Monday, September 19, 2011

How to Trellis your Heirloom Tomatoes

This is the first year I am not cursing my tomato supports
and this photo of our trellising system is why. 

Now, back in the day, a long long time ago, and for 3 years, I was the CSA coordinator for the Davis Student Organic Farm.  There we grew awesome heirlooms.  Mostly thanks to Raoul, the guru farmer, but also to our trellising.  

Our technique there was to pound stakes every 4 - 5 feet and plant heirlooms every foot.  As they grew we would use twine and tie them up, using the stakes as leverage. In other words, we would start at the end of a row and as we walked down the row we would tie the twine to the next stake keeping the tomato on the inside of the twine and the twine level all the way to the end of the row.  We would repeat this on the other side of the row forming a sort of twine fence for the indeterminate tomato to use as support while growing.  We did this every other week through the growing season.

Here at home, and on a much smaller scale, 40 or so plants, we added onto this technique by including actual fencing along the stakes.  This fencing takes the place of the twine and provides a structure for tying up individual tomato branches.  With this system, we are able to reach all of our plants and the yield is more than I can handle.  Of course all of this means nothing without a well managed soil.  And for help with that I refer you to Elliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch and of course Organic Gardening.

By the way, the same goes for any plant requiring support.  Check out our raspberries.

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