Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gardening 101: support part 2

Trying to figure out how to support tomatoes can be a real head scratcher.  Imagine: you're standing in the garden center holding a tiny four inch tall seedling set in a plug tray.  Beside you are several different sized tomato baskets: 24", 36", and 52".  You look back at this tiny cluster of leaves, shrug and reach for what you think might be reasonable.  One month later, your tomato plant has completely filled and is now over-flowing the basket, weighing down and blending the wire.  Holy CATS!

If you are going to use the round basket type support, the best time to put these in place is at the time of planting.  Putting one in after the plant is established runs the risk of damaging the roots, breaking branches, or snapping the stalk.  So what is the alternative?  OR if the plant is now overwhelming the basket, what is the remedy?  Easy Peasie.  String Trellising.

When this was first recommended to me I thought the person was a little nuts.  String?  Does this guy know how heavy those tomato plants get?  Well, using the string would be better than finding the tomatoes on the ground so I gave it a whirl.

The basic frame is as easy as two lengths of conduwit with some heavy wire running between them.  Of course we use six foot metal fence posts cause that's what we had handy.  a local grower we know, uses ten foot pipes (about two feet into the ground).  The string that is going to support the plant needs to be fairly heavy duty.  We use a synthetic twine that is durable enough to last several seasons and strong enough to support even the heaviest tomato plant.  Gently tie one end (not tight) to the base of the plant or use trellis clips.  Tie the other end to the wire high above the plants.  I leave a little extra twine on the end so  that I can tie on some more if needed or to add some extra support later.

Gently spiral the twine counter clockwise up the central stem of the plant.  As you do so, look for any suckers that may be forming at the base of the leaves.  Remove these small leaflets.  The general rule of thumb is, remove any sucker that forms below where the flowers are.   This will encourage the plant to form a stronger central stem and better tomatoes.

The grower who lives nearby uses this method exclusively to grow eight and ten foot tall tomato plants which supply the local market with some of the best tomatoes in the area.   Try String trellising.  You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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