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Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

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Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  WJB on 10/26/2010, 3:44 pm

Wondering what y'all do to stabilize your tomatoes...I have been using stakes with a twist tie since spring. That's worked great...until yesterday. A lovely little windstorm in the south, and now I have 14 tomato plants all laying down, flat on top of Mels Mix. I bought cages for them today, but really think they were too wind abused to bounce back...It may be that nothing could have withstood that wind, but no harm in asking for the sake of my next planting.
If it matters, all my SFG have the chicken wire cages over them to protect from our rabbit, deer, skunk and possum friends.

Thanks.
WJB

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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  camprn on 10/26/2010, 3:59 pm

Not sure what to tell you,,, may want to remove the chicken wire to stabilize the tomatoes. My tomatoes ended up going sky high, I staked them, tying the main vine every foot or so to the stake with jute twine. Then I had to extend the stakes, then I propped the upper parts of the plants. In the end the plants were taller than 10 foot. You can see the long branches I use to prop them (you may need to use your imagination a bit, it's not a great photo). I used this simple approach, as I knew I had only a few weeks left of the season and the tomatoes would soon be done. Next year I am going to try an overhead trellising system.
see here Good luck. this is a better view.
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  acara on 10/26/2010, 5:26 pm

In the SFG box I start with staking them and then transfer them to trellis at about 14" height (leave the stake attached);



I also attach every 2-3" where the plant allows me to;



I also try to avoid anything less than 3/8" thick to attach my tomato plants (string cuts into the plants way to easily and sometimes make the wind situation worse). You don't need to use the cloth/velcro ties like I do .... I've used shredded t-shirts with the same results ...... but the velcro is very user-friendly and relatively cheap (<3.00 for a 50' roll I think).... it just needs to be as wide as possible.



For tomatoes in pots/containers ... I stake them, and cage them, and then use plastic trellis supports. Yes ... all three ....my tomatoes are worth it ....LOL

Actually, it's worth not having the disappointment of a wind storm ruin 80 days worth of work, just before your going to reap the reward of your efforts (especially when your prime growing season is also Hurrricane season ... Very Happy )



I also try to keep the growth centered between the supports wherever possible;




As far as pruning ... I just learned the hard way that when you let tomato plants get off/above the supports .... your asking for trouble.

From 8' tall beefsteak tomato plants almost ready to produce, to .........



Do-Over Embarassed
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  Squat_Johnson on 10/26/2010, 5:48 pm

I have had problems like this as well. I start tomatoes early, and some of my vines are around 12' at the end of the season.

My best solution was last year's. I had all my tomatoes in two rows each side of one 4' x 24' box. I trained the plants 4' up a fence post, then trained them to go horizontal along a stake to the next post. After they were sticking up about 18" or so, I would tie them back down to the horizontal stake. After they were 4', it was really easy to pick them.

I will be looking at this thread, as I am open to a good solution to this. I will look for a photo from last year, so you can see what I am describing.
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  camprn on 10/26/2010, 6:23 pm

@Squat_Johnson wrote:. My best solution was last year's. I had all my tomatoes in two rows each side of one 4' x 24' box. I trained the plants 4' up a fence post, then trained them to go horizontal along a stake to the next post. After they were sticking up about 18" or so, I would tie them back down to the horizontal stake. After they were 4', it was really easy to pick them.

I will be looking at this thread, as I am open to a good solution to this. I will look for a photo from last year, so you can see what I am describing.
BRILLIANT! This solution is now on the short list! Thanks Squat! Very Happy
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  acara on 10/26/2010, 7:22 pm

Yep, for my stuff in the pots this time around ...... it's not going above 6'0" .... I''m topping at that point.

IME, let them go as wide as you like, but nothing good happens above 6'0" on tomatoes.

I'm topping the stuff on the SFG box as well 8" (box height) + 12" (distance from soil to bottom of trellis) + 60" (trellis height) = 80" ..... big enough for me.
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  camprn on 10/26/2010, 7:32 pm

@acara wrote:
IME, let them go as wide as you like, but nothing good happens above 6'0" on tomatoes.
I disagree, I had fabulous production right up to 9' on my Gilberties. An unbelievably productive, useful and delicious heirloom tomato. What I ran out of was good weather.
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  Old Hippie on 10/26/2010, 7:48 pm

Hmmmmmmm...........I thought that if you top them to keep them from growing to the sky like Jack's beanstalk, you get the plant to put more energy into making TOMATOES instead of just growing taller. Maybe I am wrong or maybe we do that here because of our very short growing season. I can't imagine trying to pick tomatoes off 9 foot tall plants. Plus that would totally suck in the fall when I have to cover mine.

