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ID jit
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Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:00 am
Location: SE New England: zone twilight or 5b... hard for me to tell some days.

Need Help Taming a Tomato Forest.

Have 8 different commercial hybrid plants in 2 rows with 4' between plants. Soil has been heavily composted for years with lots of egg shells for calcium. Plants see 30 minutes of lawn irrigation sprinklers every other day. Between the rows is covered with permeable landscape fabric with a 2" - 3" layer of clean grass clippings which compresses down to about 1" going up to the plants and covering what the fabric leaves exposed.

Plants have overgrown their wimpy commercial cages, hit the ground and are pretty much back up to the tops of the cages again. Seems like some of the vines have rooted where they hit the ground and then headed back up.

Difficulty is I am having am having a hard time getting in there to pick the fruit.
Problem is that I am growing the stuff for my 75 year old mom with mobility issues and she wont even go near them for fear of falling. Whole purpose of the garden is to keep her up and moving around with something she enjoys.

Have read the "Tomato Support Thread".
Know I need to upgrade from the wimpy lil commercial cages.
Have read in here that I should not be topping and really pruning my Indeterminate plants.

What's the solution beside cover it with diesel fuel and throw a road flare at it?

Thanks much.

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Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 7:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M(11/B)

You know I like challenges and my black box mind which takes input then spits out a solution that is more or less intuitive leap with no apparent logic has spat out an idea for your problem based on your descriptions.

In other words -- This may or may not work. I don't have exact idea of your situation ....

- Pick any fruits that are ready to harvest now.

- Take a pallet or what I call a skid which is solid with no gaps. Cut them down to desired height -- I'm thinking knee-high.

- Stand it next to the tomatoes, then basically bulldoze them back along with the mulch on the landscape fabric until you have a clear path for your mom. Secure in place with rebar or fence posts.

- you will do this in sections equal to length of the pallet.skid

- once the vines have been pushed back, fill behind the pallet/skid with compost and mulch so the vines will be able to root and any that snapped but didn't completely break off will be able to recover.

- consider putting down something that will be easy for your mom to walk on the fabric rather than grass clippings which may trip her -- maybe tile-type horse stall mat-base

-- you could probably still fashion some kind of support -- string or wire strung between the posts to tie the upper vines to.

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ID jit
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Posts: 339
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:00 am
Location: SE New England: zone twilight or 5b... hard for me to tell some days.

Applestar, thanks.

I see where you are going with the skid barricade thing, but it is far too late for this year and I do not have space on the back side.

When the full sun is off the tomatoes tonight am going to take a pair if kitchen scissors and go cut my way in. Will be trimming back the 1 summer squash and 1 zucchini I planted too. (Think I managed to get way too much N into the soil because I have jungle foliage.)

She does well with the fabric and mulch everywhere else. (I actually grade and softly tamp where the fabric goes so it will be flat and level.) The grass clipping mulch is only on the sides of the fabric where I left gaps for the plants. Most places there is a foot of open ground between 2 foot strips of fabric running down between the rows. Tomatoes are the same except the plats were planted 4 feet apart.

The last part of what you said has me thinking raised beds with trellises to tie the plants to and just prune as needed. Goal isn't how many or how big the fruit is. Pretty sure I can get my hands on enough foot square raw slate pavers too,

Thanks much for the brain storming.

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Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2016 9:21 am
Location: Zone 7A - Philadelphia, PA

Hack it back mercilessly.
After all, if it's overwhelming for mom it's doing no good in it's current state.
Get out those loppers!

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Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:59 pm
Location: TN. 50 years of gardening experience.

I buy cement rebar stab it into the soil then use hay bale twine to tie tomato plants to it as they grow taller. My tomatoes are 8 ft tall now soon they will be top heavy and grow down to the soil then across the garden like vines. A tomato plant will get 25 ft tall. You can cut the tops off to force the plant to bush out but that will delay your harvest a whole month only new growth has ripe tomatoes. If you cut off the tops the plants get wider that is harder to deal with. I usually save bad tomatoes mix then in the soil soon new plants come up to be transplanted. I sometimes get another 20 plant growing by July 15 to replace old plants.


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Location: Northern California; Hardiness Zone 10a, Climate zone: 17

So funny how 4' seems like so much when they are lil things! I buy 6' fencing rods (don't know the real name) and bang 'em in around the plants, typically 3 per plant. Then I create a cage with string or wire and constantly feed the tomatoes up and through; any that are unwieldy and won't go through, I either tie to one of the posts, or prune. Occasionally, when I'm lax, I have to cut off branches that won't comply, but mostly, this works. Eventually, they grow out the top and flop over and down, so in your Mom's case, might still need to keep pruning if these Rasta bits get in her way...

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ID jit
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Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:00 am
Location: SE New England: zone twilight or 5b... hard for me to tell some days.

Thanks for the ideas.

Priced out concrete mesh, u and t posts and rebar.... gets pricie quick.

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