Tag Archives: tomato

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!

Ruth

Talkin’ Tomatoes

April 16, 2019

I am a tomato addict. One of my favorite memories is arriving in rural southwest Ohio at 6 am after driving straight through from the west coast. We stopped for breakfast at a coffee shop and were served a plate of eggs and fresh picked tomatoes, grown by the owner in his back yard. It’s nearly impossible to find that level of deliciousness in grocery stores, where tomatoes are bred for color rather than flavor. (To find out why this happened check out Flavor Is Price of Scarlet Hue of Tomatoes, Study Finds, New York Times, 2012.)

I love tomatoes that taste good, which is why I like to grow them. I’ve been growing as many as I can for a few years now and learned a few things along the way. There are numerous articles on how to grow tomatoes but it seems that few ever read these. This may be due to the terminology. The minute I ask someone if they are growing Determinant or Indeterminant tomatoes, their eyes gloss over and they start looking for a quick escape. Knowing these basics can result in a less frustrating and possibly cheaper tomato crop. Vegetable starts are already showing up at nurseries and plant sales are right around the corner so – know what you want BEFORE you shop!

Sun Apr 21, 2-4, Work Party
(deviled egg hunt)

Sat May 4, 10-12, Work Party
Sun May 19, 2-4, Work Party

DETERMINANT tomatoes grow like small shrubs or bushes. If you are growing in containers and don’t have huge tomato cages, or aren’t into constructing large trellises, these are the plants to look for. They stay more compact and produce a limited (determinant) number of flowers. The fruit ripens over a few weeks and then they are done. DON’T PRUNE THESE BABIES (except for low foliage that touches the soil) or you will lose some of the fruit. Look for varieties that ripen in 80 days or less.

INTERDETERMINANT tomatoes are vines that keep growing and producing flowers and fruit until the first frost or disease hits. If you do nothing, they will become a tangled mess, so be ready to trellis. Not everyone believes in pruning tomatoes, but I prefer to prune them to 2 or 3 main stems that are trained to grow up a trellis and I remove the suckers at least during the first month after they get planted in the ground. “Suckers” are new vines that start to grow from the point where the leaf meets the main stem. Some varieties are not as vigorous, so less pruning may result in more fruit.

SEMI-DETERMINANT. These tomatoes are bushier than indeterminants but will keep producing for a longer time than determinant plants will. Pruning may not be necessary at all unless you want to promote good airflow by removing some of first suckers that appear low on the plant. They are often more compact and make good choices for containers.

Volunteer tomato-growing enthusiasts:
If you like to grow lots of tomatoes (like I do!) and have the space and lots of sun, indeterminant tomatoes are the way to go. But for those of us who have a sunny porch with space for a container or two, tomato breeders are working on developing better tasting compact varieties. Volunteer tomato growing enthusiasts have developed at least 40 new varieties for The Dwarf Tomato Project and are working with 3 seed companies to release them to the public. Urban tomato growers rejoice!

Tomatoes aren’t that hard to grow, but there’s plenty more to learn and the best way to learn is by giving it a try. There are lots of great resources out there to help you along the way. We plan to grow lots of tomatoes once again for the University District food bank at Freeway Estates Community Orchard. Stop by! If I’m around, I’ll be happy to talk tomatoes with you!

Sue Hartman