Veronica Sliva

Guest Blogger

Veronica Sliva

Veronica Sliva is the director for the Garden Writers Association as well as a journalist and blogger, specializing in gardening and lifestyle topics. Her work appears in a variety of magazines, newspapers and on the Web. @AGardenersWorld

How to Garden: Tomato Dilemmas

Posted by Veronica Sliva Friday, June 11, 2010 1:43 PM EDT


Last week, against my better judgment I planted my tomatoes. Tomatoes don’t like cold soil no matter how warm the air is. My rule is if you can’t plunk your derriere down on the soil and sit awhile without too much of a chill, then your tomatoes won’t like it either…they just pout and sit there doing nothing. In the end, their growth is stunted. I usually wait until mid-June when the night temperatures are above 13° C (55 °F). This has been such a weird, hot spring though; I threw caution to the wind and planted them early. Sometimes you have to take a risk, right? If you haven’t planted yours yet…I say go ahead, they’ll catch up to mine.

This year I put in 9 tomato plants, each one different. I grew 7 of them from seed (it broke my heart to compost the remaining several dozen) and bought 2 baby plants. Most are new to me:

  • Persimmon - an orange beefsteak is supposed to be very sweet.
  • Japanese Black Trifele - the shape and size of a Bartlett pear with a purplish-brick colour skin.
  • Green Zebra - 2-inch round fruit ripens to a green/gold with dark-green zebra-like stripes, very pretty and tasty. I’ve grown this one before.
  • Pantano Romanesco – a great one for tomato sauces.
  • Black Cherry – the name says it all – round, cherry size, deep red-black skin and sweet flavour.
  • Black Krim – an heirloom type from the Black Sea of Russia – large dark brown-red tomatoes with a rich flavour and a hint of saltiness.
  • Big Beef – an old favourite - large, juicy – great for slicing on hamburgers.
  • Ultra Sweet –a transplant that I bought at Loblaws.
  • Golden Honey Bunch – a golden-orange grape type that is very productive – it just doesn’t quit!

Deciding what to plant wasn’t as difficult as deciding how I was going to stake them up. My tomato plants always look so neat and tidy early on …nicely contained, their wire cages hugging them and promising to support their future growth.

But, it’s an empty promise that doesn’t last.  Give the plants a few more weeks of growth and they get a little out of control. Those small wire cages aren’t really sturdy enough to support their weight after awhile. I am always struggling to straighten out the cage and tie up the tomato vines. Eventually, it all just topples over and I give up, letting them sprawl all over the place (no one’s perfect).

So, this year I decided to try spiral supports, a very popular way to support tomatoes in many European countries. Made of heavy gauge steel wire, these “swirly” stakes come in different lengths (I went for the 60” size). As the plant grows, you coax it around the spiral -- no need to tie up the plants. Apparently the spirals work great for beans and cucumbers too.

I bought my stakes at Lee Valley Tools. They weren’t cheap, about $5.00 each. After I bought them, a friend tipped me off that they were for sale at Dollarama for $1.25 each. I rushed over there.  As you might expect, they were of very low quality. I don’t think they’d support much. You get what you pay for. So, as they say, time will tell whether my investment pays off or not...

Have you grown tomatoes? How do you support them?

Topics: DIY, Summer, Fruits, Planting


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