Tried-and-True Tomato Trellising Technique

June 23, 2021

The Florida weave! Is it a type of shawl? A new hair style? Some kind of line dance? No. The Florida weave is used widely and is well thought of as a tomato-trellising technique. Rutgers has a fine explanation online.

Sue’s tomato plants get big and weigh a ton. In the past few years, we have used bamboo and added several extra supports so the mass from 16 vines doesn’t topple over and kill someone.

This year she is trying out the Florida weave, on recycled galvanized pipe. Nancy found a few pieces of seven-foot pipe but we just couldn’t come up with the 10 more pieces needed. Then Ruth decided to donate the plumbing pipes from her home. (Well, that old galvanized had to come out sometime.)

Sue says, “The Weave will be easier to use for me, a near-to-five-foot gardener. Once the poles are in, the twinning work will be easier. I will add another horizontal weave with every ten inches of plant growth.”

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Sue is training to just one central leader this year. She hopes for good air circulation and this system will make her keep up with her fastidious thinning and pruning. She’s hoping for less bulk but more productive flowering.

This year’s indeterminate cherry tomato varieties are: Jasper, AAS award-winning, Cherry Bomb and a few Sun Peach – all late-blight resistant.

“We always have green tomatoes left on the plants because we have a short season in western Washington. I like to take them home and ripen them up. If they rot, instead of ripen, I know that variety could get late-blight and I tend to stay away from it.”

Next season, Sue will plant tomatoes in a different bed. She will have the poles ready to pound in, without having to make a new trellis out of bamboo.

This new method fosters recycling, will be labor-saving, and is portable. The proof, of course, will be in the tomatoes!


The Handy Dande

May 19, 2021

Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale – origin from Greek words meaning ‘disorder remedy’ – Asteraceae family.

How did we ever come to hate dandelions? Well, who knows. In any case, Europeans thought them valuable enough to tote them to the New World in the 1600’s. In ancient times, the plant was valued as a diuretic and liver tonic.

When the soil temperature hits 50 F (that was April 15 at the orchard) the dandelion is triggered to make flower heads … and then away they go! The orchard becomes a sea of dandes, busy doing their fine work – prying open the heavy soil with their deep root.

Thermal compost class
Sat May 22, 10-12
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Some weeders can’t resist pulling dandelion plants. That’s fine, as long as the plant gets recycled: either tossed back on top of the soil, or pitched on the compost drying rack. We think of them as Class A compost plants – plants that we would compost in any manner – directly on the soil, in a static compost or in a thermal compost. Class B compost plants are those that we would only put through a thermal compost, so the high heat can kill unwanted seeds. Class C weeds belong in the yard waste – bindweed, Himalayan blackberry, etc. They would also be devastated by the thermal process but why take a chance when we have so many other wonderful plants to compost.

This week at the orchard, we are scooping up the dandelion leaves, along with two great mulch plants: early-flowering borage (Trachystemon orientalis) and common comfrey (Symphytum officinale). Plants that produce a large volume of material above ground are good mulch plants.

This fresh ‘green manure’ will have a carbon to nitrogen ratio of about 20 and will help produce heat in the upcoming compost pile.

Feverishly pulling the dandelion plants for a thermal compost isn’t the best use for our dandes. There are other uses with more substantial benefits: medicine, wine, tea, salads, antioxidants, seeds for birds, mosquito repellent, and nectar for bees. At FECO, they are a preferred food of the menacing Eastern Cottontail rabbit. All parts of the plant are edible and the USDA ranks them higher than spinach or broccoli in nutrition!

Well, are you starting to like these sensational plants better?



More about the dandelion:

Nutrition of dandelion:

Nutrient content spreadsheet:

The dandelion society:

Dr Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases

Soil temperature by county:

You Need This Kind of Friend

April 25, 2021

An old pal and I were talking about different kinds of friends. We have friends who challenge us, helping us to be the best we can be. Hopefully, we also have a friend who thinks we are wonderful and that everything we do is amazing.

Joan Davis. Everyone needs a friend like Joan Davis. I have never met anyone so cheerful and warm in all my life. Her smile is permanent and actually does go from ear to ear. I believe she has posted some positive comment for every FECO blog written.

Joan is moving to the Hearthstone in a couple of weeks. At this point in time, the Hearthstone has restrictions on visiting but residents can come and go as they please.

Thermal Compost Class
Sat May 15, 10-12
for reps from giving gardens
Please email us if you want to volunteer at FECO freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail

When Joan told me about the move I asked her to meet me at the orchard. I predicted that she might be a bit sad about this big transition coming her way. I even brought a clean hankie, in case she broke down.

Nope. Here is what she said, “It’s great! I won’t ever have to go up those stairs again!” Then she gave me a can of sardines. (It’s a old joke.)

Joan has been a friend of the orchard since the beginning. We really had struggles at the start of FECO. There were many days that I didn’t think I could keep it up. As I write this, I am realizing that her support really helped push me along.

There was a time, early in 2011, when no one from the core group was interested in working on a grant for the orchard. Then Joan raised her hand.

During the grant periods, keeping track of volunteer hours became important. Joan took on that task. She tracked hours for four years, including the busiest part of orchard development, the 2014 and 2015 infrastructure matching grant.

But the job that we could always count on her for was – event greeter. If there was a job made for Joan, it was greeter. She greeted hundreds of people, during nearly every FECO event.

Joan has endured some pretty tough obstacles in her life but she didn’t sour. She sees the glass full to the brim.

I love you Joan.