Tag Archives: Tomato Cages and Stakes

Hydroponic Vertical Gardening

All About Vertical Gardening: What is Vertical Gardening?

Vertical gardening is exactly what the name implies – gardening on a vertical, rather than a horizontal, surface. This can be accomplished in two major ways. First, many vertical gardens take advantage of the tendencies of some plants to grow up rather than out. But it’s not just limited to plants that naturally grow up. Any plant that produces a vine can be “trained” to grow vertically with just a little extra attention.

But your vertical garden doesn’t just have to be vining plants. Nearly any kind of plant can be grown on a vertical surface by either mounting growing containers on a wall or other vertical surface, or by using a framework that allows growing containers to be stacked from bottom to top.

The beauty of vertical gardening lies in several facets. First, growing your vegetables up instead of out saves space, making it a perfect alternative for gardeners with limited space or who are growing in urban environments.

Second, vertical growing makes vegetables easier to harvest. If your beans are growing at waist level rather than at ankle level, it’s a pretty safe bet that anyone would prefer reaching out to harvest rather than bending over

Third, vertical gardening gives plants better air exposure through increased surface area. This leads to generally healthier – and therefore more productive – plants.

Fourth, growing plants vertically reduces the danger of soil-borne diseases, molds and crawling pests.

And perhaps best of all, nearly any vertical surface or structure can be used to support your plants – walls, posts, trellises, frames made from wood or PVC pipe, old shipping pallets, or even other vertically growing plants like trees. You’ll also find that you’ll save money on materials such as fencing, gardening soil and mulch.

Planning

How To: Plan Your Vertical Garden

Planning your vertical garden is different from planning a traditional garden, but shouldn’t be done with any less care.

Step One: Consider your location. Ideally, vegetable plants should get at least six hours of sustained sunlight a day, so pick a spot that will allow for maximum sun while minimizing filtered light through trees. If a large wall on the side of your house gets the best light, that’s a perfect spot to consider, and even well-lit balconies and porches will work. If it’s available, a south-facing location is the best.

A wonderful aspect of vertical gardening is when choosing a location, you’re not as limited by space as you would be with a traditional garden. In fact, you’ll probably find that you have an abundance of available space when you consider growing up rather than out. Consider that an area as small as an apartment balcony can serve as an excellent vertical gardening spot with just a few containers and trellis supports.

Step Two: As with any vegetable garden, make sure that wherever you choose to place it is close to a convenient source of water or can be reached by a garden hose.

Step Three: Depending on your space, you’ll want to decide whether to plant your vegetables in soil at the base of your growing area or use containers. In either case, use a good gardening soil and augment it with rich compost to provide the nutrients your plants will need.

Step Four: Carefully consider what you’re planning to grow. Naturally vining vegetables come to mind immediately, but don’t rule out other vegetables and herbs that grow closer to the ground. While vining plants will likely require a trellis or some other form of support, those that don’t vine can be planted in nearly anything that you can hang or mount on a vertical surface.

Step Five: Plant seeds just as you would in a traditional gardening, taking care to leave enough space according to the planting instructions. When planting vegetables that will need a support structure, don’t forget to install the supports at the same time you plant, because doing so after the plants have sprouted can damage the root systems.

Step Six: As your vining plants sprout and mature, “train” them to grow upward by manually threading the young vines up through the support system. This is an ongoing process and should be part of your regular garden upkeep.

Shopping list

All About Vertical Gardening: Shopping List for Creating a Vertical Garden

Your vertical gardening shopping list, at first glance, will be very similar to that of a traditional horizontal garden, but there are some very important things to consider.

First, will you start your plants in the ground – such as in a small plot against your house – or will you use containers? By using containers for your vertical garden, you give yourself the ability to grow in unusual places such as apartment balconies.

Also, you’ll need to consider what sort of support you’ll need for the types of vegetables you intend to plant.

