evergreens, and should we all be doing it? — C. Evenson, Bismarck.

A: Burlap is used by some property owners to wrap arborvitae and other evergreens that are at higher risk for winterburn. Browning of evergreens happens when winter winds desiccate the foliage, or when snow-reflected sunlight damages foliage. Burlap provides wind protection and shades foliage from sunburn.