QUESTION: I grow tomatoes every year, and in the past I have used cages – first the round ones commonly available at the big box stores, and later some of the square type. Even with the square ones the plants always overcome the cage. They get leggy and end up coming out of the cages on the sides and then bend over the wires. This year I tried staking the plants and did not use cages, but I encounter the same issues, the side growth spreads out and I have to tie them every which way. What am I doing wrong? — Wayne
Those flimsy wire cages – the round ones – must be some kind of joke. Anyone who grows tomatoes knows that they don’t do much to support a full-size plant. Even if the vine doesn’t grow out over the top, the weight of a bumper crop of ‘Better Boys’ will topple those supports. The square cages are a little better, but they still won’t contain all those wayward limbs.
If you want to use cages, the best bet is to build your own, using sturdy wire fencing (or some suggest panels of concrete mesh, which has openings large enough to reach your hand through). Using the cage in addition to a tall, sturdy stake should keep the tomatoes standing upright and within bounds a little better.
Still, if the tomatoes are indeterminate varieties – that is, they continue to form tomatoes throughout the growing season — it helps to do a little pruning. As the plant grows, it will develop “suckers” in the angles between the main stem and the side stems. You should pinch or snap or cut these suckers off to keep the plant from getting too bushy. As the tomato plant grows taller, tie the main stem loosely to the stake.
By the way, it’s best to install stakes and cages at planting time. It’s surprising how quickly a tomato plant can grow out of control. Keep that in mind for next year.
June 2: Seeds of Hope self-guided garden tour. Six gardens in Belle Meade, Green Hills and Oak Hill, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Tickets $25; proceeds benefit Monroe Harding programs for children. www.monroeharding.org.
June 3: The Nashville African Violet Club meets at 1:45 at the Green Hill Women’s Center, 10905 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet. E-mail Julie.email@example.com to learn more.
June 9: The Robertson County Master Gardeners are hosting a garden tour of some of the most beautiful gardens in theSpringfield area. Visitors will see garden ponds, a greenhouse, garden sculptures, and woodland settings and some unique plants in these private gardens. Hours are10 a.m. – 2 p.m.; tickets are $5 per person, $8 per couple and will be available on the day of the tour on the pavilion of the UT Extension Office on the square inSpringfield, and at the Potting Shed in Greenbrier.
June 9: Plan a road trip to Rugby, Tenn., for an all-day event at Historic Rugby Cumberland Plateau Gardens. The day begins at 9 a.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) with “Rugby Landscape Gardening From 1880 to 2012” by Rick Murphy, followed by “Garden Design Sun to Shade” a workshop by Bob Washburn of Wolf River Valley Growers. Lunch, garden tours and a British Cream Tea round out the schedule. The cost is $40, and advance reservations are required. Proceeds benefit Historic Rugby. Information, 888-214-3400.
June 10: The Tennessee Gesneriad Society meets in Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall at2 p.m. Program is a Mini Show. Contact Julie at 615-364-8459 to learn more.
June 15 – 16: The American Hosta Society is convening in Nashville this year, and the public is invited to visited the National Hosta Show at the Nashville Airport Marriott Friday, June 15,2 – 5:30 p.m., and Saturday June 16,9 a.m. –noon. Vendor areas will be open during those times, as well. This is expected to be one of the largest hosta shows in recent history with more than 800 entries expected. Visitors to the show will have the opportunity to see a wide range of sizes and colors of hostas, displayed as single leaves, hostas not yet on the market, hostas grown in containers, and hostas used in artistic designs. Read more about the convention here.