Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

Improved Tomato Trellis

Sunday, June 14th, 2015
Two T-post and Bamboo Tomato Trellises

Two T-post and Bamboo Tomato Trellises

Last year I bought a bundle of 7’ bamboo stakes specifically to build a reliable tomato trellis.  I built a beefy structure that performed well, but it had drawbacks.  Here is last year’s trellis post.

T-post and Bamboo Used as Stakes

T-post and Bamboo Used as Stakes

This year I’ve simplified the design.  I eliminated the traditional tomato cages. In a well-trellised system, the cages are only in the way.  They are hard to weed around and fruit gets wedged in the wires.  I’m also using the t-posts that hold up the structure as trellising stakes for the plants adjacent to the posts, so I’m using less bamboo than last year.

Lacing Stems with Jute Twine

Lacing Stems with Jute Twine

As the tomatoes grow, I’ll start lacing the main stem to the stakes.  I’m going to be more aggressive in pruning than in previous years and probably trim down to two leaders (main branches)  per plant in most cases.

Three Across

Three Across

The trellises work well with my three across tomato plant arrangement.

Four x Two T-Post Structure

Four x Two T-Post Structure

The larger trellis supports 33 tomato plants.

Three x Two T-Post Structure

Three x Two T-Post Structure

The smaller structure supports 27 plants.

Bamboo Laced Back to the T-post Frame

Bamboo Laced Back to the T-post Frame

I like using t-posts for trellising in open raised beds.  They can stand up to any wind and hold huge loads.  And they can be integrated with all types of trellising materials.  While they require a little bit of physical effort to set up, I think the benefits make them an ideal choice for trellis supports.

Tomato Trellis Performs Well

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Trellis September 24th

Trellis September 24th

Trellis Early July

Trellis Early July

Early in July I posted about a heavy duty tomato trellis I constructed with T Posts and bamboo stakes: T Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis.   I’m happy to report the trellis performed exceptionally well.   I’m going to build one again, next year and I already know some minor changes I’m going to make.

Lacing the Stems to the Bamboo Forced Vertical Growth

Lacing the Stems to the Bamboo Forced Vertical Growth

Lacing the tomato stems to the bamboo forces the plants to maintain excellent vertical growth. A lot of the plants are growing well over the 8 foot height of the bamboo poles. The tomato fruit had a tendency to follow the foliage growth up the poles so as the season progressed the tomatoes were easier to pick as they moved upwards.

Tomato Cages Made Weeding Difficult

Tomato Cages Made Weeding Difficult

Next year I hope to put the structure up first, then plant the tomato transplants next to the bamboo poles. The traditional conical tomato cages that I used became a hindrance to weeding and I’m going to eliminate them next year. I thought I might need them for structural support, but I don’t think they are necessary.

While I thought the plants were far enough apart, I’m going to open up the spacing and plant less plants. I experienced some leaf blight and that sometimes can be reduced by better air flow. The blight didn’t seem to slow things down, but the closeness of the plants made it a little difficult to prune them and tie them up. I’ll leave out some of the varieties that did not perform well this year. And as we had way more tomatoes than we needed, leaving a few plants out will probably be a good thing.

Tomatoes Are Easy to Harvest

Tomatoes Are Easy to Harvest

We’ll be picking tomatoes until frost and I also expect the structure to offer some good support for covering the tomatoes with poly to try to extend the season and get them through the first mild frost.

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Tomato Trellis

I didn’t have the heart to cull out some of my beautiful and healthy tomato starts so I ended up with 78 plants in two beds.  My normal planting is 60 plants in two beds so I had to cheat a little on the spacing.  I opened up the width across the rows and pushed the plants as far to the edges of the bed as I thought I might get away with.  I still came close to a 20″ spacing between plants and that’s close to what I always do.

I’d already determined that I was going to develop a trellis system using the eight foot bamboo stakes I bought last year. I wanted a structure with more rigidity and easier maintenance than previous trellises.  I knew bamboo stakes would work.  This is the result.

In this planting are three each of 24 different heirlooms or open pollinated varieties and one hybrid – Sungold, the excellent little orange cherry tomato that is usually the first and last tomato harvested each year. Also here (seen below) are three tomatillos, not quite a tomato, but pretty close.  Their growing requirements are nearly the same.

T-posts, Bamboo Poles, and Cages

T-posts, Bamboo Poles, and Cages

I put tomato cages around my seedlings while they are still small and train the plants to stay inside the cages. Many gardeners don’t like traditional cages, but I find them useful in that they give me some time to get a more beefy structure set up. Plus I use the cages as a framework to tie everything back to the t-posts. This creates kind of a tension structure that is close to impervious to winds and the weight of heavy plants.

I have four t-posts on each side of the bed. The t-posts are 90 inches long overall with about 16” driven into the ground, so the structure frame is about six feet tall. I like using t-posts for trellising. They are rock solid once they are in the ground and they are easy to tie off to. I use a cheap jute twine for most of my trellising. It’s soft enough that it can be used on plant stems. And it’s biodegradable and rots away in a season in the compost pile so I don’t have a disposal problem as I would with a plastic tie.

Tying into T-posts for Support

Tying into T-posts for Support

I use one bamboo pole for each plant set next to the main stem and aligned with the t-posts. I tie the cages into each other and to the t-posts wherever I can.

Lacing It All Together

Lacing It All Together

All the outer bamboo gets tied off to a t-post or a lateral bamboo framing pole, so they have a lot of rigidity. The bamboo poles in the center are free standing, but laced into their adjacent poles. This should give the center poles enough stiffness (I hope) to handle the loading as the plants mature.

