Friday, June 7, 2013

Taming the Tomatoes

I went on vacation for a few days and came back to my tomatoes screaming to be stabilized.  Most of them were a little over two feet tall and cranking out tomatoes like it’s midsummer.  For the past few years, I have tied each plant to its own stake, securing them with strips of old (white) grocery bags.  Now, this worked just fine growing tomatoes in containers, but it was time consuming to secure each individual plant to each individual stake.  And if the tomato plant outgrew its stake (as was the case last year with the epic 9.5 feet plants) I would have to restake the entire plant to a new stake.

Given that I’m growing my indeterminate tomatoes in rows in the raised beds, I was convinced there had to be a better staking method.  I was looking for something that wouldn’t take as much time since the already 85+ degree heat has just been melting my skin off and something that would allow me to add taller stakes with more ease later in the season.  After spending more hours than I’d like to admit reading gardening blogs and forums on the internet, I decided to try my hand at the Florida Weave.  In short, this method uses a stake on either end of the row of tomatoes (stakes can be placed in between if the rows have more than a few plants) and winding jute/twine around the posts and between the plants in a figure eight pattern.  Yes, that sounds confusing to the average reader and that is how it is vaguely described on many blogs and posts.  However, Betty over at Garden Betty describes it perfectly in this post, complete with easy to follow instructions and diagrams.  Here's a closeup of one of my Sunsugar plants secured using the Florida weave.

I used jute on my plants, which is controversial given some sag from watering and rain, but I want to be able to compost it at the end of the season and not have a plastic-based product to throw in the trash.  I figure the worst things that could happen are that I will have to restring some of the weaves later in the summer as the jute sags, or I will have to stake each plant individually if the weave doesn't withstand the elements.  And in the grand scheme of things, neither of those is a deal breaker for trying something that could save me from hours in the sun once the temperature sustains its typical 95+ degrees.

So, in about 20 minutes, I had applied the Florida Weave to the Sunsugar Cheery, Sweety Grape, Yellow Boy, and Summer Sweet tomatoes in the raised beds, and they are all happily vertical once again.

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