April 22, 2010: Think Big!

Last year I used a single large tomato cage for each tomato plant in the indeterminate bed. It was such a jungle, it was hard to find and pick the tomatoes, and I'm sure I missed a lot of them.

My 2009 tomato jungle.

This year I'm thinking BIG! I got Mr. H out to help me today, and we constructed a heavy duty tomato caging system. The buckets are nearly bottomless, and allow the roots to go really deep. The buckets are all sunken into the ground a few inches and wired together, the lower tomato cages are inserted through small holes in the buckets, and the top cages are wired upside down onto them. The horizontal wood bar holds everything down, and is wired to the metal cross braces. The vertical stakes are double screwed into the horizontal bar.

Think BIG!

I got all the rest of the tomatoes potted up into 16-ounce cups today. I knew there were more than the forty I showed on the cart the other day, so I took inventory of them and came up with a grand total of 71 plants. My neighbor, Pat, called her grandson over to help her prepare a nice strip of ground along our shared fence. He weeded it all out, then hauled in and spread a half yard of composted manure on it. Pat has said I can plant my determinate tomatoes there, if I also plant some beans and zucchini for her. I should easily get 6-8 plants in there and still have room for a hill of zucchini and a wide row of Royal Burgundy bush beans. I gave Pat's grandson four of my nicest tomato plants for his garden. He just built his raised bed garden last year, after seeing mine.

2010 Tomato Plants

Amish Paste 1
Angora Super Sweet (Velvet Red) 2
Black Cherry 3
Brandywine, Sudduth's Strain 3
Cherokee Purple 3
Cherry Roma 2
Clear Pink Early 5
Dwarf Champion 2
Eva Purple Ball 3
Gartenperle 3
Golden Dwarf Champion 2
Green Grape 2
Homestead 3
Husky Red Cherry 3
Kellogg's Breakfast 6
Kimberly 2
Marglobe 5
Market Miracle 3
Mini Gold 2
Nyagous 5
Persey 3
Sibirskij Stambovyj 3
Sungold F1 4
Unknown (Angora SS seed) 1

Gartenperle blossoms

I was surprised to see my Gartenperle tomatoes are developing blossoms already! I just planted the seeds March 20th. I went ahead and put this one into a pot, as it's supposed to be a determinate plant that is good for container growing. "Bush (Determinate). The Tumbling Tomato! Ideal for growing in baskets, containers and windowboxes. The heavy crop of delicious 'rosy red' cherry sized fruits will tumble over the sides from early in the season and continue throughout the summer. Easy to grow, naturally trailing, needs no stopping or sideshooting. Gartenperle tomatoes are most often associated with fresh salads and snacks."

I think I'll hang this pot from a hook on the patio. I hope it performs better than the Tumbling Tom I grew last year. That one really wasn't very good, and it got huge and didn't tumble at all. I'm not going to devote too much time and space to Gartenperle though, after reading the following review: "Actual garden test trials with Italian seed purchased from Harvest Moon spanning three consecutive seasons have proven 'Gartenperle,' to be an uneventful and unspectacular tomato. I have deleted 'Gartenperle' from future plantings based on its mediocre taste and sub-avarage performance. It is unworthy of its space."

The raspberries are growing before my eyes! I don't know if you can tell by the next photo, but the horizontally woven canes are sending up beautiful vertical growth. If they bear fruit as well as they put out new growth, I'll be in raspberry heaven this summer!

Vertical growth.


  1. This had me laughing so hard by the first picture I'm not even sure I read the rest - I was hoping the "quest for the perfect tomato system" would taper off with experience and wisdom - is that a "no"? Every year I say THIS is the perfect cage/stake, and every year I vow to get it right the next year, LOL

  2. Erin, I think the only good tomato cages are the ones made from concrete reinforcement wire. Unfortunately, I just don't have the strength in my hands to make the darned things. My best try was training the vine to one long stem and tying it to an 8' stake daily. Of course, that one stem only gave me about five tomatoes, so it was hardly worth the effort!

  3. Your heavy duty caging system looks great! I decided to try a new system this year also. I am going to use the green posts at the eneds of my beds and run wire from post to post. As the tomtoes grow you add another row of wire. I hope it works! In the past I also used tomato cages. By the end of the season it is always a jungle with extra posts and supports everywhere.

    Wonderful raspberries!!I wish that I had room for them.

