Sunday, May 27, 2007


(tomatoes on the trellis -- matt's wild on the left, tiffany in the middle, better boy in the background

(tiffany, with thirty-eight walnut-sized or larger tomatoes and another dozen or so smaller. i've already harvested no fewer than a dozen. it's a VFNT hybrid, so no disease problems. pretty good flavor, great texture, good keeping. nice to have smaller tomatoes (3-4 oz). they look exactly like those "tomatoes on the vine" from the grocery store, growing in clusters of 4-5 fruits. from TGS.)

better boy. i've harvested several tomatoes that weighed in at more than a pound. delish. but in the end, the tiffany produces more tomatoes and the size is better suited for eating.

another shot of tiffany, from the other side, so you can see how many tomatoes are on one vine. the whole bush must weigh 30#, and i've had to add a bunch of strings to keep it up. they didn't break during the heavy winds this week.

i don't know if you can see this: but in the middle of the photo, a sun gold, growing in a large pot, that has hit the 9 foot limit of the conduit i'm using as a pole. i've decided to pull all the leaves from the bottom 1/3 of the plant and make it into a tree. my garden is a mess.

'yellow currant' (TGS). not a very good pic, but what a tomato! it's already at 10', much better behaved than matt's (it grows upright and the stems are self-supporting with a very little bit of help), more prolific than sungold, and the tomatoes are pretty good. if you look carefully, you can see the scads of tomatoes that grow in clusters of about 20 1/2" tomatoes.

anyway -- the in-ground tomatoes are all planted using the posthole method (thanks, delta charlie!), with one slight improvement: i dig out all the crappy sand in a narrow (maybe 18" diameter) hole, enough to fill a 5-gallon bucket. the sand gets dumped in a low spot in my yard. i use three or four paper grocery sacks, stacked together to form a very thick, stiff bag, to line the hole: i fold the top edge down a few times, enough to form an even stiffer cuff around the top of the bag, so the bag remains open and is about 2' tall. then, i stuff the bag into the hole i've dug, leaving the cuff a bit above the surface. i fill the hole with straight-up compost from my kitchen-scrap heap. i usually add a handful of water-retention crystals (i nursery friend gave me a ton of them for free), and then i test the ph and adjust with sulfur. (for whatever reason, my compost is a bit sweeter than tomatoes like it.) (oh, and without complicating things too much here, the tiffany was not planted using the paper bag method, but instead using two large nursery pots with their bottoms cut out and then tied together with twine through the drainage holes, forming a cylinder about 2' long. it was way too much work, very awkward to install, and led me to the paperbag method.)

the cuff lets me do two things -- i fill it with mulch and it allows me to water more easily (just fill the cuff with water and let it seep in). it also keeps the bad soil out.

anyway, the paper bag just makes the posthole method a bit easier, since you don't have to worry about the sand collapsing back into the hole. it also keeps the nematodes out, though for how long, i don't know. every week or so, i add a couple handfuls of compost to the top of the bag to fertilize the tomatoes and keep the soil level constant.

i haven't dug one of the tomatoes out yet, but presumably the roots of the tomatoes will eventually make it through the paper bag. the plants seem pretty low in their watering needs.

oh, the trellises i've used are made from leftover chainlink fence posts. it was a lot of work, but is VERY sturdy (i did a pullup on it, and i weigh about 200 pounds!). the lighter one in the front of my bed is made from conduit -- $15 total cost in parts and it took me less than 15 minutes to install, since the conduit is stiff and narrow enough to push by hand through the sand to a depth of five feet. the elbows were more expensive than the 10' conduit lengths.

ok, i've goofed off enough here. now's time to goof off in the garden!
an update: i take back what i said about the paper-bag method's superiority over the nursery pots. when i cleaned up the garden at the end of the season, the bags had completely disintegrated, and much of the organic material in the hole had dissolved into the surrounding sands. but the nursery pots were still full of humus. so, though they are more difficult to install, i will definitely convert all my tomato holes into nursery-pot holes.

1 comment:

Merralee said...

I am a newbie and I have a small raised bed and container garden. All of my plants are gorgeous and look great, but I have a hybrid SuperBoy tomato plant that is now (from soil) approx 4 ft tall and all I have is 2 small tomatoes that have been same size and color for over a week. I have removed all suckers and she get lots of beautiful flowers but disappear by the next morning. Without knowing everything about us I realize it may be very hard to speculate the issue however, can you give me some idea of what I may be doing wrong? or what other info can I give you to help me figure it out? I really appreciate any help I can get. My soil is made of peat moss, pea gravel and MiracleGro vegetable soil. Thanks!