Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Let's do the Florida Weave!

I know--it sounded like a bad hairstyle to me, too. But it is a method of trellising tomato plants that is used to tie up large numbers of tomatoes quickly and efficiently.

Since I've been planting so many tomatoes, I've quickly run out of tomato cages. Since most tomato cages are absolutely terrible and flimsy and the ones that I like cost $6 each, buying enough cages for 60+ tomato plants would have quickly caused me to grow the dreaded $64 tomato, I needed another way.

Last year I attempted to stake all my tomatoes. I tied each one to a stake and pruned them back severely to only the main vine, ruthlessly pinching off each and every sucker. This didn't work for me, for a couple of reasons. One, pinching that many tomatoes took a ton of time. Two, if I didn't pinch tomatoes each and every day, an off shoot would get away from me and I'd have two vines going before I knew it. Three, I didn't think they looked very nice. And four, I really felt like I lost production since some plants only produced five or six tomatoes per vine (last year was a terrible year for tomatoes, so I don't know for sure that the pruning caused the poor production).

This year, I am trying the Florida Weave. In it's most basic sense, you weave string between your tomato plants to form a structure to keep them off the ground. You don't need nearly as many stakes, and it is supposedly less labor intensive, although you do need to prune some suckers. You can also fit more tomatoes in your garden, since you plant the tomatoes only two feet apart within the row instead of three (you'll still want at least three feet between rows).

Drive your stakes in between every third tomato. You can use wooden tomato stakes for the inside stakes, but use metal T posts for the end posts for strength. Tie your string to the outside post, then "weave" the string in and out of the tomatoes, on one side of one tomato, then to the other side of the next, etc. When you get to a post, loop the string all the way around the post and get it as tight as you can. When you reach an end post, come back the way you came, but this time go on the opposite side of the plant than you did the first direction.

Here's the video that I watched to learn the technique. It will probably make more sense after you watch it instead of my trying to explain it. I didn't have the cool belt box of twine--it would have made my life easier. I used sisal garden twine.

I spent a fair amount of time fussing and cursing while attempting to tie up my tomatoes. You see, you're supposed to begin the Florida Weave while the plants are still less than 12" tall, but mine had already gotten several feet tall and were vining along the ground. It made my weave a lot more work. However, so far, so good. I'll need to add more rows of twine as the plants grow.

The other garden maintenance I did this week was to mulch all my larger plants, like pumpkins, squashes, peppers, melons, and tomatoes. You can use many different materials for mulch, but I use straw because it's cheap and available. I also like it because you can run a hoe under it if any weeds do happen to pop up. Do be very picky about the straw that you use, however--it can bring weed seeds with it. Mulch is an important part of my garden. It keeps the weeds down and it prevents soil-borne diseases since it stops soil from splashing onto the leaves when it rains. Some plants, like my watermelons, don't seem to grow at all unless they have a nice thick bed of straw mulch.

Finally, I had a mysterious disease kill my patch of cantaloupe this week. The poor plants almost looked like they had been crushed, and I just couldn't figure out what caused them to die. Well, today I solved the mystery, when I looked outside and saw this:

I guess the garden is a lovely place to roll and sunbathe. Sigh.