Making a tomato bed attractive.

t-bird(Chicago 5/6)April 23, 2010

I have 21 varieties of tomatoes - trying one of each this year.

I'm building a new bed for them, either 8x3 or 8x4.

I'd like to do some pretty supports - but this year - it may be cheap and functional.

So the flowers and arrangement of the tomatoes plants will be key.

I'm leaning towards the 8x4 bed to give more space, and grouping the tomatoes into groups of 3 so it doesn't look like a planted field. I have seeds for borage, which I hear is good companion-wise with toms and some princess aster seeds (pink/red/wht) and white alyssum. So thinking to have triangles of borage and the asters (both about 30" with a cover of alyssum interspersed with lettuce after first planting out - replaced with basil later in summer.

Also maybe 2 tall trellises of purple podded bean in the middle of each half of the bed to give some height differences....

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natal(Louisiana 8b)

That's a lot of tomatoes in a bed that size.

I'm growing 21 too. Two beds (each 3x9) have 10 each and the last is in another bed with peppers and bush beans. I use a combination of Texas Tomato Cages and 8' tall plastic-coated metal poles. The tomato in the pepper bed is growing in an obelisk. That by far is the most attractive, but not practical for a lot of tomatoes. I really like the cages. They're not cheap, but they are sturdy and collapsible which means off-season storage is a breeze!

Here is a link that might be useful: Texas Tomato Cages

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 5:31PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Natal, for your 3 x 9 beds, will tomatoes be the only things in those beds? What space will those 10 tomato plants occupy?

I have two 4 x 10 beds that I hope to have installed this weekend if the weather cooperates and they are designated for tomatoes. I was thinking of putting 5 down the center of each and then other things around the perimeter but I have more plants that need to be placed.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 9:21PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

t-bird, In my haste to ask Natal questions I failed to mention that one cheap and functional way to trellis the tomatoes would be to use bamboo poles that you could also paint for added drama. These could be made into teepees with twine around them for the tomates to cling too.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 9:25PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Oh MY! 21 Maters in an 8x4 space??????
I usually do 4-6 in that area! They usually over-run my whole garden area!
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 9:44PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Tish, only tomatoes in those beds. Five along the length on each side.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 10:37PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Thank you Natal!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 12:10AM
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Natal - I've been eyeing those Texas tomato cages. Do you prune your plants or do the cages provide sufficient support (I'm clueless about growing tomatoes but really want to be successful this year).

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 6:02AM
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Laura I have been reading a lot about pruning to one stem for the indeterminates. I plan on trying that this yr.Below is a link to an article I found very helpful. I have only grown determinates before so havent tried it yet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pruning tomatoes

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 8:00AM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

well actually the length will be 10' but sounds like I still need 2 bed for this? How far apart do tomatoes need to be? I was thinking 12-18 - guess I am off!

I'd cut back on planning - but the little darlings are already doing their best and 3-5 inches high...:).

I don't have the heart to reject them!

So if I do 2 with asters, one with borage - or 2 mixed?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 11:29AM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Laura, I never prune. I pull off the suckers until the first flowers form then I let the tomatoes vine. The Texas cages offered great support. Next year I'm ordering another set. The only problem I have is some of my tomatoes get much taller than the cages so I end up tying some of the vines to neighboring poles.

T-bird, yes two beds would be much better than one for that many tomatoes. Why not put the flowers in a separate bed?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 1:08PM
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gwenb(7 WA)

Where did you get those texas tomato cages? How tall are they? They look really tall!

Last year I bought some of those typical cone shaped supports and spray painted them yellow. The color improved them about 500%. But they weren't sturdy nor tall enough. Maybe for cherries, but not reg toms.

Love this thread. Toms always look so raggedy. Last year I planted tons of them all squished together. It was wild looking. I actually liked the way it looked but it was very hard to harvest. Hence the need to come up with a better plan this year.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 1:20AM
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Two years ago, the first year I had a potager, I planted my tomatoes down two rows, about 2-1/2 feet or so apart. When they got taller and needed support, I criss-crossed two bamboo poles above and between two plants, and tied the poles like that. I then tied a long pole across the tops of the "vees" above each pair of plants.

Then I tied each plant with garden twine to the pole running the length of the garden, or to the pole nearest the plant.

This looked very nice, but the tieing up of the plants wasn't as good as, say, a support around them.

Any comments, fine-tuning ideas?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 8:22AM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Gwen, I bought them online. They're 6' tall. You can buy 2' extensions. They collapse for easy storage.

Here is a link that might be useful: Texas Tomato Cages

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 11:48AM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

On the NE Coast we only need 4 ft. high cages. I found some stronger than the usual big-box store version, and these are enameled bright colors! I took a couple (apple-green, bright yellow) to try them out, and if they look good, I'll go back for the rest I need. Probably available online.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 6:20PM
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lisa33(6b Bucks County PA)

Just wanted to say I love this thread. I am agonizing about this right now. I bought WAY too many tomato plants for my tiny potager. Going to need to settle on just a few. I just kept seeing interesting varieties and picking them up one or two at a time until all of the sudden I had 8. LOL.

Here are the plants I picked up. Any feedback on which get huge and which might be more manageable? I'd love input on which to keep and which to pass along.

Red Beefsteak
Green Zebra
Lemon Boy
Cherry Sweet 100
Sweet Olive (grape)
Black Krim
Yellow Pear

I hope the ideas keep coming. Do tomatoes do well in an obelisk? I'm thinking of biting the bullet and buying a few that match. Having my potager look beautiful is equally important as productivity for me.

One other idea I had is to buy two sections of antique iron fence and putting them a foot or so apart running north-south in the center of the bed and planting two or three tomatoes in a row between them? Any practicality to that decorative idea at all? They'd be supported up to 3' or so and then billow over the top? Maybe use tall individual stakes (black) for each of them to support beyond the fence? I really don't know what to expect in terms of size of the plants with the length of my growing season here in the northeast. Clearly, they won't get quite as big as they do down in Louisiana.

I have a feeling I'm going to learn a lot through my inevitable mistakes this year. LOL.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 9:40AM
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I too am a zone 6ma member. I am really interested in the enamelled tomato cages you found. Any tips on where around our area that I might find some? -


    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 10:39AM
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