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Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Posted by purple1701 5B Chicago (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 15, 13 at 17:56

My wonderful hubby built these out of pallets we "recovered" from a friend's work parking lot. Main motivations - they were free, and we are going to have some beefsteaks as well as other types of tomatoes and some bell peppers, and I've read/heard horror stories of wire cages not holding up to the weight of a fully loaded tomato plant. On to the question: is there something I should do (or should have already done??) to make sure that my plants, once they start climbing Mt Palletness, don't contract urban-back-alley-itis or whatever, if they get a scratch from one of the rough boards?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Not sure how they are going to climb those but you can always spray them down with a diluted bleach solution (1:10) if sanitation is a concern for you. It is a standard disinfecting method but most pathogens don't survive outside in the winter.

As to wire cages not supporting a plant? That all depends on what you mean by "wire cages". There are many wire cages that work great no matter how big the plant gets.

Dave


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Here's a great old thread on many types of sturdy wire cages and supports (some quite unusual):

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/tomato/msg0801030613774.html


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Dave - thanks I'll probably do the diluted bleach solution to be safe. I don't have any idea whether or not those pallets were out over the winter.

missing - thanks for that thread, it was fun to look through!

Now, as I'm reading more, I'm realizing that since I intend to get indeterminate plants, I might need to add more height to those frames. Or just switch to determinate varieties. Which I don't want to do... hmmm


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Can you explain how these can be used for supporting tomato plants? Tomato plants don't "climb" all on their own Are they supposed to grow up through the slats or lean against them or what? 1 plant for each side or one in the middle?

Dave


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Purple,

Very interesting use of pallets! I heard of just about every use for a pallet, don't know how come i didn't come across this one, very good idea! As mentioned, they are very short, though.. I would take the two pallets apart and make a vertical trellis and tie the plant to it.. Indeterminates normally grow at least 6'+... Or you could possibly plant cucumber/melons and let it sprawl on the pallets, keeps some of the plant off the ground, reduces disease, better air circulation etc.. However, cukes/melons are big sprawling plants just like tomatoes.. I noticed the fence in your picture, what I do is screw a I -hook in the fence posts every foot or so, and I use string and make a trellis out of that, the tomatoes climb it, similar to Florida weave.. Works great and is cheap and conserves lots of space!

I have a huge driveway(just about as big as my garden) and I hate to waste the space on just concrete.. I plan on planting tons of plants in buckets to make use of the space on the concrete.. If you put a planting box at the peak of the two pallets, you could plant at the top and have your vines sprawl down the pallets, that would be perfect on the driveway!

Charles Wilber, the world record, 30 foot tomato guy, used metal rebar and he torched it to sterilize it.. I'm not sure about the wood, I would just leave it cold in winter, it shouldnt be a problem....

Joe


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

I'm really curious, too, how these will be used for tomato support. The only thing I can think of, given the photo, is to weave the stems in and out of the slats, but the openings don't look large enough for that, especially on the right-hand A-frame. Or maybe use twine to tie the stems to the slats somehow? I originally thought you were going to grow them up through the middle, but then they'd be shaded out. Enlighten me?


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

I imagined you would plant 2-4 tomatoes along the lower edge (the edges in the valley by the small rectangular brick). Perhaps 1 or 2 on the outside edges just out of the photo, also. Then drape them up and over the V shaped trellis system as they grow. It might require looping a tie around the vine and fastening it to a pallet slat here and there. If that is your plan it looks like it would work okay if the sun isn't blocked too much.

I have used old plastic lawn chairs set near too short tomato cages and draped the vines that grow out of the top over the chairs. It kept the fruit off the ground and at an easy to pick height. Your pallet support reminds me of the old chair supports.

Disinfecting would be needed only if tomato disease organisms might be on the pallets. Since tomatoes were not grown on them in the past, I doubt there is need to disinfect. If you like how they work you can leave them out over the winter next year and they should disinfect themselves during a Chicago winter.


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Naturegirl, you pretty much said it. I was planning to put in 2 plants per pallet side (so 4 per a-frame), one tomato and one bell pepper. There are 4 feet from the fence to the pavement, about 18" at ground level from one a-frame side or leg I guess to the next, and 48" at ground level underneath each a-frame itself. (does that make sense?) I figured with all the space under the a-frame there should be plenty of room for them to root, and was considering that area (under the a-frame) to be more of the "aisle" for spacing purposes of the plants.

