Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Florida Weave

Tomato cages are often used by gardeners with small gardens in order to help them to keep the plants in a tidy contained area. However, tomato cages are often insufficient to support the weight of tomato vines that are laden with fruit. Many people have resorted to using thick wire mesh, posts, and wire ties to make sturdy supports for tomato plants. This works well, but can take a lot of time and money and requires storing the heavy gage mesh somewhere when it is not in use. Another option is to prune tomato vines and support them by tying them to walls or poles. This is not an option for me because the sun scalds fruit that is unprotected from the heat of Tucson's summers. What I prefer to use is a modified Florida weave method.

My modified Florida weave technique with my L. hirsusutum tomato plant

The original Florida weave method utilizes posts and twine to support tomatoes as they grow. The farmer or gardener comes back out to the field (or garden) to weave the twine slowly up the posts to support the vine as it grows. As shown in this illustration, the result is a wall of tomatoes supported by posts and twine.

Photo courtesy of hightunnels.org

Another tomato gardener, who is a member of the Seed Saver’s Exchange, thought up a modified Florida weave method using supports that can be adjusted from two large posts supported by metal line and stakes .
 
I twist the nylon line around poles between the two posts.

I chose to take elements of this gentleman’s method and of the original Florida weave method in order to support my tomato plants. The main thing for me is the method I use must be cheap and easy set up and take down. I use the two posts, with metal lines and stakes to support the ends of the line. Then I run a firmly taut UV stabilized nylon line around poles to make a line between the two posts, beginning from the ground to the top of the posts. The nylon line has a tension strength limit of 150 pounds. As I run the line from one side to another I twist them around posts at intervals of every several feet to keep up the tension on the line. I run my line on both sides of the tomato plants to keep them contained between the two walls of the nylon cord.

I support the posts with metal line staked to the ground.

The method worked well last year, as long as I pushed the new growth back behind the rectangular cage the plants were in. Last year I only grew semi-determinates and determinate tomatoes, so I didn’t have to worry about the plants growing up the full height of the trellised area. This year I am growing indeterminates, which may require some pruning to keep them from taking over my garden.
 
Notice the Florida weave method next to my Hornworm damaged plants.


9 comments:

  1. Another timely post since I am trying to figure out how to stake the tomatoes this year...i will give it my own try and see how it goes...

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    1. Thank you for the reply, Donna.
      I bought most of my supplies from the local hardware store, except for the twine. The nylon twine I bought on ebay - I have a link to some examples of it on this post now. I only buy from reputable sellers. The line works pretty well. I have used it for several years without any problems from sun damage.

      When ever I get to the U posts at the end of each run of the line I make a loop in the twine, push it through the hole in the U post then I loop it around the little outside hooks. That way I can put my line up quickly and take it down quickly without having to deal with multiple knots along the way.

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  2. Great idea!. Last year, I planted some tomatoes in the flowerbeds - I wont be doing that again.

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    1. Thanks for the response b-a-g!
      If you can find a tomato variety that only grows as big as your flowers, such as a determinate or semideterminate, you'll be fine. But if you plant an indeterminate tomato variety (that keeps growing and growing) the vine will often block out the sun from your beautiful flowers.

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    2. b-a-g, I had to laugh, but it's a rueful laugh. I planted peppers and basil in flowerbeds last year and feel the same!

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  3. I also find cages totally inadequate with indeterminate tomatoes. The vines always end up getting too big and I have to struggle to keep the cages from toppling over. Last year I started tying my tomatoes to a south-facing wooden trellis, and found that worked both practically and aesthetically.

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    1. Dear Gardeninacity,
      Thank you for your response. I really enjoy it.

      I thrive off of being able to trellis plants in a way in which I can sit back and not have to do anything. I put up my twine earlier in the season and don't do anything to it, other than push new growth back behind the twine to keep it contained.

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  4. Jay, THANK YOU! I can hardly wait to try it on my next round of tomato plants! I don't suppose I should try to free the tangled fiasco from the cages now, should I? I've been panicking. I only have a few plants, but they are large already and stuffed in the cages.
    Thank you for your interesting, educational blog.

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    1. Dear Anastasia,
      Thank you for the comments. I would not worry too much about the cages now. There is always next year.

      The Florida weave method, as I use it, is much less work and takes up much less space in storage. Surprisingly, my nylon line has lasted several years already. That is saying something here in Arizona.

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