Fall Tomatoes

luvabasilOctober 25, 2012

Last night I was making notes on the advice I have received on this blog, the mistakes I made (that was 4 pages - single spaced)what worked, what didn't, etc.

As I was noting the difficulty with covering up the Fall Tomatoe cages, a thought hit:

For you guys's fall tomatoes, do you let them ramble on the ground on straw (certainly easier to cover) or use half cages and half ramble, or do you cage as normal?

As always, thanks for the help.


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I have them in cages because when I let them ramble on the ground, they tend to have more disease issues. Also, we have venomous snakes here and they sometimes come into the garden and scare me, so for personal safety, I'd rather have the tomatoes growing more upright.

It is harder to cover upright tomato plants, but I just wrap Agribon floating row cover around the caged plant, using many clothespins to make sure it won't blow off, and using U-shaped landscape fabric pins to hold the row cover down to the ground.

I only kept two big upright tomato plants (SunGolds) in the garden itself, and then kept 5 cascading container-type tomatoes in containers that now are in the greenhouse. I generally don't cover up my fall tomatoes too deeply into the season because I have found that any tomatoes that ripen after October have much poorer flavor than summer tomatoes. The less-intense flavor is a result of lower temperatures and shorter daylength. (The tomatoes still taste better than grocery-store tomatoes though.)

If a really early frost or freeze is expected, like we had here at our house 2 or 3 weeks ago, I'll throw a heavy blanket over each Agribon-covered cage about an hour before sunset. The heavy blankets are just about as damaging as they are helpful because they'll bend or even break foliage that sticks out of the cage, but they do keep the plants warmer than row cover alone.

In the spring when I have rows and rows of tomato plants that I need to keep alive since the season is just starting, I'll use Agribon that is 10' wide and many feet long. I'll wrap the rows of caged plants with that row cover, running the row cover down both sides of the beds full of cages, then gathering the two pieces at the tops of the cages, folding the row cover pieces over and pinning them to the tops of the cages with clothespins. They are perfectly fine.

If your climate is drier than mine, letting plants ramble on the ground might work for you, but I don't like doing it all. Rambling plants have more disease issues, more insect issues and produce a lower yield, partly because the pests get more tomatoes. In my garden, when tomato plants ramble on the ground, I find pillbugs and sowbugs eating fruit before it even is ripe. We never had snails and slugs here for many years because we have such poor clay with low levels of organic matter in the soil, but the snails have been on the increase for three years now. As the soil has improved, the snails have shown up....and that's another reason to keep the plants up off the ground. So, if you have snails and slugs or pillbugs or sowbugs, you'll be sharing your tomatoes with them if you let plants sprawl on the ground.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 10:07AM
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A while back I considered letting them ramble on the ground and decided against it. Simply because of disease issues and it is easier to see if something maybe going wrong with them. Like bugs and stuff, I would not want the under side of them to be munched on and I not see it until too late. LOL. Plus pruning is important for tomato plants, I think. It is easier to prune off the "suckers" when they are at least staked.

Now I have some experimental tomatoes I am growing over the winter in a low tunnel just for giggles, they are in a raised bed, so I have not decided if they will ramble or not.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 6:13AM
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After reading you guys's thoguhts, I'm thinking of experimenting with a half cage next year. So that the tomatoes ramble on top of a long foot high cage instead of on the ground. I think I could cover that easier with a "heavy tunnel". They are a bit tall right now....we'll see. If I weren't so darn short.......
Thanks for the thoughts

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 2:52PM
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what weight of the Agribon row covering are you using?

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 10:36PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Melony, I prefer to grow tomatoes as upright as possible because tall upright plants get good sunlight hitting as many leaves as possible, allowing for a lot of photosynthesis and heavy yields. They also get the best possible airflow which helps reduce the diseases common on wet foliage. My only concern with growing them lower to the ground in a more horizontal method is that you might have more disease issues and more pest issues. If you grow them that way, be sure to have a lot of mulch on the ground to reduce soil splash which carries soil-borne diseases up onto the foliage every time it rains or every time you irrigate using hand-held hoses or sprinklers.

Nate, I have several weights because I bought it at various times along the way. My favorite one, and the one I use the most at the present time, is the heavyweight Agribon that weighs 1.5 oz. and gives 6-8 degrees of frost/freeze protection. I bought it from Farm-Tek on a roll that was 10'
wide by 500'long.

While 10' wide is nice for wide beds (my raised beds are 4' to 5' wide) of low growing crops, it isn't wide enough to cover tall plants like 6' tall tomato cages in fall with a single piece. I have to use two pieces. The next time I buy some, I want to buy some that is 25' wide.

Santa Claus doesn't know it yet, but for Christmas he is going to bring me a roll of Dewitt's 3 oz. Ultra Supreme Frost Blanket that is supposed to give 10 degrees of protection. I have one small piece of row cover that I think is 6' x 15' that is that same weight. I've had it about 10 years and the heavier weight holds up much better than the lower weights.They all can tear pretty easily since, by nature, they must be lightweight so they don't crush the plants, but the ones that are the heaviest weights available don't tear as easily as the really lightweight ones.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 10:11AM
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I used the Agribon, medium weight, not wide enough size. I doubled it (since I hade to use 2 sheets anyway because I didn't order the 10 footer) around the tomatoes and voer the top. sealed the bottom and still surrounded the bottom with straw. The basil is under hoops, also doubled and another layer laying over the basil themselves. The tomatoes had outer leave damage, and I have been too chicken to check the basil. And it did tear a bit, so I patched with white duct tape. The Hubs didn't want to look too red-necky. I don't mean that to sound insulting, I come from a long line of hard working red necks.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 10:53AM
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seeker1122(7a ok)



    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 1:18AM
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