Staking the tomatoes - cages? spirals? twine?
As we mentioned earlier, the wheat will survive the weeds, but the tomatoes will not do well if you don't stake them. Who wants to pick up squishy, rotting tomatoes covered with dirt? Within a short amount of time, the tomato plants can be staked and all your efforts to date will not have gone to waste. But which method? Cages? Spirals? Old fashioned wooden stakes and twine? The cages are okay the first year when they are shiny and new and out in the garden. The problems start when you take them in for the season and the horizontal rings start separating from the vertical parts. And, even though they are made out of thick gage wire, the part that goes into the ground never comes back out straight. Then you have all these wires going every which way poking you and creating problems when you try to stack them for storage, not to mention tipping over and grabbing your sweater all winter whenever you walk past them. And who has enough room for all of them anyway? We have 55 tomato plants this year - a modest amount really, when you consider that we hope to provide for all of our own tomato needs for the year as well as for Christmas gifts for others. Can you imagine 55 tomato cages in the winter? Ugh. The new (er) rage is to use a metal spiral (Gardman Tomato Spiral 6') and wind the plant up it as the plant grows. This is a great tool if you have just a few plants and worth the price ($12.24 each at Amazon) when you consider that tomatoes are selling for $2.99/lb. You'll make your money back in the first year even if you get only 4 tomatoes from each plant. It'll also work for tomatoes in containers. Here's another innovative staking system that uses a wooden stake (you provide) with a polypropylene spiral that you stretch from the top of the stake down to the soil. It sounds interesting and does have an adjustable attachment for hooking onto the top of the stake. However, the instructions to "press pointed bottom into soil" is a red flag to me. How do I know it won't spring back up, smack me in the face and turn my nose into a big red tomato? At 4 for $39.99 plus stakes and winter storage room, twine is looking better and better. And so, you guessed it, GardenSnob uses the old fashioned wooden stakes and twine. You can use one stake per plant or put stakes at the end of rows and run two lines of twine between them, catching the plants on both sides as Drumlin Farm does. The stakes need storage room in winter but the twine stays with the plants and goes right into the compost pile in the fall. Now that's easy and makes our thrifty Yankee inner child happy.
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Posted by Mary Ellen at July 25, 2008 8:25 AM