Friday, July 3, 2015

Lots of Tomatoes in a Small Space

 Our tomatoes are doing really well this year.  Thanks to the warm weather, the plentiful rain, and the great plants we got from the Garden Patch Nursery in Coshocton.  The trouble is, we want lots of tomatoes, but we don't have much space to devote to them.  So, our tomatoes are planted too close together, and starting to sprawl on each other.  They look good but soon they will develop problems because they are too close.  Solution?  Trellising.  Give the tomatoes the space they need by growing them vertically.  Here's what we are doingl
 We built a trellis based on an Eliot Colman design (I think it is in The New Organic Grower). The key to this is a strong board at the top to support the weight of the plants, and a tight wire at the bottom to tie the strings to.  Some people recommend that you tie to the plant at the base, but I find the weight of the plant tends to put a lot of stress on the roots and the stem.  I tie to a wire, and things don't get pulled out when the wind blows.
 The next step is to prune off the sucker growth.  These are the growth points that come out at a leaf juncture.  If you have enough space you could leave one and treat it as a seperate plant on a new line.  I prune them all.
 I've found that the early blossoms form on the main lead, and the suckers bloom later.  I'd rather put more energy into those early blooms, so the suckers have to go.
When the plant is pruned we tie it to the vertical line.  Once a week they need to be pruned and tied.  With an indeterminate plant we can have them grow over the top of the trellis and start down the other side.  Using this method for adding more space and combining it with good fertility, mulch, and consistent watering, I can space my tomatoes about 1 foot apart.  Lets me pack a lot of plants in a small area.

 This is what the first row looks like now.  Only two more to go.  

Other tips on trellising.  I like baler twine.  It ties well, and it lasts all summer but isn't a problem in the compost of burn pile (depending on your clean-up method and disease pressure).  Jute will not make it through the summer.  Another thing.  Only work tomatoes when they are warm and dry.  Early in the morning they are very brittle and will break where you needed them to bend.  When the plants are wet from rain or dew it is easy to pass disease from plant to plant.  Work when they are dry, and use clean shears (DON"T stick them in the dirt!!!)
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