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Why I think I MUST trellis my tomatoes

 
Posts: 1975
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Mr. Lofthouse encouraged me to not trellis my tomatoes. As I'm mostly a lazy person I took to his idea immediately and I've been doing it with great success for years. Last year, however, was BAD. Oil drilling is right in front of us now and the ground animal invasion is getting bigger. Last year all those beautiful tomatoes I watched get taken, one by one, by ground squirrels.

I'm thinking this year if I trim my tomatoes at least a foot off the ground and trellis them up I may prevent the tomato stealing I suffered before.

Opinions?
 
gardener
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With all the mulching i use, i have gazillions of rollie pollies. Any fruit that touches the ground is eaten on the bottom side by them. Tomatoes, strawberries, etc.

Nothing is absolute. Observe and adapt.
 
pollinator
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Joseph's approach is tailored, I think, to the breeding of tomatoes that like that action, that like to vine along the ground, to drop roots wherever the vine touches the ground. The tomatoes I try to grow are most emphatically not field tomatoes. If I plant them, even sideways, they grow upwards. If I don't trellis them, they break. If I am really successful, there's no way an unsupported tomato vine will support its weight and that of a half-dozen half-kilo to kilo-weight watermelon beefsteak tomatoes.

I agree with Wayne. Nothing is absolute. Observe and adapt.

-CK
 
steward
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I wonder how easily the ground squirrels climb or jump?

At my place, tomatoes that grow sprawling on the ground don't send roots down along the vines. I have tended to select for tomatoes that grow more upright, so that fruits don't lay on the ground and rot, or get invaded by wire-worms.  I aim for maximum fruit size to be less than 1/3 Kg (12 oz).

 
pollinator
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Elle, in my situation I grow both ways.

My bush standard Roma tomatoes are grown on the ground. Most of their fruits don't lay on the mulch surface, though some do. Most are up just high enough to avoid most of the slugs. Yes, I lose some tomatoes, but those go into the livestock feed cook pot for the chicken & pig slop. Some of the newer, thus bigger and heavier Roma tomatoes, I can't do this with because the heavier fruits lie on the ground. I also have some small cherry tomatoes that I grow on the ground. They are rank sprawling bushes, and end up being self supporting because the new growth goes right atop the older stems. I lose the lower tomatoes but I get plenty of the higher fruits.

My slicing type tomatoes I must grow in a greenhouse or screenhouse because we have fruit fly problems. Not the little vinegar flies, but fruit flies that lay eggs in the developing fruits and fill them with little maggots. I trellis these in order to make best use of the space. But if I grew them in the outdoor gardens, I'd most likely trellis them too because their fruits are large and heavy. I've grown these on the ground when I lived in New Jersey ( because I never got around to making a trellis) and it works ok. But I would lose plenty of tomatoes that touched the ground. I solved this problem by simply growing a dozen plants and harvesting the nice tomatoes, leaving the rest to rot. Well over 50% of the fruits rotted.

Joseph is right.......grow smaller tomatoes. The less heavy the fruit is, the less likely it will end up on the ground. A plant with stout stems and light fruit could be ground grown successfully. In New Jersey there were farmers who commercially grew tomatoes for Campbell Soup. Those tomatoes were specifically developed for field  growing. Stout plants, smaller sized tomatoes held high above the ground for machine harvesting. I don't know if those varieties still exist, but like Josepf, a gardener could select for those traits.
 
Chris Kott
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My supposition was wrong, it seems.

I need to trellis my tomatoes regardless, because I like the large fruit, but also because I interplant with things that wouldn't get light if I didn't train the tomatoes to go up and out. Plus, with the humidity here in the summer, if there is insufficient airflow, we risk those tomato-borne diseases that are nurtured by humidity and low-airflow.

If I were to grow on the field-scale, I would probably experiment with a low hoop-house trellis idea, where a low hoop row supports the tomatoes, and a guild of plants that like it shady grow underneath, with something like peppers, which like a foot in either world, growing at the interlace.

-CK
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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A couple of days ago, I planted the Campbell's Soup variety that was developed for my valley perhaps 60 years ago: Determinate, 8 oz fruits. Stiff upright vines. A joy to grow sprawling. One of these years, I really should incorporate it into the Beautifully Promiscuous and Tasty Tomato project. It is a fabulous tomato for this area.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1975
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I wonder how easily the ground squirrels climb or jump?

At my place, tomatoes that grow sprawling on the ground don't send roots down along the vines. I have tended to select for tomatoes that grow more upright, so that fruits don't lay on the ground and rot, or get invaded by wire-worms.  I aim for maximum fruit size to be less than 1/3 Kg (12 oz).



My tomatoes always seemed to do well without trellising. The vine would hit the ground and then grow back upwards supporting itself. I really enjoyed growing them like this. It was fun.

