Friday, August 19, 2011

Tall Tomatoes

Pruned tomato plant tied up to two stakes.
If you lived in the Northwest and tried to grow tomatoes last year you probably know that a lot of us didn't actually get to harvest our crop.  The tomatoes received Late Blight (a fungus) and died a quick and morbid slimy death.  If your tomatoes survived, well, I didn't really ask so feel free to not say anything.  Oregon had a cool and damp summer last year.  It took a while for our tomatoes to do their thing and most of mine just didn't get to finish their thing.  I had a few volunteer tomatoes out front that survived but all the ones I actually purchases and thoughtfully planted turned to slime.  Besides the cool weather, I don't think my plants had enough air circulating through their branches last year.  They were all sort of falling onto each other which is why I am finally really done with the puny wire tomato holders.  I am far too cheap to buy the sturdy cages; it would take years of productive harvests to get a return on my tomatoes after shelling out $20 per cage!  I haven't gotten around to making my own cages and since space is so limited around my place anyway this year I am growing my staple garden veggie, the tomato, up!

To keep the bulky tomato vines sleek and tall I have been pinching off the suckers anywhere a new leaf is starting in between two existing branches. As they grow I am tying the plants up to a cedar stake or two using twine.  I found my sticks in a discount grocery store of all places but you should be able to get them at any plant store or just use anything tall and sturdy.   When you tie the branches up you have to do it like you mean it.  You grab all the sprawling branches and tie them all together around the stake.  Don't worry if your twine is on leaves or looks restrictive.  The plant will look fresh and vibrant even around the tie the next day.  I think I overdid the pruning on some of my tomato plants especially the cherry tomatoes where they don't get so out of control and bulky to begin with.  I understand pruning tomatoes is an art and you can do it as little or as much as suites you.  Other than a few puny plants so far I am satisfied with the progress my tomatoes are making.  

My grandpa gave me a couple of his supports. (I will be making some of my own and will get some pictures when I do.)  I have not been pruning the tomato plants in these cages. They are doing well with perhaps more fruit at a smaller size.  Since my tomatoes are in different soil compositions (some amended dirt from my yard, some imported soil in raised beds), receiving different distributions of shade and sun and not all the same variety I can't really be sure as to which method is the most efficient but the more compact growing tall method pleases me.  Perhaps the answer for me will be somewhere in between: a caged but controlled plant.  We will see what I yield!
Un-pruned tomato plant with homemade cage. There are more tomatoes hiding in there!
They are not quite as large as the tomatoes from the pruned plants.
My "flower bed" tomato plants
While so many regions are experiencing record breaking high temperatures this summer, here in the Pacific Northwest, we are really flirting with another cool season.  I don't mind summer temps in the 70's but the tomatoes (and children) really would prefer some more consistent 80's and even some 90's like the good old days!  That said, I think we are going to get just enough warm days yet to make these green tomatoes turn red without the blight!  I just have a feeling it's going to work out!    

For an update on how the tomatoes are going check this out!

1 comment:

  1. I'd deal with more rain than sun right now. This drought is killing us. Our peppers and plants are doing ok but not great. Definitely nothing that's sustaining us. You need to come assess things for me!