Stems Tied Around Bamboo

Stems Tied Around Bamboo

I’m training the plants to be as vertical as possible by loosely wrapping multiple stems around the bamboo using the jute twine.   With very little help, tomatoes like to grow upwards.

Lots of Air Flow

Lots of Air Flow

I’m getting lots of air flow through the plants even though they are tightly spaced.  I don’t mulch my tomatoes.  When I tried mulching I had severe slug problems. I now try to keep the ground around the main stems weed free and dry. I prune away low hanging stems and leaves and try to get as much vertical growth as possible.  It took me about a full day to set all this up, but I think I’m going to be very happy with the results.

 

Anticipating the Main Harvest

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Here Come the Tomatoes

With this year’s warm weather, we’ll be picking things from the garden a lot earlier than most years.  I’m often late getting things started, but I did a good job of getting the tomatoes, peppers, and cole crops into the ground before the end of May.  The early start coupled with the hot weather is giving us veggies in July that we normally don’t start harvesting until August.  All in all, it appears we will have a good harvest as we go into late summer and fall.

Hot Peppers

This small bed holds most of the hot peppers.  In the foreground are Serranos and behind them are cayennes and some various Asian hot peppers.  Judy likes to freeze Serrano peppers.  She should have plenty.  The cayennes are exceptionally large this year and the pepper plants, in general, are taller than what I usually get.

Sweet Peppers

In front of the asparagus is my second pepper bed.  The small plants in front are Poblanos.  They are loaded with fruit.  The rest of the bed contains various sweet peppers.  I have a lot of Nardellos, the American-Italian heirloom that we like a lot.  Those too are very heavy with peppers.  Behind and to the right of the peppers are two potato beds, one red and one yellow.  Both are doing well.  I’ve already snitched a few red ones.

Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potatoes are loving the heat.  I can’t see what’s going on down below the vines, but I’m hoping for the best.  I’ve been covering the vines with ag fabric to keep the deer from munching on them.  The deer love sweet potato leaves.

Sweet Corn

We ate our first sweet corn, yesterday,  I only have one bed this year.  Most years I get two beds planted.  I’m inter-planting the corn with two heirloom pole beans that have traditionally been grown using corn stalks for trellises.  One bean is called Turkey Craw, the other is Missouri Wonder.  The beans in the corn have a long way to go, but they look just fine.

Leeks, Pole Beans, Tomatoes, and Onions

Here is my main bean crop, with leeks in the bed to the left, tomatoes, tomatillos, and eggplants in the bed to the right of the beans, and onions to right of the tomatoes.  You can see another bed of tomatoes in the back right and in front of those are two blue barrel rings holding some fingerling potatoes which I just planted.  It’s my plan to keep adding soil to the rings as the potatoes grow to try to get a larger yield.  I haven’t done this before, so we’ll have to see if it works.

The pole beans in the front of the picture are trellised onto four tripods.  Behind them in the same bed are bush beans.  They are just flowering but I expect good production.  Last year we had a similar size set up that got somewhat eaten by deer and we still had a huge harvest.   I expect a lot more beans this year.  We are getting Japanese beetles in the beans, but I’m able to keep ahead of much damage by cleaning off the beetles using my funnel trap, which you can read about here.

Ripening Egg Plants

I went overboard with the eggplants, I just didn’t have the heart to cull out the nice seedling starts, so we have 16 eggplants.  I normally grow four to six.  They are looking great.  We’re trying to figure out the best way to freeze them – any suggestions?

Three Cabbages

Here are three good looking cabbages in one of two beds dedicated to cole crops.  The other bed is under ag fabric.  Most of this bed was used to grow kohlrabi and we’ve already harvested about half the planting.  Judy talks about using kohlrabi in her recipe post.  I’ve been spraying my coles with a neem oil, soap, and seaweed mixture and that seems to have really made a huge difference on damage from  cabbage moths.  The moth eggs hatch but the caterpillars die when they eat leaves  containing neem oil.  While the neem spray hasn’t done much for the squash it seems very effective in the coles.

Zucchini #2

Here is our second zucchini.  We picked the first, yesterday.  We’ll have lots, I’ve got five healthy plants.  The squash, melons, cukes, and zukes all got a late start.  While the zucchini are doing well I’m really having some major problems both with cucumber beetles and squash vine borers.  I’m definitely going to lose a few squash and melon plants.  I always tell people starting out in gardening to grow a lot of different stuff.  Some will always succeed and even if you lose an entire crop of one vegetable you’ll still have plenty of the others.

Mammoth Sunflowers

These Mammoth Sunflowers are already ten feet tall and they aren’t done growing.  Their stalks are like tree trunks.

Unfortunately, this could be a year without basic root crops.  No carrots or beets in the ground, yet.  It’s not too late for either for a fall crop if I can get to it, but in any case, we’ll get plenty from the garden, this year.

Tomatoes Everywhere!

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

This is the year of the tomato for us – our best harvest in three years.  Two years ago the blight attacked our tomatoes and last year due to an extremely busy schedule we didn’t do a good job of trellising and keeping the tomatoes off ground.  Our freezer was looking mighty empty of our favorite garden produce.

Tomatoes in Dryer - Before

We’ve been making lots of sauce for the freezer and as you can see from the pictures we’ve been drying cherry type tomatoes.  The dried tomatoes are great reconstituted with a little water and balsamic vinegar and used for pizza toppings, grilled cheese sandwich additions and dried tomato pesto, just to name a few.

Dried Cherry Tomatoes - After

If you don’t have a food dehydrator just use your oven set at 200 degrees with the door slightly ajar to let the moisture escape.  There are lots of drying methods on the world wide web so give it a try.