Growing Tomatoes the Easy Way
I am not suggesting anyone should grow tomatoes this way.
I just thought it was my duty as a gardener and researcher to make you aware of some of the weird things people are doing with tomato plants.
I am seriously considering this technique.
We have a family friend who grows the most incredible garden. In spring he plants anything and everything. This list is not exhaustive, but these are some of the plants I have personally helped him harvest: tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, okra, cabbage, broccoli, beans, sweet corn and cucumbers.
His garden is probably 3 acres. He uses the traditional: “get on a tractor and till up the world” method of soil preparation. He then plants rows and rows and rows and rows and rows of veggies.
He pays no attention to spring, summer or fall. It makes no matter to him if cabbage is a cool season crop that is “supposed” to be planted 4 weeks BEFORE the first frost and harvested before the hot days of summer.
Nope. Doesn’t matter to him.
He tills up the ground. Puts every single plant in the ground the first of May and wishes them the best.
In his garden the cold lovers and heat lovers are all living happily together…. in one garden… in the middle of Summer… in Kentucky.
It’s complete mayhem.
I swear, I could learn a thing or two from him about relaxing.
The quantity of plants this man puts in the ground is startling. This year he planted over 400 tomato plants (I think he said he had 450).
That’s 410 more tomato plants than anyone I know. And that’s just the tomatoes.
He sells to local markets. He sells to grocers. He sells to people he knows. He gives them away. He has lots of fun providing his incredible bounty of vegetables to our county.
If you are cringing thinking about caging or staking 400 tomato plants – you are not alone. I too, was moaning at the thought of trying to manage, weed and maintain over 400 tomatoes.
Keeping 10 tomato plants off the ground and properly cared for is hard enough – I can’t even get my brain around dealing with over 400.
I figured he did what the market across the street does – “The Florida Weave.”
The Florida Weave is a simple technique used to stake hundreds of tomatoes. Tobacco stakes are used to support the tomato plants. Garden twine is woven between the plants & stakes. The farmer just works his way from one end of the tomato row to the other end – weaving in and out, back and forth, entwining all the tomato plants and all the stakes. This creates a type of tomato fence.
When one tomato plant stands alone, he is weak & can be tossed over by a simple rain storm. When a row of 50 tomato plants are woven together and supported by stakes they can withstand a hurricane.
The Florida Weave isn’t perfect and is a little messy, but it does keep the tomatoes upright.
When I got to my friend’s farm I saw that he doesn’t use the Florida Weave or anything else to get his tomatoes off the ground. I thought maybe he just got busy & didn’t have time yet to stake the tomato plants.
Now that I’ve been helping him with his garden for 3 years, I know that he didn’t forget to stake.
- He doesn’t stake.
- He doesn’t weave.
- He doesn’t cage.
- He doesn’t do anything.
- He grows tomatoes all over the ground.
And I do mean, ALL OVER THE GROUND.
And he doesn’t have blight – which isn’t fair.
On any day you would like – you can go out to his farm and pick a thousand tomatoes. Not kidding. When you have 400 plants you have as many tomatoes as you would like any day of the week.
There’s no, “store the tomatoes in the freezer until you have enough to make a batch of sauce.” There is always enough tomatoes to make anything you want.
My friend did something pretty ingenious this year. He made a deal with some canning enthusiasts down the road from his place.
Here’s the bargain:
His neighbor picked and canned all the tomatoes. Thousands of them. When all the tomatoes from that harvest were in the cans – there were hundreds of crimson quarts.
As payment for harvesting and canning all those tomatoes the neighbor got to keep half.
My friend has hundreds and hundreds of canned tomatoes in his basement and never had to blanch the first ‘mater.
He grew them. He gets to eat all that glorious, organic deliciousness. He never broke a sweat. Genius.
I know what some of you are probably thinking, I thought the same thing.
I do enjoy the process of “putting up” my own food. I think there is pride and satisfaction in completing the “tomato circle” here on my own homestead:
- I start my seeds.
- I transplant into the garden.
- I stake, cage & grow.
- I harvest.
- I can.
- I devour.
He may be missing out on a couple steps in the cycle – but the bottom line is he grew them & he is going to enjoy them all winter.
Did I mention he is 65 years old? When I am 65 if you would like to pick & can my tomatoes for me and keep half of them – I will probably provide the jars for you to do it.
Happy Harvest Guys!