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Hope For Ripe Tomatoes

May 20, 2011

Our soil is still too wet to work – maybe today – so in the meantime I have finished planting the tomatoes in the greenhouse where daily I have been transported to another climate.  Inside it’s like summer, step out the door, and it is a little brisk.

Costoluto Genovese

I plant both determinate and indeterminate tomato varieties.  Determinate tomatoes are the easiest, no staking, caging or pruning which can be tempting if you’re a lazy gardener like me.  But an indeterminate tomato can produce more due to the fact that the plant will continue to grow until you or the weather stops the growth and fruit ripening process.   But they require staking, caging, trellising and/or pruning to get the best results.

I like vertical trellising the best, utilizing plastic twine and tomato clips.  This allows me to keep the tomatoes up and easy to get to for pruning and harvesting.  Commercial indoor tomato growers normally use productive hybrid tomato varieties bred specifically for high production with a single stem.  I am using heirloom varieties  so I am going to train to 4 stems.  But I am toying with the trying some of those fancy hybrids next year…my neighbor’s commercial greenhouses are a sight to behold and they are productive.  Man oh man!  They sell a boatload of tomatoes each year from two greenhouses, and while our philosophies differ a little in regards to farming and growing food, they have taught me a few things about growing tomatoes in our climate.

The tomatoes are too small to need clipping yet.  But it is easiest to get the twine up and in place before the tomatoes start to really grow in earnest.  Commercial growers use a spool system for their single twine, but our system is not that elaborate, just 4 lengths of twine tied at each tomato works just fine.

Now the fun part begins, anticipation of that first juicy tomato is ever on my mind.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Christina permalink
    May 20, 2011 6:59 am

    I would love to know more about pruning tomatoes effectively for optimal production and health. The only thing I know right now is to pinch off leaves that grow in the joints of branches. If you’ve got a resource to share or time to write more, thanks very much!

    • May 20, 2011 9:18 am

      Christina, Ha! That’s about all I know too. I start out with good intentions but kind of falter in July, so we shall see. I have less tomato plants to deal with this year, so hopefully I can keep up. I’m planning a few trials for myself, and will post my results good or bad.

    • Deb W permalink
      May 23, 2011 11:34 am

      This isn’t all pruning, but some good advice I’ve picked up here and there; I can’t tell whether you do this, from the angle of your photos, so here goes…

      When planting tomatoes, if you dig the hole deep enough to have the entire plant buried, except the very top cluster of leaves: the plant can send out roots all the way down the stem, will have greater resistance to heat /lack of moisture/blossom-end rot and will grow faster because of the expanded root area. A tablespoon of Epsom Salts and Blood Meal in the planting hole will also help boost things along.

      Re pruning though… when a plant can’t seem to “make up it’s mind” about how many leaders it needs, I will cut it back to the strongest 2 or 3, depending on how to best balance out growth, once the plant has reached around 3 feet.

      If you’re growing outside and still have a ton of unripe tomatoes when the season is finally over, just pull the plants, root and all and bring them into your garage or somewhere under cover. They will continue to ripen on the vine and you’ll be able to tell which to keep. We’ve had freshly made Bruschetta for Christmas brunch on many occasions! : )

  2. May 20, 2011 7:04 am

    Putting in the effort at the onset sure makes for easier harvesting, doesn’t it? I am contemplating a small greenhouse myself, since this ab-normal, normal weather will make getting plants in in time for them to ripen in the summer more difficult. It’s good to keep an open mind vis a vis growing practices. You can always learn a trick or two, while still not compromising your standards. The thoughts of ripe, juicy tomatoes gives me the strength to carry on in all this rain!

    • May 20, 2011 9:23 am

      Susan, yes I learned a lot from our tomato growing neighbors, and they have freely shared their wisdom. They grow hydroponically, but a tomato plant on my road is the same no matter where it grows. They are in it for sheer production and they really get down to brass tacks in their frugality. They are dealing with the same elevation and weather conditions so all their tips have been useful.

