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Tomatoes - Stake or let them do their thing?

 
David Chapman
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I'm curious what the permaculture way of doing tomatoes is? Do you all stake your tomatoes in some way or do you let the vines topple over and go as they please? Do you prune or do you let them go hog wild?

Thanks!
 
Isaac Hill
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You kinda have to stake them so there's enough air flow. Not enough air flow makes blight happen a lot easier.

 
Paula Edwards
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I think something like a cage is better. But my constructions always topples over because of the heavy load. I found permaculture or not - tomatos don't like to be staked but like to be off the ground. I would be happy if someone showed some awsome tomato cage constructions.
 
John Polk
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Carolyn Male, author of "100 Heirloom Tomatoes..." claims that she has never staked her tomatoes.

Some of the best tomato cages I have seen are simply circles made from CRW (concrete reinforcing wire).

CRW.JPG
[Thumbnail for CRW.JPG]
 
Jordan Lowery
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I do both, and then some. I prefer to let them go naturally but you have to be on the picking good. Since when the tomatoes have ground to touch the rot faster once ripe. Some go up trellis made of bamboo, that's if a plant volunteers in a crowded area. Last I let them intermingle with other plants and shrubs and trees.
 
Brenda Groth
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generally tomatoes that are not allowed to sprawl will have less disease, cleaner fruit and less damage from critters..so I say keep them off the ground if you can..but if not, they'll still grow fine
 
James Colbert
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I let mine crawl all over the ground. In fertile soil its not hard to get a tomato bush that is 3 feet high covering a 16 sqft area. You do lose some tomatoes but the plant sends down new roots so its is hardier and produces more fruit than normal. mulch will protect tomatoes that touch the ground. When in doubt do both sprawl and cage culture. But keep in mind that an established polyculture will aid your tomatoes health.
 
Josh Jamison
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I think a lot of permaculture techniques are bound to fail on highly domesticated plants such as tomatoes. The book Tomatoland talks about the domestication of tomatoes and how they have been bred to be very weak and susceptible to disease and insect damage.

This isn't to say we shouldn't grow tomatoes but we will have to make slight compromises to meet the plants needs on a genetic level. In my experience and unstaked tomato will sometimes succumb to fungal diseases and fruit damage.
 
Adrien Lapointe
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I would say it depends... As far as I know there are two categories of tomatoes: determinate and indeterminate.

The determinate are the bush tomatoes and do not really need to have stakes, but it depends on the variety and the growing conditions.

The indeterminate ones are the vining tomatoes and apparently can grow up to 10 ft. The vining tomatoes need to have stakes or they run on the ground. Again, this might not be a problem. For instance, I spread some compost this spring and an indeterminate tomatoe plant came up. I did not stake it up and it is not suffering from blight or rotten fruits. On the other hand the plants I started inside that were determinate and that were supported with stakes are not doing so well now. In fact, I had many indeterminate plants that grew from the compost I spread in other beds among other plants and they produced as many fruits, as early as the ones I started inside.

I recommend you have a look at Paul's video on tomatoes without irrigation. The guy in the video, Forrest Shomer, does not seem to bother staking up the plants.

 
James Colbert
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Josh Jamison wrote:I think a lot of permaculture techniques are bound to fail on highly domesticated plants such as tomatoes. The book Tomatoland talks about the domestication of tomatoes and how they have been bred to be very weak and susceptible to disease and insect damage.

This isn't to say we shouldn't grow tomatoes but we will have to make slight compromises to meet the plants needs on a genetic level. In my experience and unstaked tomato will sometimes succumb to fungal diseases and fruit damage.


This is a very good point. I also wonder if staking makes the plants weaker. That we are babying the plant instead of allowing it to build its natural resistances. I have a variety of tomato called Omar's Lebanese. From what i have read it is a pretty hardy plant from closer to its wild ancestors. I think buying wild or near wild plants/genetics is key to success and adaptability.
 