  4. Granny - I only started 2 gartenperle and lost both. :(

    Are you gonna isolate any for seed saving later? I'd love to get my hands on some sungold for next year.

  5. Robin, I tried the "Florida Weave" last year, and you can see how that turned out! I'm utilizing my garden fence posts for potted tomatoes this year, since I removed that wire fencing. I'm trying several dwarf varieties, and I'm just dropping the pots down over the posts. I'll add a cage and tie everything to the posts.

  6. EG, I the Sungold are F1 hybrids, so I won't be saving any seeds. If they are as good as I've heard, I will be buying seed for them next year, so I'd be happy to share with you. Now, if you wanted Kellogg's Breakfast, I have a boatload of those seeds I saved from last year!

    Can you believe those Gartenperles are all getting ready to blossom already?

  7. That IS Big! You're gonna have crazy towering tomato plants. I still haven't decided what kind of tomato supports to use.

    Out of curiosity, how warm is it now where you are? Judging by your raspberries, you're weeks ahead of us!

  8. Thomas, if the plants grow that high, I'll have to use a ladder to pick them!

    We've been having daytime temps in the mid 60s to mid 70s, and nighttime temps still in the low to mid 40s, with an occasional dip into the high 30s. I've been setting the plants out in a wind protected, sunny corner nearly every day, but moving most of them into the shed at night. The few I've left out have fared well, though.

  9. Oh noooo! I should be getting my Tumbling Tom seeds any day now (hopefully tomorrow)... If they grow well in the container/spot I'm putting them in, maybe I'll try a different variety next year there.

    Those are some huge freakin' supports--and I have no doubt that your tomatoes will cover them Granny LOL!

  10. Momma_S, I think my Tumbling Toms had crossed with something else, as they were nothing like they were supposed to be. Just a plain old cherry tomato, with not much flavor, and huge vine. I hope yours are better.

  11. Kind of discouraging to read that gardeners keep trying to come up with a way to control tomatoes, with decidedly mixed results. Good luck with this try. Looks like it should work. Will be anxiously awaiting further developments.

  12. Now, this might seem a really stupid question, but why would you want a tomato cage, and what are the benefits over just growing them with bamboos?

  13. Goodness, that looks a strong support system. Last year all I did was stick in some stout twigs and plant the tomatoes quite close together, and then wove them in and out of each other as they grew. It worked well although, as we have a problem with wind here, I didn't let them get too wall.

  14. Wow, that is one heck of a tomato system, I can't wait to see photos of it in action!

    And those raspberries, WOW!

  15. Each year I am always fooled by how large my small tomato plants grow and I am always struggling to tie them in. I too do not trim suckers...I just can't. Hopefully I will plan better this year.

    Your raspberries look very healthy and the growth is dense. I am sure you will have a lot of berries.

  16. SB, I sometimes wonder if growing the indeterminates is worth it! Then I taste the tomatoes and decide, yes. Yes, it's worth it.

  17. TIG, to grow up a single bamboo stake would mean I'd have to prune to a single stem. If the good Lord meant for tomatoes to grow on one single stem, he wouldn't have given them suckers ;-) I grew two plants last year, and kept them pruned to a single stem. I got about five tomatoes off of them. The other twenty or so plants grew in cages and gave me over 500 pounds. The cages just help keep them off the ground, so the fruit doesn't lay on the soil and rot. The cages I have are not the best for that, the ones made with concrete reinforcement wire are good ones. See here:


    We're talking indeterminate tomatoes here, which can easily grow 8' tall and really, really heavy. They could easily topple a bamboo stake in a windstorm. Now, if you're growing the determinate type tomatoes, you might get away with bamboo, but they will still flop all over unless you spend all your time pruning and tying. The more you prune, the fewer tomatoes you'll get.

  18. i love your tomato cage idea and the big buckets for the plants... i might try a few that way this year... i have an over abundance of tomato seedlings this year so anyone i know will be getting my cast offs! your raspberries are way ahead of mine too... and i'm on the coast... can't wait for them to flower and start producing.. mmmm good!!!

  19. Jan, the tomatoes in the first photo were held up with the "Florida Weave", but they still got away from me. I had others that had the tall stakes and cages and they worked very well....except a windstorm toppled them (we get really strong winds, too). That's why we've added the crossbar for more stability.

