How to stake tomatoes

There – I’ve done it, I’ve written a blog post title designed to provoke, to create controversy.

I recently trained a group of people on Communication & Social Media and one subject that we returned to reasonably frequently was dealing with ‘trolling’, ‘flaming’ and even the occasional bit of negativity in the comments section.  Well, I am pleased to say that in over 3 years of blogging I’ve never really experienced any of these things, perhaps until now???  If there was ever a subject to incite comment though it is this.

Now clearly I am joking but to a great many gardeners staking tomatoes correctly is a serious business, indeed an art, and there are a range of techniques that people swear by.  This is mine.

I use 3 upright stakes evenly spaced around the plant about 20cm away from its trunk.  I put the stakes in either; when planting or as soon as possible afterward so as not to damage the roots.

DSC_0037 (848x1280)I tie the branches of the plants to the closest stake as they grow.  Personally I favour ripped pantyhose (or occasionally cut up t-shirts) as my tying medium of choice but any fabric, or relatively soft twine, will do provided it has a little bit – but not too much – of give to allow the plant to grow.

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I never prune my tomatoes (again with the controversy), as I tend to be persuaded by the argument that pruning results in both less fruit and gives openings for disease to enter the plant.  Hence the need for 3 stakes – unpruned tomato plants get pretty big.

I buy stakes as long (tall) as I possibly can.  For me the limiting factor is what I can transport home.  In general, the longer the better, but bear in mind you need to be able to reach the top to hammer them in.  I stand on a chair, as I can rarely be bothered getting out the ladder, but there are probably better, and safer, things to stand on if you need vertical assistance.  The other consideration in decided on stake length is what you are growing.  Some tomato varieties grow a lot taller than others, for instance Tommy Toe and Tigerella easily outgrow even the tallest stakes but Rouge de Marmande can cope with slightly shorter supports.

And that’s about it.  That’s how I stake tomatoes. I find the 3 stake technique works best for me, better than attempting to cage them (this may be a result of particularly pathetic attempts to cage them – a lot of commercial tomato cages are too short for the varieties I grow and my DIY skills are ordinary to say the least), and better than using a sole stake and pruning.  How about you?

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Out and about – Edibles in places other than food gardens #3

This week in ‘edibles in places other than food gardens’ series I have more rainbow chard.  This time it is growing in the Jardin d’ Luxenburg in central Paris.

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The guys in the background of the below photo were doing some sort of tree surgery but sadly my French wasn’t good enough to find out exactly what.

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Out and about – Edibles in places other than food gardens #2

Trip 2014 128 (847x1280)Last week I published the first in this series of posts about food in places other than dedicated edible gardens.

Fruit trees are used in all sorts of places, as both food source and decorative tree.  Sadly many Melbourne councils have restrictions on growing fruit trees in public places – apparently the dropped fruit can rot and/or attract rodents and become a health hazard.

Suzhou museum in China, on the other hand has a number of pomegranates residing happily in it’s grounds.

Interestingly although the pomegranate is not native to China it has been cultivated there for over 1,000 years and was traditionally thought to be associated with fertility.

I wonder who gets to eat the fruit……


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Harvest Monday – 1st Dec 2014

Today was the first day of summer.  In Australia our seasons start at the beginning of the month, so 1st December is officially the first day of summer.  And a pleasantly warm start it was too (29C).   Spring too was warm this year, so warm in fact that I have started harvesting some traditional summer crops.

My basil plants are big enough to pluck the occasional leaf off:

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My September sown beans are bearing fruit:

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(the varieties are Majestic Butter and Gourmet Delight plus a couple of climbing beans that self seeded from last year).

And I bandicooted the first handful of Purple congo potatoes.  These potatoes are something of an unplanned harvest, as the plants are the result of a particularly poor harvesting effort last year.  Their colour makes them particularly difficult to find in the dirt…

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DSC_0049 (1280x848)As well as all the signs of summer harvests I continue to harvest herbs and handfuls of lettuce and silver beet.

All highly satisfactory really.

As always head over to Daphne’s Dandelions for more harvests from around the world.


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Spring flowers

I’m going through a bit of flower phase.  I currently have 5 vases of flowers in various rooms of my house.  In fact there are probably more flowers in my house than in my garden at the moment, but there are still some things worth noticing outside.

For me Spring flowers are the flowers of my edible plants in my kitchen garden.  There are a few exceptions, my favourite garden flowers – Cosmos, and the things that my children begged me to buy.

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But most of the flowers in my garden at this time of the year are the ones that hint of fruit to come.

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Most impressive are the passionfruit flowers, although this particular vine has steadfastly refused to follow these with fruit since I planted it a few years ago.  Personally I doubt the ‘self fertilising’ claim on the plants label and will purchase another plant to test this theory.

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There are the less flamboyant but no less exciting flowers of the potato that tell me that there is (or should be) some under soil action happening and that I can start harvesting new potatoes pretty soon.

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But my favourite flowers at Springtime are those of my bean plants.  Not only are the flowers pretty but their arrival means I can start watching beans grow and grow.

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