Tag Archives: tomatoes

Making Tomato Cages

Tomato cages of some sort are a gardening necessity. Vines left to ramble across the ground are a nuisance, difficult to cultivate, almost impossible to harvest and have much of their crop vanish into mush or insect guts.

The first cages I tried were those small cone-shaped affairs. The vines toppled them over quickly.

Bare Tomato Bed

Most of my garden is under mulch but not all. First step is to pull weeds around two sides of the tomato bed.

Now there are much bigger tomato cages available. I still make up my own. But this year is different.

In past years I’ve put in a long double row of fence posts eighteen inches apart. Twine is wrapped around four to make a column eighteen inches square for each plant.

laying out the posts

Each of the center posts is laid out. The posts are easy to shift before they are put in. This arrangement will give me ten tomato cages with room at each end for basil plants.

This year my garden is laid out in beds. The tomato plants get one roughly four foot by eight foot row to themselves. Well, maybe one end will have some basil plants.

A single row of tomato plants will only give me five plants with extra space on both sides of the row.

A double row will mean reaching in to pick the tomatoes.

each pair of posts backs two tomato cages

The center row of posts is in. Each post is down half way up the plate so they are firm but easy to pull in the fall. Each pair of posts will back a tomato cage to each side.

The other option is the row by the fence but I will still have to reach in to pick the tomatoes. Plus the chickens are on the other side of that fence and chickens love tomatoes.

The best choice is the double row.

Another change I’m planning for this year is the kind of tomato to plant. We do like tomatoes but two people don’t eat that many. What we do use is tomato sauce.

starting twine on tomato cage

It takes six or seven pieces of twine to do the entire tomato cage. I start about a foot up wrapping a row of twine then moving up six or eight inches and doing another tier. The twine pieces are tied together as each is needed.

This year at least half of the plants will be a paste variety. Amish Paste is nice. It has large, meaty, good tasting tomatoes.

Mortgage Lifter is a good tasting eating tomato. They tend to be odd shapes but grow well in my garden.

April is really too early to plant tomatoes here. Until this week frost has visited three or four times a week.

completed tomato cage

I put the twine around all the way to the top of the posts and tie it off. This makes a five foot high cage and the tomato vines can grow out the top but not push it over.

This week the transplants are on sale many places. The temperatures are in the seventies to eighty degrees. Putting in tomatoes is so tempting.

I plan to resist. Frost may be back next week.

But it’s not too early to put the posts in, the twine on and dream of delicious tomatoes to eat.

Ground Cherries

Ground cherries are in the nightshade family. This family is famous for poisonous plants like black nightshade and belladonna. Equally famous are the tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, favorite food crops.

ground cherry leaves

Ground cherry leaves are large with toothed edges yet a soft look perhaps because of their soft green coloring.

Unlike horse nettle, another family member, ground cherries have no thorns. They are poisonous so not very welcome in pastures but not common there as they prefer moist ground.

This is a banner year for ground cherries. They love the warm moist weather. The usually small plants are large and easily seen.

ground cherry flower

Ground cherry flowers hang down hidden under the leaves.

Hiding beneath the leaves are hanging flowers looking like full yellow dancing skirts. Looking into a flower the dark purple center is striking against the yellow.

inside ground cherry blossom

Hidden inside a ground cherry blossom are five purple patches setting off the extended stamens and pistil.

Later green lanterns hang from the branches. Inside each lantern is a round fruit considered ripe when the green paper husk dries and browns.

Indians ate these ground cherries. These fruits must be ripe or may be poisonous.

ground cherry fruit

A hanging green paper husk covers a developing ground cherry fruit.

I’ve never tried a ground cherry as most years creatures vanish with all of them before I find them. So last year I grew small ones called pineapple tomatillos. This year I have a tomatillo plant covered with flowers but the fruit isn’t there or else its coloring leaves it invisible to a casual inspection.

Maybe this year I can try the native ground cherry too as a big plant is growing along the wet weather creek beside the yard.