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Staking tomatoes brings benefits, responsibilities

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 29 May 2013 at 10:47

Found this article this morning, and thought it would make an interesting post....

 
Quote Staking tomatoes brings benefits, responsibilities

By LEE REICH | Associated Press – 29 May2013

 
A month from now, don't say I didn't warn you.
 
Tomato seedlings that were planted neatly near garden stakes are already beginning to take matters into their own hands, and if allowed to grow willy nilly will turn into a tangled mass of vines with tomato fruits — many of them rotting — hidden in a dark jungle of stems. So, if you were planning to stake and prune your tomato plants, start asserting yourself now.
 
Tomatoes do not have to be staked and pruned to be grown well, but if you planted them anything less than 3 or 4 feet apart and put stakes beside each one, that obviously was your intention.
 
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
 
Staking is admittedly the more troublesome way to grow tomatoes. But in return for your troubles, you reap earlier fruits, larger fruits, cleaner fruits and more fruits per square foot of garden space. (Only so-called indeterminate tomatoes — those whose stems are forever elongating, as indicated on the seed packet — can be staked.)
 
To keep the plants neat through the season, the stake has to be sturdy, no smaller than an inch-and-a-half-square piece of wood, bamboo or metal pipe. To accommodate that ever-elongating growth, a stake also must be about 7 feet tall, enough for one end to be plunged solidly into the ground while the other extends as high as you can reach for pruning, tying and harvesting.
 
ONGOING PRUNING
 
OK, your stakes are in the ground. Your tomatoes are growing well and you've been pruning them by snapping off shoots, called suckers, that appear wherever a leaf meets the single stem. So what more do you need to worry about?
 
Those tomato plants are going to need more attention than you think. Turn your back on them for what seems like a few minutes, and already little new suckers are picking up steam. Or, the plant has grown another 12 inches and is starting to flop over.
 
Time for another tier of soft twine or a strip of cloth looped tightly around the stake, then loosely around the stem to hold it up.
 
SOMETIMES PLANTS GET AWAY
 
Most frustrating is when you're startled by a giant sucker, almost as robust as the single main stem, on a plant that otherwise has been so neatly trained. This common situation results, ironically, from paying too close attention to the plants. While you were staring at small details like little suckers trying to get toeholds, a large one that went unnoticed kept growing larger. It doesn't take long for a large sucker to take on the proportions of the main stem.
 
There are a few ways to handle such a delinquent shoot. The first is to lop it off at its origin. The plant doesn't like losing all this photosynthesizing greenery, and small tomatoes might even be forming on it. Still, lopping the overgrown sucker off keeps the plant neat and uncongested, which are long-term benefits that make this option best earlier in the season.
 
The second option is to let the shoot grow, tie it up, and now consider your staked plant as having two main stems instead of one. Diligent pruning from here on can usually prevent congestion, although two stems provide twice the opportunity for delinquent suckers to sneak up on you.
 
The third option is just to ignore the delinquent shoot, except to harvest its tomato fruits when the time comes. This is the best course of action near the end of the season, when it becomes well-nigh impossible to keep up with suckers anyway. Tomato plants sometimes acquire odd growth habits, and toward the end of the season, new shoots even sometimes start growing from the ends of leaves.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2013 at 07:05
Hmmmmmmm?

The best way to grow tomatoes, as my friend Roger always tells folks, is the way that works for you. But what works for me is the antithesis of this article.

FWIW, staking is the least effective, most labor-intensive method of supporting tomato vines. For small numbers, I use cages. Not those flimsy, over-priced cages sold everywhere. I make my own out of remesh. That supports them better, and, long-term, is inexpensive.

For larger numbers I use what's variously called the Florida weave or the Georgia weave. This is the best way when you have longish rows, such as the 14 DePintos I have going this year.

Suckering is the most controversial subject in the tomato-growing world. There are pros and cons on both sides. But I feel the cons far outweigh the benefits of doing it.

But each to his own.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2013 at 16:51
Hi, Brook -

I was hoping you would weigh in on this, and am appreciative of the information.

Could you give a summary of the Florida/Georgia weave? I'm pretty sure that the mental image I'm getting is far from reality.

My dad gave me a bunch of cages, so I'l using those, with no complaints; however, if I ever need more than I have, the information on making one from remesh would be good.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2013 at 23:14
The weave system is fairly simple, Ron. I use T-poles for this, but any solid post will work.

Plant the post as if you were building a fence. Space three to four (no more) tomato plants in a straight line, and plant another post. Continue in that manner for as long as the row will be.

Next take some strong twine. This is one of the few places where synthetics work better, because natural fibers like jute have too much give. Tie the twine off on the first post then pass it in front of the first plant, behind the second, etc., anchoring it around the next post. Continue the length of the row, then return back to the beginning, this time passing the twine on the opposite sides of the plants.

Net result: Each plant is enclosed in a string cage.

You have to run a new line of twine about every six inches as the tomato plants grow. But that certainly takes less time than tying each plant to a stake.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2013 at 23:21
Remesh cages are easy to make. There are slight variations, depending on one's needs.

Start with a roll of remesh. Unroll the amount you need to produce a tower the diameter you want. Five feet, iirc, produces an 18 inch tube.

Cut the mesh to the inside of the last row. This will give you a series of fingers. Bend them into hooks, roll the mesh towards them, and squeeze them around the upright wire at the end.

Alternatively, particularly if you want to store them flat, is to cut both ends smooth, then use cable ties to connect them. At season's end, cut the ties and you're good to go.

You can leave the bottom row of wire in place, and use wire staples to anchor the tower. I prefer cutting it off. This gives me 11 or 12 six-inch legs, which I push into the ground. Where I live no other support is needed. If you have high winds, additional wire staples (which can be made from the bottom ring) may be necessary. Or even a length or rebar, hammered into the ground, and the tower wired to it.

If you vary the diameters, you can store the towers by inserting them into each other, telescope fashion, then lay them flat on the ground. At one point, when I was using more than 30 of these, I'd have a pyramid of them over-wintering.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AK1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 June 2013 at 20:27
Thing to remember; there are various methods that work. 
But, what works for a backyard gardener growing less than 20 plants is different from what works for someone growing 100+ plants, is different from a larger scale grower. Even between those various segments, people have different preferences, methods of working...

I would say this, try staking a few, try caging a few,  try weaving a few, try... see what works best for you.
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