Growing up

Tomato harvest a few years back, this year hoping for even more!!

We are going for it this year in the garden.  We made a big investment in compost, drip tape and mulch, as well as time, effort & love.  In exchange I am really hoping to yield some serious garden bounty.  We now have 85 tomato plants out back, over a dozen varieties, in our newly dug garden.  We have planted, mulched and now it is time to stake so we can actually get at that fruit.  We planted pretty intensively, as the garden is freshly dug and filled with lots of compost, we well as tons of leaves and Straw.  Technically we could just let the tomatoes ramble all over the ground, which some people swear by,  for easier harvesting and better use of space we will trellis.  Trellising also keeps those precious fruits away from pests and robbers.  There are lots of ways to do so and gardeners love to debate about it; Towers, Cages, Remesh, Twine, but guess what I picked….Yep you got it, Willow.

Lots of fresh-cut willow

Remember my willow fence, well the willow patch by the river just keeps giving and actually the more I prune it back, the better the yield.  I harvested, yes, 85 tall thick straight willows, (it is a lot but the patch is huge and it barely makes a dent, I am always careful to wild craft gently and respectfully) I will use one for each tomato plant.  The inspiration, you see was Italy……

The Cinque Terre, Italy

We were there a few years back attending Terra Madre,

Proud Bean Farmer at Terra Madre

an international gathering of Slow Foodies, which is totally amazing and really worth learning more about… but more than a food tourist, I am a farm tourist.  I love nothing more than seeing the gardens of a place, touching the soil, smelling the blooms.  In fact I plan on reporting back here in my own personal column about my garden tourism, but that will have to wait for a rainy day….Back to tomatoes…..Here are some trellis’  we saw while traipsing the Italian countryside.

Tomatoes in a hoop house in Tuscany, Italy

Tomato trellis in Tuscany, Italy

Seems to me the basic idea is just one vertical stake per plant with one strong cord across the top holding them all in place. So with 85 willow, some Cedar Posts, and tie wire, this is our Whimsical version of Italian style tomato staking.

Willow leaning in on one tie wire line pulled tight between cedar stakes

Now when you grow intensively like this you generally prune tomatoes as well.  I will be training each plant up one stake and will be pruning to one main stem.  Here is a video I found that explains this well from Fine Gardening, another twist on this is from Johnny’s Seeds which includes twine weaving for trellising.  Tomatoes don’t NEED to be pruned, but if you are growing intensively it is good idea, just to avoid too much vegetative mass rubbing against each other creating opportunity for disease to spread as well as encouraging the plants to put their energy into fruit rather than shoot.

Each plant is tied to it’s stake with reused bailing twine, don’t throw that stuff out, it is good & strong, and lasts for years and years!

So there you have it, Let’s hope they grow up well!

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