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Hockley Valley: Tomato Supports

If you haven’t looked over the fence into a neighbour’s backyard to see a neat system of cages and trellises for beans and tomatoes you may be the only Torontonian that doesn’t have a gardening Italian neighbour. In it’s native South America the tomato is a bit a hippie that sprawls across the ground and sends its vines in all different directions. Our “square” need for order and desire to concentrate as many as possible into our gardens lead to a variety of tomato systems.

Over the three summers that I’ve grown tomatoes at the cottage I’ve used all the usual suspects. In 2008 I called the pile of rusty, three-ring cages that were lying behind the old outhouse into service. The next year we replaced some of our most decrepit veterans with slightly sturdier versions. In 2010 I experimented with the system that puts the plants between two end-poles connected by twine that is woven between the vines as support.

The cages, especially the small ones, always seem overwhelmed by early August. They topple easily when the vines are loaded with pounds of fruit–at best it seems the plants are supporting them and at worst are strangled by the cages. ┬áThe twine-and-post system did even worse. It may work better for longer rows with more securely fixed posts but for me, the twine stretched, the posts started to lean and as the support weakened, the vines sprawled, and some side branches broke.

Yesterday on a tour of Hockley Valley Resort we were introduced to their culinary programme. Whether we were talking about wedding catering, their three restaurants, or the field dinners they have planned for this year everything seemed to come back to the garden.

This summer they’re putting twenty-nine varieties of tomatoes into an interesting system of trellisses. Between tall, rough cedar poles they have strung long pieces of one-by-two. (Pictured in the background of the photo at the top of the post.) Obviously, as the vines grow taller they are tied to each successive level of the trellis. My only concerns are that it will be difficult to dig deeply enough to support the poles in our minimal top soil environment and that I’ll have trouble finding anything other than beans or peas to rotate into this semi-permanent trellis system on the tomato-off years.

I’m interested in trying this out, perhaps in a rough experiment against sturdy cages in the next bed over. If you have experience with a trellis system like this please leave a comment.


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