I can't use the fence for anything because the neighbor is planning to rip it down and put up a new one. Fingers crossed that it doesn't kill my plants!!

As far as sun, the fence is on the north, so that area gets plenty of exposure.

I don't think I'll be able to add any height to it, but maybe... I'll have to consider this. I don't know if there is/will be enough room for the plants to be draped over the opposite side they grow from, considering there will be 2 more plants there as well. I had thought the tomatoes would kind of "lean" on the pallets as they grew up and wouldn't need tying off. But I could be mistaken. This is my first attempt at gardening, and trying to do it on a VERY restricted budget!


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

You mentioned on another post you are gowing indeterminates. I assume you realize that indeterminate plants will be much taller than these pallets? Like 2x as tall or more?

Determinate varieties might work with your plan but you'd honestly be much better off with just some 6 foot tall wood stakes.

Dave


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Pallets are usually 40"x48" . Looks like you have the 48" length going up and the 40" across. That gives you 4 feet for your plants to grow up and then 4 feet to flop over the top and drape down the other side. By time they get 7-8 feet long you can cut the tips off and encourage the fruit remaining on the plant to ripen before frost. In Chicago you may be looking at frost by time they get that long anyway.

I do not think the peppers will need the support at all. A heavy stick pounded into the ground by the peppers would give you something to tie them to if they need support. I bet you could find some 1-2" diameter sticks 3-4 feet long for free somewhere in the neighborhood :) Put them in front with the tomatoes closer to the fence. Since the peppers won't be on the pallet support there will only be one tomato on each side. Should be enough room on the 40" width for a second vine to drape down later in the season.

The suggested stakes for tomatoes would give better air circulation and sun exposure, though. It would help keep leaves free of fungal diseases. They are a good way to go if you like that option.

If you want or/and need to use hubby's A-frame support, I think they will work okay, too, especially if only 1 tomato plant is growing on each side of the pallet. Tell him I think they are creative and kinda cute. My hubby got pallets that we used to build a 2 section compost bin.....on our anniversary :) We were both happy with that present.....guess we are true gardeners!


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Those would be perfect for cucumbers, but I wouldn't use them for tomatoes. What's going to support them till they tall enough to drape over the top. Tomatoes, unlike cukes and melons, don't really climb.


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Well to be honest, it was what was available to us for free. I have seen pictures of tomatoes growing on supports just like these, and we're on a limited budget so we'll be working with what we have. I appreciate the positive, supportive comments that some of you are giving!!


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 21, 13 at 14:15

the only issue I see is that the toms would be shaded until you get them to come out the top of the a-frame for full sun. Then they could lean over the side.

I'm assuming these are 4' pallets? So about 3' up to the top of the a frame, and 4' down. If they reach longer than 7' you can start training them back up.

Please post photos/updates later on how they work out for you!


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

  • Posted by bets z6A ID (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 21, 13 at 15:37

t-bird,

purple1701 isn't planting them in the center of the pallets, she is planting on the outside of the A-frame.

purple (may I call you purple?),

If I were using those A-frames, I'd remove every other slat from the pallet on the inside right so it was less solid. That would allow a bit more air circulation.

Until the USDA rezoned southern Idaho, I was a Zone 5B, and I have never had an indeterminate grow more than about 6 feet, we usually have frost before they get any bigger. However I do use the Florida Weave method of support and maybe they would have been over 6 feet if they were more contained in something like a CRW (concrete reinforcing wire) cage, or I was more diligent about weaving.

How about planting some lettuce under the A-frame? The shade/filtered sunlight would slow down the bolting and be one more ingredient for salad.

Betsy

This post was edited by bets on Sun, Apr 21, 13 at 16:01


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

  • Posted by bets z6A ID (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 21, 13 at 15:44

Eliminated duplicate post.

This post was edited by bets on Sun, Apr 21, 13 at 16:00


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Betsy -

Absolutely correct, I am planting them on the outside of the pallets. And the lettuce is exactly what I planned to do, as a matter of fact I already did (see picture) DH made moveable planters out of rain gutters, for the leaf lettuce. In the ground under the a-frames, I also planted iceberg lettuce, beets and kohlrabi.

Also, I appreciate the idea of removing some slats. I thought that might be a good idea, but wasn't sure why. Now I know I was right and the reason! Thanks


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Here are things planted underneath


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Update!

Yesterday afternoon, I planted 4 California Wonder Bell Peppers, 4 Supersweet cherry tomatoes, 4 Health Kick tomatoes (anyone know anything about these?), 4 Roma II tomatoes, and 4 Beefsteaks.

