Tag Archives: Cherry tomato

Growing Tomatoes

The Trellis Experiment

I know it’s the middle of January but I also know that plant and seed catalogs start pouring in.  Many of us comb through them and get that gardening itch.  Like it or not, winter is a time to think about the next planting season, at least for me anyway.  Looking back to see what worked well and what was a failure.  Looking forward to see what new experiment might fruitfully improve the garden and what new plants to grow.

We love tomatoes and have been growing a variety of both large and small sizes.  The challenge of growing tomatoes for me is keeping them straight up.  I bought a variety of tomato cages early on but they never worked well for me.  Most of the time they’re too short.  My tomato plants grow over six feet tall and some years I have to get on a ladder to tie them in place.  So I have been experimenting with ways to keep them from flopping over in the least amount of time.  Tying tomato plants is a time consuming process.

These are some of the varieties of tomato we grew last season.

When the tomato cages failed, I used long poles to tie the main stalks up, then used some shorter and smaller ones vertically in between for the branches.  This method worked well but risked damaging the roots when I pushed a new pole into the ground to support a branch.  The tomatoes also flopped over when I failed to have enough time to keep tying them regularly as they grew.  I also used a lot of smaller poles, too many of them, in fact.  I had been using this method until last season.

I made this railroad trellis on one side of a three feet plot and planted ‘Baby bell peppers’ and some leafy vegetables in front of the tomatoes
It worked quite well with cherry and grape tomatoes which tend to creep like a vine. The red ones are ‘Sakura’, yellow are ‘Nova’, and the black and orange on the far left are ‘Indigo’

I experimented on a new method last season.  I still use the longest and largest pole, 8 foot long, to tie the main stem to.  But this time I also put these long poles on either side of the plant, making a railroad track with plants in the middle.  Each tomato has 1 foot by 16 inches in space.  Then I tie smaller poles, horizontally, connecting each long pole together.  I keep a foot of space between each horizontal bar.  Once the tomatoes grow and branch out, I just tie their stems to these bars.  Restricted to gardening on the weekend some weeks, the branches still rested on the bars, without flopping down.

The trellis also worked well for large tomatoes. On the far left are ‘Tie-dye’, then ‘Brandywine’, ‘Cherokee Purple’ with ‘Mortgage Lifter’ at the far right.  At the end of this plot is Swiss chard and Kale.

One mistake I made was to use thinner sticks for some of the bars.  I ran out of the the sturdier ones so I used the ones made for hoops in their place.  They bent way too easily  under the weight of large tomatoes.

Toward the end of the season, ‘Tie-dye’ which grew profusely, got too heavy for the thin sticks I used
When I installed the correct size pole, it worked well. The larger tomatoes, some over a pound, can rest on the bar as well. These Brandywine tomatoes, most either over a pound or close to it, are resting on the bar. I tied some of the fruit stems to the bar as well, to support the weight.

At the end of the season, once I cut all tomato plants down, I untie the poles and put them back in the toolshed.  That saves a lot of space.  I can always shrink or expand the trellis according to how many tomatoes I grow.

In Search Of The Perfect Tomato

…And The Search Still On

Plant and seed catalogs start to pile up at this time of year.  It’s always fun to leaf through them as there’s not much I can do in the garden and they give me ideas for next season.  Now is the time to look for new plants, plan new arrangements for the garden, and order new seeds to experiment with.  The growing season starts in less than two months.  March is when I start my chili pepper and tomato seedlings.  It doesn’t matter how cold or how high the snow is outside.   If I don’t start seedlings for these two vegetables early, there will not be enough time for them to produce mature fruit.  The growing season in the Northeastern part of the US is very short I have to start early in the house.

We love tomatoes, especially home grown tomatoes.  We did really well with our tomatoes last year.  Not just what we grew in our garden, the seedlings we had given to friends and colleagues did well too.  I think the weather really helped.  I experiment with new types of tomatoes every year and continue to grow only the ones we like best.  Our favorites are Brandywine, Mortgage lifter, Cherokee purple and Rose for large tomatoes.