Brent Rogers
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I planted around 50 tomato plants and didn't stake any of them. We planted good quality heirloom seeds which included Green Zebra, Indigo Rose, Cherokee Purple, Pineapple, and Yellow Pear Cherry. All of our plants are very happy laying down without a cage with the exception of the Indigo Rose. I untangled the branches that overlapped each other when they laid down so everything had room to breath and grow. The stems did a terrific job of bending down and barely breaking when they fell. The branches that did break slightly healed very quick, without slowing the production down in the plant. I find that this is a terrific way to grow tomatoes because as someone else mentioned the branches that touch the ground grow roots. The is a huge benefit to the plant because it provides more water and nutrients to the plant by having more roots sucking up all that yummy goodness. I found that the plant knew to keep its fruit off the ground because it would lower the very start of branch where it meets the stem, and then shoot straight up to bare its fruit. I will take pictures tomorrow of my plants to show this. We heavily mulched with straw so the few tomatoes touching the ground have a soft place to sit on. Like I said with the exception of the Indigo Rose I am so happy I listened to my spouse when they insisted I let them do their thing. I wanted so bad to "help" the plants by staking them up and decided that this year I would experiment with letting them go wild and I am glad I did. The only suggestion I have for using this method is to give the plant a good amount space around it as it takes up quite a bit of room after it lays down. In the interest of using more space next year I am going to try planting carrots, onions, and garlic in the center to grow in the empty spots around the plant.
 
Alex Ames
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John Polk wrote:Carolyn Male, author of "100 Heirloom Tomatoes..." claims that she has never staked her tomatoes.

Some of the best tomato cages I have seen are simply circles made from CRW (concrete reinforcing wire).



That is what I use and I use a metal fence post to keep it from tipping. I have a nail hammer size
sledge to drive in the posts. Some of the heirloom varieties like Italian Tree will outgrow it and I rig
ring type tomato cage upside down on top to continue to tie the vines to.

The reinforcing wire cage is a good way to go and solve it once and for all.
 
Jay Green
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We've tried both ways and have found the staked tomatoes produced more, had bigger fruit, produced longer and stayed healthier...not to mention, one can keep the weeds down around them and control the growth.

We no longer stake, as ours outgrow any stake we can mount. We use T-post and cattle panels in a row...sturdy, versatile, store flat, reusable for years upon years and can be used for other things when not being used in the garden. They can be formed into hoops over winter gardens and made into greenhouses, cold frames, livestock pens, feeding stations, etc.
 
J W Richardson
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Location: Council, ID
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Another cattle panel person here. I hate dealing with cages and thought of them this spring - I have 14 foot rows with 30 in wide beds, working toward a market garden, and these panels are 52 inch high and 16 foot long, so I cut two feet off each one (try bolt cutters) making a long rectangular box that folds flat for storage.
A friend has used them for a cold frame, I think I will try that too, curved over the width of two beds. They handle some snow load better than just pipe, more support for the cover. She might have some support wires inside.
They are around 27.00 per panel around here.
 
Nicole Castle
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Location: Madison, AL
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We have way too many fungal diseases here to let tomatoes sprawl -- they need lots of air and pruning up off the ground.

I use concrete remesh sheets bent into a circle. I don't need to stake them in the wind; about 4" of wire spikes at the bottom plus the overall width is stable enough to hold them down even in a storm. And they are sturdy enough to handle the biggest indeterminates growing up and then back down the cage. Plus they are lightweight and last forever. They don't store as well as flat sheets but I have a spot behind my potting shed.

The same sheets left flat make great trellis', too.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Hi guys! I would love some photos to understand this of the cattle panels and T post etc, because it is difficult for me to imagine.
Sometimes I understand the words, but fail to imagine what it is exactly.
I googled cattle panel so I understand what is the material itself, but not how you organize it.

Here, sprawling tomatoes are susceptible to ...lizard eating!
Also, I like using the 3D for space saving.
 
Kitty Leith
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Location: Oakland, CA
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this probably isn't permie, but i used to use the welded wire fabric to make cages tied to bamboo supports. i made them really big (about triple the commercial lame tomato supports) and covered them with clear plastic supersize garbage bags so each plant was nice and warm, (the bags >just< fit over the cages, that's how big they were) which really helped in the short PNW growing season. the bags got removed as it got warm and then i quit watering them when they began to fruit. always had a huge crop where others barely had any at all. i saved my cages and re-used them.

in Will Hooker's intro to permaculture video, he sticks bamboo poles in the ground and stretches the wwf horizontally above the plants at two levels as a trellis system. but since he lives in a hot climate he doesn't need to worry about extending the season like i did.
 