Watered the ground really well that morning, soaked the cells in water with a dissolved aspirin, and planted them at about 4pm.

I hope they do ok, we have some nights coming up that will be in the mid-low 40s so I imagine I'll have to insulate them really well.

Any recommendations for best way(s) to do that, as well as exactly what temp I should worry about it at?


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Generally tomatoes needs lows in the low-50s and peppers in the mid-50s. If they get too cold, they can be stunted (especially peppers). I typically wait until mid-to-late May to plant mine out, depending on the 10 day weather forecast.

Last year, with the really early spring, I planted them on May 14, but I had to cover the peppers for several nights when it dipped below 55. I inverted a large plastic pot over each one, then covered the bed with a frost cloth. The plants did fine with that.

With this year's long, cool spring, the predicted lows in the 40's (some forecasts are even saying high 30s) for the entire middle part of May concern me, so I'm shooting for the early part of the Memorial Day weekend to plant out.

Given that your plants are already out, you'll definitely want to give them good protection when it's below 55 at night. In addition to a frost cloth (or bed sheet, table cloth, light quilt, etc. -- cloth, not plastic sheeting), you might try filling empty milk or juice containers with hot water and tucking those under the cloth to add some heat at night. The colder the night, the more jugs to add. The idea is to raise the air temp under the cover to get the plants through the night.


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

4 California Wonder Bell Peppers, 4 Supersweet cherry tomatoes, 4 Health Kick tomatoes (anyone know anything about these?), 4 Roma II tomatoes, and 4 Beefsteaks.

I thought you said you were doing 2 plants per pallet side?

Normal spacing for pepper plants is 2' sq.. Normal spacing for indeterminate tomato varieties is 3' sq. and even then they need a fair amount of pruning. The cherry tomatoes and the beefsteak plants will be huge plants. So how much pruning are you planning on doing? Your spacing might work if you prune them down to single stems only. Otherwise you are going to be way over-crowded.

Dave


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

I figured since I'm putting them in a couple weeks earlier than I intended, some of them won't do as well. I figured this way I have more than enough to overcompensate if a couple languish and I end up with the 2 per side I intended to begin with.


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

  • Posted by bets z6A ID (My Page) on
    Tue, May 7, 13 at 14:12

Obviously, since you are planning on some of the plants not doing well, they will be contrary and they will grow like gang busters and you are going to have a mass of plants where you won't be able to tell which is which! (Been there, done that!)

Betsy


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Looks like you are having fun repurposing old building materials and construction debris. I see some issues with overcrowding and awkward handling of the movable planters but I admire your creativity. I could see three of those gutters mounted to each side of your pallet frames and having a nice herb or flower garden too!. You could set it up on the concrete to have more space to plant too.


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

Betsy - I'm sure you are right haha... if that happens, I may just try to find more space elsewhere in the garden to relocate them to.

Macbettz - you are right, the movable planters are quite a bit heavier than I expected! The concrete is off limits though as that is where our vehicles get parked. And the in-laws patio furniture goes. I thought about moving some of the empty ones to the sides of the pallets, but worried about the tomatoes and peppers growing over them and completely shading/taking over those plants.

I do have a medium-ish wooden planter box off to the east end that I intend to put some wildflowers in, and I have herbs planted at various places around the garden. I'm not sure how successful those will be though, they got a bit disrupted when I was planting the tomatoes etc. I'll have to plan better for that next year.


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Fri, May 10, 13 at 12:53

purple!

Did you not check the 10 day forecast before putting out? We are going to be 40, 37, 39 for the next 3 nights.

I would suggestion you though a sheet over your entire enterprise there....Or maybe plastic sheeting if you have it, with a few hole uptop so it doesn't get too warm if the sun peaks out.


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

oh my gosh t-bird, I know! I actually did check the 10 day, a well as the monthly... and I did not see that. But at any rate, I used boxes to cover them, so hopefully they will survive. Last night was the last of it so I'm hoping that wasn't too much for them.


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RE: Do my tomato A-frames need to be disinfected?

just an update in case anyone comes across this and wonders what happened:

the vine-type tomatoes did great on the pallets. I had to tie them up a few times, but overall they functioned well enough for what I hoped. The bush tomatoes did not do so well on them. Luckily I only had one of those.

I probably won't do this again next year unless I have to though, I think there are definitely better solutions to be had.


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