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Tomato 101

Celosia plumes ready for bouquets!

This week on the farm was absolute magic. After a few weeks of heat and humidity, the cool, almost autumnal weather this week and weekend felt like absolute bliss.

Our tomatoes just starting to ripen on our cattle fencing trellis

We have taken extra care with our tomatoes this season to try and give them the longest season possible. Heirloom tomatoes are such an important crop for us as a popular, high value vegetable, so we would love to have tomatoes until it starts to frost. I thought I would go through a few ways that we care for our tomatoes so folks at home can also have bountiful plants all season long!

One of the most important ways to keep tomato plants healthy is to trellis or stake them. The point of trellising is mostly to keep tomato plants off of the ground, in addition to making it easier to harvest. Many devastating tomato diseases are soil borne, so keeping the plants off of the ground is essential. At the farm we strip all of the leaves off of the bottom 12 to 18 inches of our plants so that the plant is also protected from soil splash, which is when rain drops throw soil onto leaves and can spread disease. Mulching tomatoes also help protect them from soil splash, we use leaf mulch and woodchips to mulch with.

A tomato stem clipped to the cattle fencing

Our friends at Woven Roots Farm in Lee introduced us to the idea of using cattle fencing as trellising instead of using stakes and twine. We clip the tomatoes to the trellising as the plants grow to keep them upright and off the ground. Then when it comes time to harvest we can walk right through the "tomato cathedral" and harvest with minimal loss due to rot. Each tomato has plenty of room to grow and there is a lot of airflow through the cathedral, which helps prevent crap killing diseases like blight that spread in damp conditions.

As we clip, we also remove the suckers that the plant doesn't need. Suckers are growth points other than the primary growth tip. By removing them you encourage the plant to put energy into the primary growth tip (at the top of the plant) and the juicy fruit!

Even though we still have over a month of summer left, it's hard not to feel like the end of the season is just around the corner. Elsewhere on the farm the sunflowers are really rolling now and the celosia is bumping. Expect bright, beautiful bouquets this Saturday at market!!

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