GK
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  camprn on 10/26/2010, 8:01 pm

@Old Hippie wrote: I can't imagine trying to pick tomatoes off 9 foot tall plants. Plus that would totally suck in the fall when I have to cover mine.

GK

Same here with the short season and covering the plants, that's why I'm liking the idea of lateral growth! Very Happy
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  quiltbea on 10/26/2010, 11:38 pm

Very useful ideas here.
I stake some of mine but I also use twine tied to a brace across the top of some fence posts where I have posts. Training them to twist around the twine was easy and did well until the twine started to wear and tear here and there. Next year I'll use a double twist of twine or a coated wire instead.

If you look closely, you can see some of the vertical twine holding up these San Marzano Gigantes at the end of the season, but I also had to add a stake when the twine wore out near the end.
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  middlemamma on 10/26/2010, 11:47 pm

Ok Acara...I like the way your thoughts run on the container tomato plants with 3 kinds of support.

I am hoping to put my tomatoes in this type of thing next spring
http://encyclopediahydroponica.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/diy-earth-box/

How would you support these using your 3 types of support method if I put 2 tomato plants in each one?
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  acara on 10/27/2010, 6:25 am

@middlemamma wrote:Ok Acara...I like the way your thoughts run on the container tomato plants with 3 kinds of support.

I am hoping to put my tomatoes in this type of thing next spring
http://encyclopediahydroponica.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/diy-earth-box/

How would you support these using your 3 types of support method if I put 2 tomato plants in each one?

I'll have to measure when I get home from work. That 2 plants in one container is a new wrinkle for me & I'd have to make sure it would fit.

What size Rubbermaid are you planning on using?
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Re: tomato stability

Post  GloriaG on 10/27/2010, 9:58 am

middlemamma,

I grew my tomatoes in SW pots this year. Had WONDERFUL luck with the grape tomatoes, not so much with the Parks Whopper and Better Boy. But I learned a lot.


  • You MUST stake very well. My tomatoes grew very quickly to about 12' and the pots aren't able to support the plants in a wind storm if the staking is in the pots only. I used a trellis system much like we put on the SFG with net on it. Then I attached stabilizers front and back to the ground to prevent sway. When the tomatoes got too tall, I added another section of trellis on top and attached that to the house on an angle like an arbor. (I used a step stool to pick tomatoes.) They are about 7' tall in this photo. You can see the three front stabilizers. I put 2 plants per pot and the grapes gave me 750+ tomatoes.


  • You MUST check the pH level regularly. The SW pots in my area become too alkaline very quickly because our water supply is pH of 9. That causes blossom end rot. I lost a lot of tomatoes until I discovered what was wrong.


  • You should plan to water twice a day in very hot weather. We had 105 degrees some days and the tomatoes were so large they needed a lot of water.



I really like this system and will use it again next year.
Good luck!

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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  middlemamma on 10/27/2010, 1:09 pm

Thanks Gloria...good points.

Acara...LOL I will use whatever size you tell me too! Very Happy
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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  acara on 10/27/2010, 2:41 pm

All good points from Gloria ...

The "top-heavy" issue is the other reason I don't let my potted tomatoes get to far above the trellis support.

Besides the stakes, the other "secret to success" (on tomatoes) is the attachment method;

A) Wider is better on the attachment (P=F/A ...pressure equals force divided by area). the applied force by the fastener[F], or the force exerted by the plant against the fastener is constant (how tight you tie), or out of your control (exerted force by the weight of the plant or the wind) .... but you do control the area [A].

