What has Hanna learned so far this year when it comes to her tomatoes? The same thing that Hanna learned last year and swore up and down that she would not let it happen again. Let’s all say it together in singsong “Tomato cages bought at the hardware store for .69 each really, really SUCK.” *sigh*
Half my poor tomato plants are tumbling over because I put those stupid, chintzy cages around them. I just didn’t have a choice. I have more tomato plants than I do really good cages and really good cages are hard to store and even harder to make.
Now, when I talk about really good cages, I mean the ones I made from concrete reinforcement mesh. The things tower up seven feet and provide near perfect support for what ever tomato I put in it. But I only have 5 of these cages.
For as much as I love these cages, they are a bitch to make. Cutting through the wires that make up concrete mesh is really tough and I am a flabby weakling.
Plus, you have to have good wire cutters, which, despite the fact that I bought a pair and hid them safely away from my spouse, have managed to somehow end up in the toolbox my husband likes to occasionally refer to as our garage. I don’t think we can find the chainsaw out there, let alone a pair of wire cutters.
And I have to be honest, I didn’t look that hard. My hands and arms remembered the blisters and cuts from the year prior when I made the first 5 cages.
I have also discovered that concrete mesh cages also do not lend themselves to storage like the cheap cages do. They make for bizarre backyard art during the winter months.
It has become apparent that I need to do something different. I feel like my tomatoes have become an M.C. Escher drawn maze for as intertwined as they are.
I saw an interesting pic over at A Tramp in the (Organic) Garden (The third one down, below the rather luscious tomato bosom picture). It is a structure built over the bed that it looks like you tie the vines to it. That baby looks like it could support a dozen or so plants, no problem. Bonus, because the owner got her husband to build it. But I am thinking that something like that might be hard to move around the garden and I still have the problem with storage.
Then I was reading The Great Tomato Book (Looking into what to grow next year) and they recommend a method called Stringing Up. It looks much like the system that Loretta’s friend has but the method the book suggests is much less bulky. A post dug into either end of the bed and a piece of electrical conduit attached across the top. You tie strings to the base of the plants and wrap a string around each main branch and then tie the string to the conduit overhead. As the plant grows, you just untie the string, wrap the string a little more up the branch and retie above.
Sounds simple. At the end of the season, you take down the conduit, pull up the posts and you have something that is pretty easy to store.
Of course, I will have all winter to contemplate my support methods for next year. But I swear up, down, across, sideways and in a backward loop-di-loop that I will not attempt to support my precious tomato plants next year with crappy tomato cages. And this year, I really, really, really mean it.