Tomatoes disrespecting my stakes

ilovecucumbersJuly 2, 2014

This spring, I gave serious thought to how to keep my tomatoes under control, especially since I chose to grow Brandywines. Really good cages were too expensive, and I'm not a builder (see below). So I chose 5- to 8-foot stakes, knowing that no matter what caging/staking method I chose, I'd eventually throw my hands in defeat.

That moment has come.

I've been tying them religiously. But I'm losing the battle. As much as I tie straight, the stems want to curl. And I fear not enough air is circulating between the leaves. It's just insane.

I've pruned the bottom branches because I saw symptoms of early blight. I also pruned some of the inner branches for air circulation--the foliage is out of control. I know you're not supposed to prune but saw no way around it. However, there's still plenty of foliage.

At this point, should I just try to keep the branches off the ground--tying and typing and tying, and cutting inner branches only when needed for that air circulation?

If I was handy, I'd build something lasting. But as I said, I'm not mechanical, and my husband has no time to help.

I realize this is an age-old issue. Right now, I'd be grateful if anyone has practical, just "get through the season" advice.

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labradors_gw

It sounds as if you are doing everything right! Prune the low stuff or tie the branches so that they aren't too close to the ground. What more can you do?

Did you mulch?

Linda

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 5:10PM
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ilovecucumbers

No, I haven't. So much else to do! But I can. Is using straw okay for tomatoes?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 5:43PM
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labradors_gw

Yes. Straw will work!

L.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 6:27PM
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fireduck(10a)

google daconil...it is helpful to many tomato gardeners. Support is important. It should be dialed in before plants get big. I use concrete reinforcement wire panels....suspended between t posts. Tell your husband to help you. hehe

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 7:48PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Add some more stakes around the plant taking care to not damage the root ball. That way you have more supports to tie too. Then let the top growth drape back down.

Now you know what you don't want for next year.

Dave

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 8:43PM
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ilovecucumbers

Yep, I definitely know what doesn't work.

I'll be buying more stakes tomorrow, especially since we just had a few hours of massive wind and rain. All my tomatoes fell down. Dirt all over them. I am pretty discouraged, but onward. I was also thinking of getting some fungicide--the leaves are wet and dirty and I've already pruned to halt early blight.

Gardening: the agony and the ecstasy. Tonight, agony.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 9:18PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

With wooden stakes you can attach "cross" /"T" with screws to the main vertical stake. Now you will have more flexibility to tie the branches.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 2:27PM
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ilovecucumbers

Thanks to all of you. Now, a silly question.

Might it be possible to secure a cattle panel in each bed that I want to grow tomatoes in? Secure it with rebar or something? The panels can be moved, so I can rotate where I plant my tomatoes.

I've been gardening about 4 years now, so there's still much I don't know. Thanks for your help, as always.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 11:36AM
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dm_kelly

I don't see why cattle panels won't work. They're a bit heavy but you have lots to tie to. Another idea- I'm using t-posts and old pantyhose this year and I like the way that's working out... The panty part straddles one post and the legs are tied together on the other with about four plants in between.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 5:57PM
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davids10 z7a nv.

hog wire fencing cut to size and wired together in ovals-i make mine 3ft by 2. drive in a sturdy stake at each side to support. tie the vines to the wire and let them curl around the top. use wire cutters to open picking holes. mine are ten yrs old and like new

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 12:28AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Might it be possible to secure a cattle panel in each bed that I want to grow tomatoes in? Secure it with rebar or something? The panels can be moved, so I can rotate where I plant my tomatoes.

Common practice and many people do it. Why not review some of the many previous discussions here about how to support plants? The forum search will pull them all up for you.. Just type 'cattle panels' or 'stakes' or 'cages' into the search bar at the bottom of the page. Many of them include photos.

Dave

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 9:39AM
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ilovecucumbers

Thank you, Dave. I will.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 2:28PM
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samhain10(5a - MI)

I Love Cucumbers - here's a pic of my tomato trellis back in May before the plants are in the ground, so you can see the trellis better. This can be at whatever scale you want, but your stakes should be deep enough to handle the weight of the growing tomatoes (and taking into account what kind of winds you get in your area - they get pretty stiff here - 40 mph and more sometimes). You can get around planting the stakes so deep (1 ft + in my case) if you make it a teepee sort of affair, with two stakes leaning into each other and the top cross bar anchoring the whole thing down the line. That green mesh is a plastic fencing that we buy in rolls and secure with cable ties or twine. It's strong and reusable, as are my stakes, which as you see, are nothing fancy, but are branches and/or small trees cut down and trimmed from around the property.
At this point, though, I agree about investing in some straw bales and mulch the heck out of the area under the tomatoes and just let them sprawl where they will. Unless you have slugs as bad as we're having this year, you'll still get tomatoes. :)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:58AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

If you don't prune at all any your plant is 2-3 ft in diameter, how can you tie it to a trellis?
I just like to know.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 9:09PM
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ilovecucumbers

Samhain--that's a nifty trellis. I could use that in my plot for sure. This year, I grew my tomatoes in raised beds. But I think I could still use this ide, on a much smaller scale. Unless you (or anyone) says that this can't be done in a raised bed I'm gonna try it, for sure. Thank you--there is so much wisdom here.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 11:38PM
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samhain10(5a - MI)

I've got an answer for that one, Seysonn. In my case I tie it up repeatedly throughout the season. I use pieces of cheap drapery fabric that I've cut in strips. It's polyester or whatever, so it dries almost immediately after rains, and it lasts forever just about. But I confess, I do trim some of the long suckers that start up from the base of the stem - especially if they're sticking straight out rather than growing to the side. Plus, later in the season, when you want the tomatoes that have already set to concentrate on ripening, then you don't want them putting energy into producing more tomatoes.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 11:48PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Hi Sam. You are doing it right from early on. My question was to "I Love Cucumber" who wants to add CP at this stage. In my opinion adding extra stakes can be a better option at this point.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 1:14AM
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ilovecucumbers

Hi Seysonn--I am adding extra stakes, and that's pretty much all I can do. Which is at least something. The tomatoes look pretty healthy at this point--popping out seemingly from nowhere.

Of course, we may have strong wind and hail this afternoon. I'm worried. During garden season, I'm always worried. I'm like the Debbie Downer of gardening. :)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 8:15AM
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samhain10(5a - MI)

Seysonn - oops! My gardening enthusiasm gets the better of me - just disregard my jumping in like that. :) Had to look up what CP was - Didn't know that stuff was called cattle paneling.
ILoveCucumbers - all my beds are raised beds, if you look closely at the pic - just not very high. We till, and then I rake up the loose dirt from the paths and throw it onto the bed area, which doesn't get walked on then for the rest of the season. Next year we repeat the process, rotating crops.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 9:26AM
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