For conversation sake....With a force of "5#", the area of a piece of tie wire (.041) gives you roughly "122", now that same situation with a 1/8" wide piece of twine is "40" (5/.125) and with a 3/8" wide fastener you get "13". The lower the number, the less pressure [P} that is applied to the contact point on the tomato stem & less likelyhood of damage.
This doesn't matter as much for tougher-skin plants, but it can cause you problems with tomatoes (the leaves are tougher than the stems on tomatoes). Just my opinion, but I don't like to use anything thinner than 1/8" on my tomatoes (no wire, fishing line, mason line, etc), because excessive weight, applied force or high wind can turn your "support" into a "shear".

B) Tie vs Train (This is huge if you grow "stake only" supports.)

You train the plant(only) for the first 24" (or until it fruits) and decide whether to train or tie the plant for the rest of it's life.

Training is directing the growth ..... tie is providing support for excessive load/weight, or keeping something in place when you get it where you want it.

Ideally for the first 12" you aren't trying to keep the plant in place, your trying to keep the plant from going places. String/rope/tie should be barely snug or have a slight gap on one side. This allows the stem to develop (in width) and pace the upward growth. It also makes the plant support its own weight.
If you "tie" too early you can restrict stem/stalk development, stunt growth and set yourself up for a tragedy when the fruit develops, the stem hasn't developed enough to support the weight and there is nothing preventing your string from sliding down the stake & bending your stem like an accordian if your attachment points are too far apart, or snapping it off clean.

You can start to tie on mature tomatoes when your trying to keep a mature piece of growth in place or as a final attachment point where you intend to trim any future growth past that point (edges of a trellis, or when you "top" the plant). I usually try to always train vertically and tie horizontally .... but tomatoes don't always make this possible.

On the three-part supports (stake, round cage, triangle cage) in the pics above, all attachment points on the stakes (initial support) are "training" the attachments to the round cage (fixed horizontal and fruit support) are ties and the attachments to the triangle cage (adjustable horizontal and fixed vertical support) are training attachments ... until the very last contact point on the top, where I tie them off in anticipation of topping the plant.

On the container plants, the round cage also gives me a reference point as to when to trim the horizontal growth. I don't particualrly want tomatoes starting 2' away from the main stem where they probably will bend/snap the branch or will get sun scald from being exposed..... so I usually either trim or redirect the branch upward when it gets more than a couple of inches outside the cage.

I end up with a very dense & narrow bush, with very short & thick horizontal stems, with the weight centered over the pot and the fruit concentrated in the 2' to 5' area of the plant (easy to maintain & pick).

Also, if the container does get knocked over, the plant/fruit are somewhat protected by being concentric to the cage supports.

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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  middlemamma on 10/27/2010, 11:50 pm

@acara wrote: Just my opinion, but I don't like to use anything thinner than 1/8" on my tomatoes

Acara? Do you mean 3/8"?

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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  acara on 10/28/2010, 6:24 am

99.9% of what you see on my plants is 3/8" or thicker.

Not going to lie ...... there are times when the only way to fix something on a tomato plant is to tie with a piece of yarn or jute twine (1/8").

I prefer the 3/8" velcro, or a piece of cut up t-shirt, or nylon stocking whenever possible though.


Now on stuff with "tougher" stems, or on other non-produce plants you can use the twine/jute all day (cheap & it works). The "3/8" or thicker" is just how I do my tomatoes.

If you have to go thinner than that (it's all you have) then do multiple "wraps" at the contact point (then the contact area is wider/longer), or use the "vertical string trellis" method (look at carolyns pictures in her greenhouse ... she uses string vertically in long runs, so the pressure is applied evenly at multiple points over a long distance).

I'm just refering to ties here.......not saying "string" is useless on yr toms Very Happy

I got home too late to take any pictures last night, but will try to get some "reference pics" ASAP


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Re: Tomato stability...or lack thereof...

Post  acara on 10/29/2010, 6:23 am

Sorry, got distracted with the wind storm and local plane oppsie/wreck last night ....


Well I guess my loss is anothers gain .... here are some train vs tie pics from my emergency repairs on some of the tomato plants last night.

Sometimes you have to use thinner stuff on the tomatos due to need, support distance, accessibility, etc. Here are a couple ways to do it without cutting into/damaging your plants when yr supporting a lot of weight (or dealing with a lot of wind pushing them around);







When to "tie" .....top of trellis, top of stake when transitioning to trellis;







... and todays PSA ..... cars are not soft and squishy and do not make good landing pads for your airplane !!!

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