I don't know how well they jump but they are about 6" tall at least so they were having no difficulties just picking them right off the vines.

I haven't seen them climb much either but I don't know that they couldn't climb, I just haven't seen it.
 
pollinator
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Su Ba wrote:Elle, in my situation I grow both ways.



There's a double entendre in there somewhere...
 
gardener
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I make 3-legged "tee-pees" with 8 foot long poles, and then tie my tomatoes up several times during the growing season.  If I didn't, they would be a tangled mess and I would only be able to grow 25% of what I can do when I get them up.

Capturing more sunlight is also a variable.  The tall tomato tee-pees capture more of the early morning sunlight as well as the late afternoon light.

And the bug thing that someone mentioned above.

Big fruit, clean fruit, bug-free fruit . . . it just works so much better for me to get them up off the ground and reaching for the sunlight.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I tend to pick at first blush, and let them ripen on a table in the shed. That helps avoid insect damage, and minimizes damage from soil contact.

 
gardener
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I avoid determinant tomatoes, I prefer my plants to produce all season long.
I've found a variety, Stupic,  that bears very early.
Since I'm doing a small number of plants,  staking is no big deal.
I am using cages,  because I got them for free and I need to keep the chooks out of the containers.
The cages have 4 sides,  I dismantle and rebuild them as 5 sided so they can match the perimeter of the halfbarrels.
I wish pigeon peas were hardy here, I understand they make great living stakes for tomatoes,as well as being good plants and nitrogen fixers.
If I needed to stake alot of tomatoes,  I would probably run jute twine between T-stakes,and down to "tentpegs".
 
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Location: Cape Town
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Whether I trellis or not, I find my tomatoes (indeterminant or determinant) do great for a while and then start getting hit by various bugs and diseases. Not just on my own farm, but also at the school garden I caretake. I find that my early tomatoes do the best, and my second crop doesn't do as well (we have a very long season-- I can start tomatoes now, in midwinter, outside.... though if I start them indoors better to only transplant outside in September or so). Still, if I make things really easy for the first crop, and trellis and try to set things up really nicely, I feel the number of usable tomatoes I get is greater. I don't have much luck with very large slicing tomatoes-- I grow mainly cherry and sauce tomatoes.

Yet I see (monsanto) tomatoes grown in hoophouses nearby that last for an incredibly long season-- but I haven't been able tap into this longevity on my plot. At first I thought this was a trellising issue, but last year I trellised very well, practiced crop rotation, and my yield wasn't too much better than when I just allowed my tomatoes to do what they wanted to do. No access to cages here, so trellising always feels fairly complex-- this year I am going to play it by ear and do grow tomatoes in a few different places, and try to keep track of the results. I have good enough soil in our food forest that I'm going to try some tomatoes in there, also, as an experiment...

The exception to this is very very tiny self-seeded tomatoes (like very very tiny- smaller than a marble, but very tasty) who don't care whether they're trellised and don't get hit by disease all season... with these I find the taste declines, as does my patience harvesting, and even my kids' patience wanes after a while... so it's no good to keep more than 1 or 2 of these.
 
Posts: 520
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The biggest determining factor for us is heat - just as tomatoes are ripening it tends to coincide with peak summer conditions and they get stressed or cooked on the vine, a pathway for insect attack.

The indeterminate (vine like) varieties are worse affected. The determinant (bush like) varieties tend to fare better because of their dense foliage that protects both fruit and root zone. But the bush varieties tend not to produce the larger tomatoes. (I refrain from names because they can differ worldwide.)

Observations over the years, watching my Dad grow them and then doing it myself, it seems in extremes of hot weather the indeterminate varieties grow best in semi-shaded locations tied on a trellis or stakes where air circulation and the open nature of the plant can prosper.

Whereas the determinant ones, needing only a stake when bearing lots of fruit, do best in full summer sun.

Since they're reliant on temperature, not light, for ripening; it seems in hot climates they're best grown in semi or intermittent shade.

 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1975
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Some really interesting conditions and ideas here. I do watch a Youtube grower that has major blight issues and trims her tomatoes to 1 stalk just because she needs the air flow in her hot, humid conditions.

Me. I don't have a ton of pest issues. Our summer is short and it gets cold. The ground squirrels are becoming a really big one, particularly when I realized it was them stealing tomatoes last year. They had holes and tunnels coming right to my tomato plot and killing them is about impossible.

If it gets over 80 where I live we are all pretty convinced its' Armageddon. We just don't get that warm. Pretty much no humidity. The bugs never get all that bad. So pretty perfect tomato growing conditions I would think.

Just those darn ground squirrels.

Maybe I'll stake all but 2 tomatoes and see what the difference is between them. I've never pruned or trellised my tomatoes before so I might just screw them up this year doing all that jazz anyway.
 
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