Jay Green
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:Hi guys! I would love some photos to understand this of the cattle panels and T post etc, because it is difficult for me to imagine.
Sometimes I understand the words, but fail to imagine what it is exactly.
I googled cattle panel so I understand what is the material itself, but not how you organize it.

Here, sprawling tomatoes are susceptible to ...lizard eating!
Also, I like using the 3D for space saving.


Don't have a pic of them but it's just like erecting a fence line in the middle of your garden row and the tomatoes are tied, staggered, on either side of the fence. For more height, you can place the cattle panel up off the ground by a foot if you have some tall T posts to support it.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Thanks for explaining Jay. I did not know if it was only one row, as J W speaks about rectangular BOX, and something that folds...
He might have a different system...
For the T-post, for me it is what holds clothelines... that's it?

If I understand, Nicole arch the panels as a support, and suki put them horizontally as shelves...

I tell you the local system here:

It is of wood / bamboo / or iron.
They make A shapes (but the A is flat on top).
Then they join the A shapes with horizontal poles, in order to make a line.
the tomatoes grow in between and the side stems can be supported by the horizontal poles.

I have seen metal ones piled up along a field for next use.
 
Nicole Castle
Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:If I understand, Nicole arch the panels as a support, and suki put them horizontally as shelves...


Not quite. Mine look like the ones in this link , 3rd picture down:
http://completelyeco.com/articles/and-away
 
Jay Green
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:Thanks for explaining Jay. I did not know if it was only one row, as J W speaks about rectangular BOX, and something that folds...
He might have a different system...
For the T-post, for me it is what holds clothelines... that's it?

If I understand, Nicole arch the panels as a support, and suki put them horizontally as shelves...

I tell you the local system here:

It is of wood / bamboo / or iron.
They make A shapes (but the A is flat on top).
Then they join the A shapes with horizontal poles, in order to make a line.
the tomatoes grow in between and the side stems can be supported by the horizontal poles.

I have seen metal ones piled up along a field for next use.


A T post is a common term for a type of metal fence post...doesn't resemble a clothesline pole. Let me see if I can find some pics of what I am telling you about.

Here's one..not mine, just a borrowed pic, but this is how I do it also:

 
Xisca Nicolas
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thanks all for the patience to deal with the cultural and language difference!
I get the t-post, and here we have galvanized water pipes of 1 inch for everything!

Nicole, ok i got it. I thought you had made something like a little winter tunnel without the plastic sheet!
That might be an idea though... and grow some herbs in the shade...

By the way, the first photo of your link, Nicole, is a popular way to stake tomatoes in France, and especially in plastic houses, as you use the arch to tie the ropes.
The tomato is less hurt by just winding up around the rope.
(but they are also pruned)

i have the idea to grow a plant (legume would be great), to serve as a stake.
I think about tagasaste here, but the problem is to leave a perenial and do the tomatos elsewhere!
 
J W Richardson
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Location: Council, ID
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I don't have pics at the moment. I wired the two feet I cut off the panels to the ends, making a free standing long cage/box 2 ft by 14 ft. The tomatoes don't need to be tied as it is a narrow enough structure for them to hang through the sides as they grow. I used a couple rebar stakes on the corners to give added stability. Cages are the easiest to grow in as you don't need to tie, or prune much, and this cuts down on the time making cages.
 
Nicole Castle
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Location: Madison, AL
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:Nicole, ok i got it. I thought you had made something like a little winter tunnel without the plastic sheet!


I recall seeing a link once where some chicken keeper had made an arched hoop over their chicken run of the heavy cattle panels so they could grow vines over it in the summer for shade and cover it with plastic for warmth and to hold off the snow in the winter. I remember they were somewhere quite cold and their chicken house and run looked like it was earth sheltered. I thought it was a great idea.


By the way, the first photo of your link, Nicole, is a popular way to stake tomatoes in France, and especially in plastic houses, as you use the arch to tie the ropes.
The tomato is less hurt by just winding up around the rope.
(but they are also pruned)


Commercial growers to that here, but the plants are trained to a single leader and they are the small determinate plants. I can't imagine trying it for the big plants I grow!
 
J W Richardson
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Location: Council, ID
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I tried taking some photos - hard to see this time of year. One photo shows the ends of the cages.
h
One mistake I made was to plant the tomatoes way too close. I've thinned some leave and it has been dry here, so have lucked out so far...
garden 2012 Sept 3 008.jpg
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garden 2012 Sept 3 006.jpg
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