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Trellis, comparing the original SFG to edition 2

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Trellis, comparing the original SFG to edition 2

Post  tomlevine1 on 10/17/2013, 1:01 am

Quick question:  I am a long time fan of SFG, have the original 1981 book, and just bought the upgraded 2nd edition, which I am thoroughly enjoying.  

One thing I found surprisingly missing from the new edition, was Mels trellising method.  In the original, We would simply tie a nylon string at the bottom of the conduit trellis, an then, calculate the # of lines we would need for any given vegetable, and then string down those lines from the top bar, and tie it off on the bottom string.  This method was simple, elegant, inexpensive, required little effort, and most importantly, it worked like a charm!  I did it mostly for pole beans and cucumbers.

In the new book, Mel zeros in on the pre-made square trellis, which come in packs.  Not that there's anything wrong with them, but I'm just curious, what was wrong with single string trellising, Mels' original idea, from the first book?  I was sad there was no mention of it in the 2nd edition ,because I thought it really taught me a lot about the purpose of trellising.  For example, we often think the plants need the trellis for support.  Well, they don't.  They generally build their own support from their own leaves, stems, and tissues.  The trellis string simple keeps things moving forward and up, with a little nudge from the farmer.  

ANy thoughts on the missing art of single string trellising?

REgards, Tom
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Re: Trellis, comparing the original SFG to edition 2

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/17/2013, 1:38 am

Hmm, I read the first one just recently, but I must have misremembered. I had remembered the netting and don't recall Mel talking about single-stringing. Oh well.

Re single-stringing, I like it a lot. It provides support along every inch of the stem, not just at intervals. And the customizing of support to the vine is always perfect. The only thing I don't like about it is that a single string doesn't provide support for anything but the main vine.

If what you said were correct -- that the plants are strong enough to hold themselves up, and all they need is vertical direction -- then support for the main vine alone would be sufficient. However, I've found side branches doing fine up to the point where they get really heavily laden with big tomatoes; then they sometimes either break or get pulled down to the ground so the tomatoes are resting on the soil, neither of which I like. Your mileage may vary, but that's what I've experienced repeatedly.

The problem is lessened for those who keep their plants to a single main vine and increased for those who let two or more vines per plant grow and produce tomatoes.

Sometimes the problem of heavy branches off the main stem still needing support when you single string can be solved by wrapping the other branches with another vertical string. However, it's hard to tell from the very start which branches will produce tomatoes heavily enough to need further support, and I find you have to train branches early or they may yellow or die from being pulled and bent, however gently. The more strings you drop, the more of a mess you wind up with and the more places you need to dangle the strings from.

In this situation, I've sometimes wound up creating a 3D grid of line, stakes and tomato clips. It works, but it can get awkward to work through and it looks pretty bad.

Professional greenhouse growers do find a way to make it work, though.

And I love that it's so easy to stimulate all the flowers on a plant when you're single-stringing them -- just pluck the top of the string.



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Re: Trellis, comparing the original SFG to edition 2

Post  camprn on 10/17/2013, 6:13 am

I cannot speak for why the original trellising style was missing in the second edition as I was not privy to Mel's thinking. I however do not use a premade trellis mesh, I weave my own each year in the manner similar to what you described. Single vertical strings that I then evenly space with horizontal strings. I use sisal twine, which I compost at the end of the growing season.

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Re: Trellis, comparing the original SFG to edition 2

Post  tomlevine1 on 10/17/2013, 1:23 pm

Thanks for the replies!  I never did give it a go with tomatoes, with my previous gardens, I was always too lazy, and just let them sprawl in a wire cage alongside the zucchini in a single box. Messy.   But this year, I aim to trellis my tomatoes, because I'm wanting things neater and cleaner, and I want to give pruning to a single stem a try.  Your great insights makes a lot of sense about single stem on a string vs. not properly pruning (for single stem), and the issues that can arise in regards to the weight of the fruit.  In the original book, that was the technique that Mel described alongside a single string.  I found, with the cucumbers, the single string worked fine, without pruning, with lemon cucumbers, and I did not prune.  They simply grew to the other strings and latched on.

Thanks again!
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