24K Heirloom Tomatoes & Friends


So your garden space is ready and so are your plants. Let's begin. Most important is the planting design. Your plants want at least 3 feet of space in all directions. More is definitely better. And you want enough space between the rows for easy tilling during the season to remove weeds. Planting in straight lines makes life much easier, though we avoid rectangles in our garden for aesthetic reasons. (Efficiency and aesthetics are often conflicting values in a garden.) And you have to take your plant support system into account.


We use tomato cages from Gardeners Supply online. There are many options. Wooden stakes. Trellises. Poles connected by lines through which the plants are guided and clamped. Free standing. And one of my friends uses concrete reinforcing wire in tall circles around the plants. The last works the best for a home gardener. They are taller than most tomato cages, and stronger. If not secured into the ground, they can fall over. But overall these are best because they give the plants more room to grow and good support, without crowding. There are three problems, though. They rust so they are aesthetically unpleasant and unpleasant to handle. You have to leave them in the field all winter where they rust more and can get caught up in new growth. Trellises and wires are great, but you have to have time to prune the plants. Otherwise these systems fail. Commercial gardeners around here use raised beds, with drip irrigation built in, under black plastic and poles every ten feet or so connected by three or four strands of wire, through which the plants grow. I do not believe they prune. This works great for them.

I use tomato cages, although they have drawbacks, too. First they are somewhat expensive; unless you consider that they last a long time, if you buy the good, heavy steel ones. Second, they are on the short side. Tomatoes in the sun can grow really tall, considerably taller than the cages, unless you buy the extensions which nearly double the price. Plus the tall ones can fall in the wind, even if you use the staples they provide. Also, you can tear your pants and shirts if they get caught on the metal points that abound around the cages. But I have used them for many years now. And they are the best compromise. They are guaranteed and if they break,(sometimes a weld will come apart) Gardeners Supply replaces the cage, no questions asked.

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