And we're not talking those wobbly little cages!
Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable planted in America. When I was young, I helped my dad stake and cultivate 24 rows of tomatoes. I still have that hand cultivator that we used. My dad's rule of thumb with tomatoes was to stake them and only plant 'Big Boy'. I'm different. I like to cage mine and plant a whole bunch of varieties. These are some of my tips to successfully grow tomatoes
When planting tomatoes don't plant them in the same spot that you planted them in the year before. Rotating location helps to cut down on disease. If you have no choice make sure all old tomato, potato, or eggplant foliage is cleaned off the garden. Do not compost those old plants because many of the diseases, such as blight can be transferred back into your garden when you amend with your compost.
When you buy a tomato plant don't be afraid if it is too tall. Just look for healthy foliage. If you want the best tasting tomato on the block plant 'Cherokee Purple'. And, if you want to win the tomato fight... its 'Mule Team'. Tomato Selection.
When you go to plant and they are tall, bury them deep with just a couple sets of leaves above the ground. I always mulch immediately around the plant with grass or leaves. This will help prevent any of the soil born diseases, such as blight or leaf spot. Plant at least on 3-foot centers. Better yet, if you have the space plant on 5-foot centers for optimal air circulation. More air circulation equals less disease.
Caging is the best method for supporting your tomatoes. Make sure the cages are at least five foot high. I make mine out of hog fence because the opening is large, at least 6x6" square. You can't use fence with a small grid because there's no way to get in and pick the tomatoes. I use metal stakes pounded into the ground to support the cage. I make my cages 24-30" round. Determinate varieties may not need as tall a cage. You can probably get away with using a 3' tall cage.
There's nothing more rewarding to me than to plant a seed, watch it grow, and be able to harvest fruit and feed your family.
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