  3. May 20, 2011 7:08 am

    You’ve sure had some wet weather this year…much like last year. Thank heaven’s for greenhouses! I hope your weather dries up and warms up soon for you. We could have used some of your rain as we’ve been in a drought this spring. We did manage to get some wet stuff during the night and a bit this morning. Hope it’s enough for the farmers. Enjoy your weekend!
    Maura 🙂

    • May 20, 2011 9:24 am

      Maura, it’s actually kind of nice today and we are enjoying it so much! Next time I see a cloud I will send it your way 😉

  4. May 20, 2011 9:50 am

    I would love to see a fuller photo of your trellis system!

    • May 20, 2011 10:59 am

      Susan, once I start clipping the tomatoes it will make more sense. Basically just twine with different leaders clipped to the twine. Right now I am just trying to get work done before we get really busy! The clips I use are from Johnny’s and there is a photo in the catalog in the tomato section. They are reusable and pretty nifty 🙂

  5. Tom_in_NorCal permalink
    May 20, 2011 6:49 pm

    Speaking of hybrids, I ran into an new ethical issue while doing my seed order this year when I discovered that Monsanto very cleverly bought what is probably the best seed wholesaler in the country in 2005: Siminis. And Siminis (which is now Monsanto) owns many of the classic hybrid tomatoes that people have sought out for yrs: Celebrity, Big Beef, Super Marzano and Pink Girl tomatoes.

    Now whether your readers want to support or do business with a seed retailer that does business with Monsanto is something that each one will have to decide for themselves but my own personal feeling is that the values that Monsanto personifies are as far from the values of self-sufficiency, freedom, independence and healthful living as it’s possible to get so I scratched all of the seed retailers who still support Siminis / Monsanto off my list. (which unfortunately includes Oregon’s largest seed supplier)

    If you’d like to do a quick check of the retailer that you’re currently using just check for any the 4 tomato varieties listed
    above. I’m not necessarily against hybrids per se i’m not willing to support a system thats anti-life by nature.


    • May 21, 2011 7:08 am

      Tom, yes I know about Seminis, some of my favorite varieties were from that company. The easiest way to find out about a variety is to check out the Seminis site. Everyone has to make their own choices.

  6. May 21, 2011 3:34 am

    I absolutely love your blog. I can’t wait for tomatoes to get ripe either and the rain, I know all about it this year as I live in West Tennessee and the flooding has wreaked havoc on all gardening ventures in this area.

  7. Tom Stewart permalink
    May 21, 2011 11:40 am

    I live in north east North Carolina on what use to be a farmers crop field. The soil is beyond poor and this year we are using raised beds and making our own growing medium. Shifted top soil, worm casts, compost and horse manure. Tomatoes are doing great and we have over 50 volinteer pumpkin plants. We got thoes because I feed rotten pumpkins to my worms, but they do not eat the seeds! We get alot of other volinteers from the worm beds, watermelon, squash and potato just to name a few.
    I want to build a hoop house this fall to extened the growing season and I like your way of trellising the tomatoes. I may try that in my open beds this year. You said that “Jonnies” carries the clips?
    By the way I really like your Blog and I learn a lot. Thanks

  8. May 22, 2011 2:59 pm

    We too have been suffering from constant rain & cool weather of late here in New England. I am ready for a new weather pattern – my tomatoes have to go outside next weekend, they are getting too big to be indoors. I like your trellis system, I am trying to figure out a way to use string like that when I move my tomatoes every year. Plain old stakes worked fine last year though, so that will likely be my strategy again.

    • May 25, 2011 4:54 am

      Jen, the trellis twine has actually worked pretty well. If I keep up with it. But the harvesting ease is well worth the effort compared to cages. And actually I like the determinate tomatoes the best, they work out the best in our short growing season, but it’s hard to find the array of flavors available in the indeterminates…bu they don’t require much care 🙂

  9. michelle permalink
    May 23, 2011 7:39 am

    I wish I had those hunters in my yard! There is a new gopher in garden and he going to get it if he doesn’t vacate immediately! Any suggestions on how to exterminate? We’ve read a few online, but I wanted to check with you to see if you have any sure fire ways. My dogs are sleeping dogs, not working dogs like yours, so they are out of the question;)

    • May 25, 2011 4:51 am

      Michelle, we don’t have gophers here, just moles (which I don’t mind) and voles which I do. I depend on the dogs, cats and hawks to eat the voles, although there is way more than they can get. I may resort to trapping. Other than that I have no idea on the best way to get rid of gophers 😦


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