Monday, June 8, 2009

I Say Tomato, You Say Tomaaaaahto

What's the best way to handle those fast growing tomato plants? Ask any group of gardeners and you are bound to receive a handful of different answers...the tomato tower, topless table, stake and weave, simple ole' cages. One thing we can all agree on is tomato plants need to be supported in order to ensure a long and healthy growing & harvesting season.

Here is my process:

1) Tomatoes LOVE metal. According to Jerry Baker (a wacky but talented gardener) it is possible that tomatoes are able to gather electrical ions out of the air, energizing the plants and roots. I use 6 ft. fence posts, driven into the ground at each tomato base. I use fence posts that are made for rural fencing because they usually have notches that are perfect for anchoring when tying up the tomatoes.

2) Use something flexible to tie the tomato branches to the stake. I buy knee-hi pantyhose (usually around a buck per package of 10 at most discount stores). I like to cut mine in half lengthwise, just because you can tie better and waste less. Using pantyhose as ties allows the plant to continue growing, yet the material is strong enough to keep the plants tied in place.

3) Stake early, tie often. This is the most important rule to remember. Stake your tomatoes before they start to spread. Check your tomatoes once a week (or more during peak summer days) and add additional ties as your plants grow.

With this method I have had seasons with monster tomato plants that have reached beyond the top of my stakes and tomatoes that have produced until mid October. It works well for me, but might not fit everyone's gardening criteria. What works for you?

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