To Stake or Not to Stake
When it comes to tomatoes, we want to protect our most popular home garden crop using any method that will ensure the support of future harvest.
Tomatoes taste good, are one of the easiest crops to grow, and there are many varieties from which to choose. The type of tomato you plant will influence how you grow them in your garden.
Determinate tomatoes, so called because they are bush-like in form and generally yield a single crop of fruit, can be allowed, without risk, to stand on their own. They cannot be staked because they are very compact and usually quite short.
Indeterminate tomatoes are the more common tomato with vine-like growth habits. They sprawl in any direction where they meet no interference and, with sufficient sun, water and nutrients, they keep growing and producing fruit until the first frost of autumn.
You can minimize the dangers of rot, disease and pest attacks if you stake the plants. Staking has an advantage of saving space. Plants can be set as close as 18 inches apart, whereas a sprawling plant may cover as much as 8 to 9 feet of ground.
If you stake, you must prune the plants regularly every week to ensure vigorous growth. As the plant rises in height, the new growth must be repeatedly tied to help keep the plant vertical. Make sure you keep the soil moist, but do not overwater and be cautious of watering the leaves rather than the soil.
Many situations can create rot and disease, no matter what type of tomatoes you grow. Tend to your crop carefully, and be aware of any type of situation that may be forming on the outside. Make sure your tomatoes don't cook from the humidity and heat index before you are ready to make salads, sauces and soups from them. For all indeterminate tomatoes, and for determinate tomatoes that grow from 2 to 3 feet high, there is a third alternative: caging. This method requires a minimum of pruning and does away with the need for repeated tying as the cages serve to contain the plants as they grow.
You can purchase tomato cages at most garden centers or make your own from pieces of wire mesh. An encircling cage or a stake can be used for each tomato plant. The Internet offers instructions on putting together homemade structures.
n Remove vegetable plants that have finished producing.
n Plant cover crops like rye where removal of other crops. Turn under for organic material.
n Check water feature tools and filters, removing excess lily pads.
n Feed and furnish food and water for fish and birds.
n Plant bulbs for spring from now through the end of November.
n Give feeders a thorough cleaning.
n Check and get rid of dead, diseased and damaged shrubs, trees and plants.
n Check soil for debris from fallen twigs and leaves. Consider fresh mulch replacement.
n Create plans for a new garden area.
n Keep the grass cut at a reasonable height so that it does not burn with the heat of summer.
n Read or enroll in clinics to learn soil and water conservation practices.
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