NGA Articles: Trellising and Training Tomatoes

Trellising and Training Tomatoes (cont)

By: Shepherd Ogden

Trellises Mean More Care

Trellised tomatoes need more water and repeated sucker pruning. We're in the cold zone 4, so we give the soil a week to warm up in the strong June sun, then lay a section of soaker hose along the center of the bed. Next, we erect the trellis and cover the entire bed with 8 to 12 inches of hay mulch to prevent rain from splashing early blight spores up onto the plants.

To avoid blossom-end rot (leathery sunken spots at the ends of the fruits caused by extreme moisture variations), water the plants regularly rather than only when they're desperate. The one exception is late in the season when the last flush of flowers has set fruit. A month before the first frost, we stop watering and remove all the too-small and too-green fruits that won't ripen before frost; this concentrates all the energy of the plant into the remaining fruits and concentrates their flavor by decreasing their water content.

Two other subtleties that affect the flavor of tomatoes are choice of variety and time of harvest. First, heirloom tomatoes, for example, have been regaining the popularity they lost over the last fifty years. The high-yielding, disease-resistant modern (often determinate) hybrids released by breeders over the past few decades, though wonders of modern genetics, just didn't taste as good as widely available, indeterminate, old-time American heirlooms like 'Brandywine' and European varieties like 'Marmande' (available from specialty seed catalogs). Second, any home gardener who picks a tomato that isn't dead ripe is wasting its taste potential. Sun-warmed and soft, that juicy vine-ripened love apple is one of the true garden treats.

Tomatoes are by far the most popular vegetable grown in American gardens. Knowing a few of the simple steps I've described here will ensure you enjoy them all the more.

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