help! my tomato plants are too big!!

gamamaJuly 25, 2009

Hello,

My neighbor & I started our first veggie garden & could use some advice. We have one roma grape plant and one Juliet grape tomato plant. Both of them have completely outgrown their cages. Should I have been cutting them back to prevent this? I bought the biggest cages I could find. They still have dozens of flowers and green tomatoes on them and I don't want to loose them! I took a picture but I'm not sure how to add it to this posting. I'll add the pic as soon as I figure it out :)

Michele

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gamama

I figured it out :) As you can see, the cages are about to fall over.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 11:48AM
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kterlep(5/6)

it's not a pretty solution, but if you put a concrete block next to your container, you can put something tall and strong (a metal pipe, pole, some bamboo, or a 2x2 wood stake) in each hole in the concrete block and fill the hole with gravel (lining up the pole where you want it while you fill). You can then take garden twine, pieces of old T-shirt, or pantyhose and (loosely) tie the vines to the post. Every week or so, tie the new growth to the post.

You may also want to secure the cages to the post.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 12:13PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Just to re-state the problem -- you have two needs:

1. The cages are leaning and need to be stabilized before they fall. (Ideally, they should have been pushed much farther into the ground; you'll want to do that next year if you use them for smaller tomatoes or other plants.)

2. You need something which will handle future growth of the two vines, as well as the weight of the fruit the plant is going to bear before your growing season ends (three months from now? four?).

You may be able to answer both of these needs with one strategy, or you may choose a dual strategy.

I don't see the need for kterlep's cinderblock. Put a tall strong stake (any of the things on kterlep's list -- but if you use bamboo, make sure it's a good strong 1" stake; those 1/4" mini bamboos won't begin to do the job) near the wire cage and drive it at least a foot into the ground. Then fasten the stake to the cage. You'll probably want to use at least two stakes. Position them on the opposite side of the cages from the direction the cages are leaning.

If you have difficulty getting the stake down that far, pull it out of the ground, fill the hole with water, wait for the soil to soften, and repeat as necessary until the stake is buried deep enough. It's not quick, but it works, and is a good method for short people.

Think about the best place for you to put the vines' future growth. Keep in mind that you want to be able to see and reach the fruit (present and future) easily. Your options will include:

= tying new growth to the top of a tall stake, as kterlep suggests.

= letting new growth fall under its own weight, as is already happening. Of course, you're in for 3-4 months of new growth.

= encouraging the plants to grow horizontally by tying multiple lines of twine from the stakes/cages to the fence. Gently tie new growth to the twine. [You could also use a small piece of the sort of garden netting that is usually used to trellis cukes, beans, etc.]

= pruning the vines is another option. How much or how little you prune is up to you, but your pruning strategy should match how you decide to support your plant. And keep in mind that in your climate, flowers that set fruit in mid or late September will ripen before frost, so you'll probably want to leave at least a few branches to flower and grow you some late tomatoes. [Obviously I don't know where in GA you are or when your last frost will occur.]

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 1:36PM
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platys(5a)

You can also get another tomato cage that is the same size as your current ones, and tie it to the top with twist ties.

Then, I just pushed bamboo into the ground, and tied the cages to the bamboo. Some of mine have two bamboo for even more strength. I figure I might have to add more. I also have tied the vines to the bamboo as it heads over. It's working reasonably well so far.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 1:38PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Unfortunately it isn't that your plants are too big - they are normal. The problems is that the cages are too small. As is often discussed here, the 3-4 ring things sold as tomato cages are a farce. Even well staked they will not support a full grown plant.

For this year adding stakes as already mentioned is about all you can do and it will take 2-3 stakes to each cage. Before next year you might want to browse thru the many discussions here on the many available alternatives.

Good luck.

Dave

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 1:52PM
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kterlep(5/6)

A cinderblock is not necessary, but placing two posts in cinderblocks and adding a bucket of gravel is a quick and easy way to secure a pole without trying to dig a hole (while avoiding the root structure that's there).

Alternately, you are growing in raised containers and could easily secure the pole directly to the container (with screws or plumber's "tape" or other metal pipe holders).

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 7:51PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Wrap a rope around the cages and the green stake you aleady have in the ground and tighten ,if needed add another stake or use the fence

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 1:21PM
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