  20. LOL, Kelly. Do you want to bet it will end up looking like last year's tomatoes, only with big sticks poking out of the top of the mess? I'm going to have to use a ladder to try to keep them tied to the stakes.

  21. Rachel, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed, because this proved to be the best method last year (on a couple other plants). They were a bit lower to the ground though. I'm not sure I'll be able to reach to the tops of these without falling off the ladder!

  22. Roasted Garlicious, That's me...the too many seedlings thing! Let's keep our fingers crossed for each other ;-)

    I've never had raspberries take off like these did! Those were four puny sticks last year.

  23. Hmm Mr. H is willing to help out with your crazy tomato plans, but he rips out your Heritage raspberries as too hard? I'm betting he likes tomatoes a lot more than raspberries. I hope you have a nice step ladder so you can tie up those tomatoes when they get huge. I love your crazy plan :> All gardeners should think that big.

  24. OK now I'm scared. I bought 2 better boys and Giant Beefsteaks. Aren't they BOTH indeterminates? If so, I am soooooo in trouble. I am used to the bush type variety. I think I am going to stop at Lowe's on my way home from work to get some concrete mesh. Thanks for the link Granny!

  25. Daphne, he likes raspberries, too. It's just that I won't let him anywhere near the garden crops any more. Though come to think about it, he did pick a few tomatoes last year....unripe ones. He just won't leave them to vine ripen! They were the tomatoes by the patio...he doesn't dare go into the main garden ;-)

    Don't you remember how he "trimmed" my tam juniper last year? I had to have it completely removed this year, it was so ugly. The man is dangerous around plants.

    Jen, here is a photo of the two Better Boys that I kept pruned to a single stem...pretty but only 5-6 tomatoes from each plant. You'll notice they grew taller than the roof of the patio:


    Here is another Better Boy that I grew unpruned, on a long stake with two tomato cages fastened together:


    Lots of tomatoes, and good flavored ones. Notice this one also grows up to the roof of the shed, but I didn't have an 8' stake screwed to the eaves like in the other photo. A windstorm toppled this one and killed it. I'll be planting my tall cherry tomatoes there this year, but will screw the supports on to the shed eaves.

    So that's how big your Better Boy will get.

  26. granny... I can't wait to see that contraption filled with tomato plants!

  27. Shawn Ann, I planted it yesterday, and our temps are supposed to plunge into the mid 30s tomorrow night. Keeping my fingers crossed the make it.

  28. I think that is a fortress of a tomato support - it might actually hold up as a result! LOL! I have never had a perfect tomato support - good but never perfect. I suspiciion there really is no such thing. What fun would it be if there were anyways?! Afterall, coming up with new and creative ways to try and contain our tomato plants is an important pasttime for avid gardeners.

    The raspberries look outstanding. My patch is taking off this year too after a hohum first year (last year). I think my rejuvenation project really did the trick.

  29. Kitsap, I thought my structure looked rather like the beginnings of a billboard. Maybe I'll just put up a big advertisement, "Take My Tomatoes...PLEASE!"


  30. That was some tomato jungle! This year I am going to try my best to be on-top of pruning after last years blight. Seem you can prune a tomato every other day thought :-)

  31. I'm still not going to prune, Dan. My pruned plants just didn't produce enough to bother with last year. They looked pretty, though ;-)

  32. I'm amazed. What on earth do you plan to do with all those tomatoes? At least you trialing varieties means I don't have to!!

    Raspeberries are a treat. I have got to get my support system up to snuff! Seems I can't keep up with you either in gardening or blogging.

  33. It's all looking so good Granny. You and Mr. H (this Mr. H thing is really confusing:) set up a terrific looking tomato cage system. The Kellogs breakfast became one of our favorites last year and we will definately be growing them again.

    Look at those raspberries...wow.

  34. Stefaneener, I'm hoping I can find room to plant one of each variety, then do a real comparison this year and narrow down my choices for next year. I'd like to pare it down to no more than 10 plants in 2011. Some of my extras will be going to DaBeardeOne next week, and I've already given away four to Pat's grandson. I'll plant the determinates in her yard, and she also wants a Cherry Roma. Any I have left will be put out by the street with a "Free" sign. So far, Ive planted out a dozen.

    Mr. H. (with a period), I'm always afraid my readers think I'm writing about you and not my Mr. H (without a period)! I think, to stop the confusion, I'll refer to him as Mr. Husband from now on.