Friday, March 18, 2011

Growing and Supporting Tomatoes

The picture above is a photo of my garden in 2009. These are our 'Portugal' tomatoes growing. That was a bumper year for tomatoes.

I inherited a pile of 6' metal fence posts that have been handy in the garden. I usually stretch wire between them on which to grow things, like tomatoes, cukes, peas.

This year I am considering another option. I also have some fencing that is really a large roll of reinforcing wire. I want to make a few of these for the tomatoes, one set for each of the tomato varieties that I want to plant this year:

The wire will be in two pieces, two "L"s, which I will remove from the post in the fall and store separately.

These are indeterminate tomatoes, meaning they grow continually larger until the frost takes them. Determinate tomatoes have a preprogrammed, default setting causing them to stop growing when they reach maturity which makes them better for short seasons. I grow these indeterminate ones anyway. I'm always pushing the growing season. These are HUGE plants and have to be controlled by pruning.

I prune most of the suckers off all summer and cut the tops off of my indeterminate tomato plants around mid August. They do keep trying to grow after the top has been cut off, putting out even more suckers and more tops. I just keep trimming it back, forcing it to put as much growth as possible into the tomatoes. This makes for very large tomatoes.

We still get green tomatoes at the end of the season. To help the plant ripen what is there, I cut the roots about halfway around the plant when it gets about two weeks before our first frost date. This does help, although we still get green tomatoes.

Some tomatoes will keep all winter in our cold cellar wrapped separately in newspaper. Each tomato individually wrapped and not touching others, set on wood to keep dry. Sometimes they will stay green enough and good until mid winter, when they can be taken out and put into the kitchen to finish ripening. Not all tomatoes will do this, but a few will. If you find a good keeper tomato, you can have garden tomatoes at Christmas!

I have some seeds I got in a trade for some good "keeper" tomatoes that I am going to plant this year on a trial basis.

Some green tomatoes are welcome! We like
Fried Green Tomatoes!

I have considered growing them upside down from a hole in the bottom of a bucket, as well, but have just not bothered. I have a lot of space for a garden and I don't have a secure place to hang them. Acquiring the buckets would be no problem but I would have to build a strong system from which to hang them that will support their weight.

Do you have another tomato support system that works well for you?

The first pictured tomato support system came from:


waiting4Him said...

Would those tomatoes happen to be Brandywine? It sounds like my experience with the Brandywines. They kept on growing--maybe 9 feet--and gave lots of green tomatoes in the fall. I was happy about that because I make a French Canadian recipe called "Green Tomato Catsup", which my husband loves. I definitely need help with staking tomatoes, so I'll consider this new method, too.

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

No, they are not brandywines, but all indeterminate tomatoes do that.

Recipe sounds interesting!

icebear said...

I'm a pruning wimp. I really want to prune my tomatoes the right way, but when i think i get it and i go to do it, i chicken out. I'm sure i'm missing out on a better harvest but for some reason i can't decide what to do.

All the tomatoes i want to grow happen to be indies, except Roma... I use the classic circular tomato cages but i know those are not adequate for anything but determinates- they buckle under the weight.

Money can get tight too, and we don't have much scrap to experiment with. The cages in catalogs are expensive. I'll have to figure something out! :o)

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Just a post of some kind, if tall enough, is usually adequate as a stake and you can even plant two tomato plants on one stake, if its strong enough. You can also make a 6' teepee type wooden trellis from 2" x 2"s. You can still grow great tomatoes without pruning!

Just removing the suckers will make a big difference.

I leaf prune tomatos too. The 'San Marzano' tomatoes especially need it. They have huge leaves that curl in and cover the entire plant so no sun reaches the center or the tomatoes. I take off a few whole leaves and cut many leaf brances in half. Not so necessary for the 'Portugal' tomatoes.

The Japanese Redneck said...

That support system looks interesting.

Hubbies family truck farmed when he was a kid so he always does it like his family. He grows more than we can eat and lets them flop on the ground.

I'm not too keen on this cause it's hard to keep the grass out.

I've been saying I was going to do the upside down tomatoes. I need to make a big effort to really do it.

Lauren said...

Great! Thanks for showing them, that helps alot :) now once I master the art of pruning Ill be set :)

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Hi Ramona! If you do grow them hanging in buckets, post it on your blog so we can see how it went!

I might grow a couple of Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes upside down in buckets this year near the kitchen door, maybe...

Carol said...

My husband workplace was getting rid of a ton of old medal shelving units. The actual shelves were not any good but the posts and rails make great support for anything that climbs.

Harriet said...

When I used a cage of 6 x6 wire such as you showed I found I couldn't get my arm in far enough to collect the tomatoes. In the end just managing my tomatoes that year was a huge hassle and I decided not to do it that way again. Perhaps if I had it in 2 halves that might have worked better, or even if I could have got in from one angle. It is very difficult leaning over something over 3 feet high and across to get the tomato I really wanted. And I thought it was such a great idea, too!

Horsea said...

You are amazing, Sheryl, all the stuff that you do. You just posted on idigmygarden to advise me on hand pollinating squash.

As to supporting indeterminate tomatoes, I can say that after all these years I still don't have a perfect (or even good) system. I just end up resorting to sticking a 6' piece of re-bar beside where the plant will go, and using pieces of old teeshirts, tie the durn thing. It's all rather sloppy.

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Thank you, Harriet! I have consdiered making some of those type of tomato cages. Now I won't do so.

I might use the fencing mentioned for a chicken tractor instead of tomato supports but I do have lots of cow fencing I can use for tomatoes.

I'll decide what I'm going to do this year, when I get out there and actually do it! LOL!

I'm so decisive...

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Goodness, Horsea! You're making me blush!!
Thank you!
I figure if I petal fast enough I can outrun boredom and winter blues...

Connie from Ohio said...

I was too late to order the tomatoe seeds. Maybe next year. I did order some other interesting things though from your farm store. I am going to start making wine this year. Wish me luck.

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Too bad you missed the tomatoes this year! Hopefully I will have them all again in late summer.

Good luck with the wine making!

You can download my free ebook "Making Your Own Wine At Home" on my seed site at: