Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chapter 5 Tomatoes & Sunflowers

It's definitely time to tie the Tomatoes

How do you support your tomato plants in your garden? Or do you have a large enough garden that you simply lay straw down throughout your tomato patch and let the plants spread out naturally? Commercial growers allow the plants to 'do their own thing'. It would be fairly impractical to stake acres of tomatoes. The average gardener like you and me have much to gain by staking.

I have always staked my tomatoes with either bamboo or wooden stakes; I prefer cedar stakes because they hold up the best, but at times I have used pine 1 x 2's that you can get at your local lumber supplier. They also call 1 x 2's 'furring strips'. You can buy them in a bundle; pretty cheap.

In the picture to the right you can see several tie strips which help keep the plant growing upright. The symmetrical and healthy looking tomato is positioned to grow to maturity without any problem; largely because the vine is stabilized.

Right now in my garden I am using bamboo stakes and I am starting to see their limitations. My plants are starting to get heavy and full. As more fruit develops, the bamboo will need support to keep from bending over and possibly breaking. I will likely supplement the bamboo stakes with some wooden stakes (right net to the bamboo) as the plants get taller. As the plants grow I will tie the branches to the cedar stake. I have decided that next year I will use the bamboo for my peppers and eggplant and get some new cedar stakes.

I find it very helpful to tie the tomato branches in order to support the fruit. Also, the plant is easier to manage, and easier to harvest when you control the direction and growth of the plant. I use old cotton sheets for my tie material and I simply rip off the strips, the size I want, and then cut the length with the scissors. If you have not done this, it's pretty cool.

You simply make a small tear in the upper right end of the sheet, and with one movement just take the piece of material where the tear is and pull straight down. Because of the way the material was created the tear stays in a straight line, so your cotton strips are uniform without having to use scissors to cut the entire length.

Do you have Sunflowers in your garden?

I just have to show you this perfect Sunflower that I photographed today. It is growing in a terraced garden next to my home. After the deer chewed most of the leaves on this plant about a week ago, the large bloom you see was untouched. Also notice the other Sunflower buds coming near the top of the plant.

Yep, you guessed it. This garden area has enriched soil; some of my 'magic deegan soil'. This Sunflower is about 8 feet tall. Someday I would like to have several rows of Sun-flowers in my country garden; different types and colors.

Take time to garden with the Children

Did you know that there is a Dwarf Sunflower? Good for the little children in your family.

Speaking of children let's all be sure to garden with the children and grandchildren; what a wonderful habit to get them into while they are young. They will always remember those childhood days when something special happened; like when they planted some dwarf Sunflower seeds and the flowers bloomed for the first time. "Dad, come and see, my Sunflower just bloomed!"

I have very fond memories when I was nine years old and the Four O'clocks bloomed that I planted. The colors were deep reds and purples. The blooms opened each day in late afternoon, just like their name said they would. Also, I remember something else that is unusual about Four O'clocks; they shoot their seeds out. The seed pods actually burst open and the Beebe like seeds get disbursed over a large area. They propagate themselves very well. I was fascinated then and I am fascinated now. This would be a great flower for the children to plant. See you in the Garden.


Anonymous said...

Our property seems to be a haven for groundhogs (they attacked our tomato plants). Any tips on making our property less appealing to them? I have used the deer repellent spray near border of garden. I wonder if that spray also deters birds like hummingbirds, etc.?

Digger said...

Hi, Anonymous:

I have had ground hogs climb a 6' fence and make mischief with the wonderful producing.

I was told about the only thing you can do is fence the garden and electrify with low cost, low voltage to discourage them. They get the hint quickly.

I will research other ideas. Thanks.