What type of tomato grower are you?

The Innocent

The Innocent uses a short, three-foot funnel-shaped cage and believes, gullibly, that the prongs will secure the cage, that the welds will hold and that the tomato vine will know when to stop. No. In other words, pull it and start again. “I tell people to use those for peppers,” said Jon Traunfeld, a horticulturist who trains Maryland’s Master Gardeners.

The Gardener

The Gardener uses a single wooden stake (one-by-one-inch oak is excellent) that is eight feet tall. With practice, a mallet and a little stepladder, the Gardener pounds the stake vertically (more difficult than you think) two feet into the organically amended, double-dug and generally absurdly prepared garden bed. Then the mania really sets in: The vine is pruned frequently, so that it has just two rising stems from the original leader and first sucker, and then all other suckers that emerge from the leaf joints are pinched out when young. This keeps the vine narrow and upright. The tomato harvest is less than with a caged version, but the fruit quality is high, and the Gardener can place the vines closer together, about 24 inches. The Gardener lies awake at night, wondering if he or she caught every emerging sucker. The Gardener ties the vine every eight inches as it grows with cotton strips from old shirts, precisely cut on long winter nights. The Gardener doesn’t get out much.

The Perfectionist

The Perfectionist makes the Gardener look like a slacker. The Perfectionist uses a cage and two stakes. The cage is made from concrete reinforcing wire fashioned into a cylinder five to six feet high. The grid is large enough, typically six inches, to reach in and pick a ripe tomato. The stakes are buried as deep as two feet and attach to each side of the cage to anchor it. The Perfectionist spaces the tomato plants a generous four feet apart to allow for uncrowded growth. With just three plants occupying a 12-foot bed, the Perfectionist needs a lot of real estate in the sun.

The Farmer

The Farmer has even more real estate in the sun. The Farmer grows many tomato plants in a row, spaced at least two feet apart, and then uses a support system called basket-weaving. He or she pounds in a stake between the second and third plant, the fourth and fifth plant, the sixth and seventh plant, and so on. The Farmer takes a ball of twine and weaves the string between the stakes. This is repeated higher up as the vines grow. Another agricultural method is to put up a trellis with a single but sturdy cross member and run strings down to each plant. As it grows, each tomato vine’s leader is twisted around the string. The string method requires a lot of sucker removal. In August and September, neighbors of the Farmer cross the street, avoid eye contact, pretend to talk on their cellphones — anything to prevent the Farmer from approaching them with yet another bushel of tomatoes to share.

Origin: http://www.washingtonpost.com

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