Holy basil, Thai basil, Rose tomatoes, Mortgage lifter, Brandywine, Cherokee purple, Chocolate tomato, Nova, Indigo cherry, Tomatoberry and some self-sown tomatoes
Holy basil, Thai basil, Rose tomatoes, Mortgage lifter, Brandywine, Cherokee purple, Chocolate tomato, Nova, Indigo cherry, Tomatoberry and some self-sown tomatoes
These Brandywine tomatoes were over a pound each and very tasty too
These Brandywine tomatoes were over a pound each and very tasty too
Mortgage lifter is another large tomato we have been growing. This one is also over a pound
Mortgage lifter is another large tomato we have been growing. This one is also over a pound
Cherokee Purple has very thin skin and easily split when there is too much rain but has an exceptional taste.
Cherokee Purple has very thin skin and easily split when there is too much rain but has an exceptional taste.

We love cherry tomatoes too but never had much luck finding one whose taste we really loved until last year.  We have been depending on the self-sown tomatoes for our cherry tomatoes.  They grew fast, strong and very sweet.  The seeds or plants I bought have been disappointments until last year.  I found Indigo cherry and Nova, which are very beautiful and tasty.  I will grow these two cherry tomatoes again this year but I am still looking for a new one to try.

Indigo Cherry drop bears plenty of beautiful fruits and is very sweet when it's very ripe
Indigo Cherry drop bears plenty of beautiful fruits and is very sweet when it’s very ripe
I bought one Chocolate tomato at the Union Square Farmers market in 2014 because of its color, but it tasted so good that I kept the seeds. The ripe fruit has a reddish brown color with green stripes that drew my attention initially.
I bought one Chocolate tomato at the Union Square Farmers market in 2014 because of its color, but it tasted so good that I kept the seeds. The ripe fruit has a reddish brown color with green stripes that drew my attention initially.

At this point we still debating between the Black Krim-Heirloom from Crimea or Burpee’s Steakhouse Hybrid.   But our favorites and the Chocolate will always have their place in our garden.

 

An Invasion of Cherry Tomatoes

Too Much of A Good Thing

I have promised myself I’ll pull out the self-sown seedlings in the vegetable garden in the next round, some of which will be thrown back in the compost pile and some replanted in a more manageable space.   I use compost extensively in both flower and vegetable gardens and that’s where the volunteer seedlings came from.  I don’t put just shredded leaves and cut grass in the compost, but also vegetable, fruit, eggshells and coffee grounds in it too.  Somehow these kitchen scraps seem to help speed the composting process, but it poses one problem.  Any seed in the compost will grow wherever I put it.

I came back from a vacation in early June and found that I have a surfeit of tomato seedlings growing all over the gardens, the flower beds and especially the vegetable area.  Almost a foot tall and healthy looking tomato plants.  It would have been a waste if I just pulled them out and threw back in the compost pile so I dug some of them out and offered to plant them in my neighbor’s garden as well as offering them to colleagues.  After distributing many of the plants, I still have plenty of them, and not a clue what they are going to produce.  They mostly turned out to be cherry tomatoes, a couple of them are White Tomesol.

Now we have more cherry tomatoes than we can eat and they are growing so fast that they over-power the large tomatoes (Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Rose tomato and White Tomesol) that I intended to grow.   Rogue tomatoes have also invaded the rose beds and cozied up to the moonflowers.  I stopped feeding them early in the season with the hope that they’ll not become monstrous tomatoes.  It didn’t help.  They grow as fast as beans and flower profusely.  We’ve been picking ten pounds of cherry tomato every couple of days and have been sharing them with everyone we can think of.  It’s been, so far, probably 150 pounds and still more of them on the vine.    By the end of the season I’ll freeze some of them for winter.

As much as I like to eat tomatoes, this year I really felt overwhelmed.  I’ll have to be more firm about pulling the seedlings out next year.

A forest of cherry tomatoes
White Tomesol on the right got pushed out.
This one is growing right next to the roses