Here’s your shopping list:

  • Containers (if needed) – These can be as utilitarian as plastic storage bins or as decorative as galvanized steel tubs or traditional large planters. Just make sure you have or make holes in the bottom to allow for drainage of excess water.
  • Garden soil
  • Compost (to augment garden soil, if needed)
  • Support structure materials, which can include
  • Trellis (wooden, bamboo, plastic or fabric, depending on your garden)
  • Wire fencing
  • Stakes
  • Natural twine
  • Tomato cages
  • Garden ties (to help secure vining plants to the support structure)
  • Seeds or seedlings
  • Fertilizer
  • Watering can (if your garden is on an apartment balcony or not near a water source)
  • Insect killer or repellent
  • Fungicide
Vegetables to use

All About Vertical Gardening: Fruits and Vegetables to Use in Vertical Gardening

Just because you’ve decided to plant your garden on a vertical axis rather than a horizontal one doesn’t mean you can’t continue to grow most – if not all – the vegetables you’re used to growing in a traditional garden.

However, those vegetables that will naturally grow vertically by extending vines that attach to a supporting structure are naturally most conducive to vertical gardening. They include:

  • Cucumber
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Lima beans
  • Melons

While the inclination of all of these plants is vine, not all will naturally grow up. Cucumbers and squash, for instance, might take some training on your part. This is as simple as threading new tendrils up through your supporting structure to give them the chance to attach.

But suppose you’d like to include non-vining vegetables in your vertical garden? It’s not in any way out of the question, but will require that you rework your thinking on how your garden is arranged.

Home stores and garden supply companies have, in recent years, designed a number of products to help with this. They are typically shelf-type planters meant to be placed against an exterior wall, but nearly any container that can be adapted for vertical use can serve as a great planter in a vertical garden – old rain gutters, suspended two-liter soda bottles and shipping pallets can all be used.

The plants that work best in this sort of arrangement are the non-climbing varieties, such as:

  • Peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes (regular or sweet)
  • Herbs

Just remember that soil depths and planting conditions – particularly for in-ground plants like potatoes – should conform as closely to horizontal as possible horizontal conditions when planted in a vertical arrangement.

Planting and harvesting

All About Vertical Gardening: Planting and Harvesting Your Vertical Garden

When it comes to planting and harvesting, there are very few differences between vertical and horizontal gardening.

Whether you’re using a container or a strip of ground, the best place to start is by making sure you have soil conducive to growth. If you’re using containers, start with a good, nutrient-rich gardening soil from the gardening or home supply store.

If you’re planting in the ground, based on the root or growing depth of your plants, start by creating a pit between 6 inches and a foot deep for each spot where you’ll be planting. Take the soil you removed and create a half-and-half mix with compost, then refill the pit.

If you haven’t already decided what will go where, this is good time to do so. Make sure to install all support structures for vining plants at this point, because doing so after you plant can damage the root systems of seedlings or mature plants. Make sure the structure is positioned over where you will plant to give the tendrils and vines the best chance to take hold.

Now it’s time to plant, following the package directions on your fruits or vegetables of choice. While you’ll ultimately be responsible for making sure the garden gets enough water, it never hurts to plant during a rainy period to ensure adequate moisture. Stick to about four seeds per planting area to avoid overcrowding; then water gently. As the seedlings emerge and get to about 4 inches high, you’ll want to thin them to ensure they don’t crowd each other out.

Check on your plants every day so you can monitor moisture and thread new tendrils or vines upward through your support structure. Some heavier vines might require a little extra help, so don’t be reluctant to use a natural twine or garden ties to secure them to the supports. Water as needed – especially until the plants are fully established – and check for disease growth and pests.

Once your vegetables or fruits have matured, harvest them as you normally would for each individual variety. Do take special care not to yank down your support structures in the process. A simple pair of garden shears will help you cut from the vine – rather than pull – heavy items like melons or squash.

For non-vining plants, there should be very few differences from traditional harvesting. Just take care to avoid significantly disturbing the soil, neighboring plants and the vertical structure itself.

Disease, cucumber plant.

All About Vertical Gardening: Protecting Vertical Gardens from Disease

Because vertical gardens grow up rather than along the ground, the risk of disease is significantly reduced thanks to limited contact with the soil. However, that doesn’t mean your plants will be disease free in a vertical garden.

As with any type of gardening, the first step to avoiding disease is the quality of the soil. If this is the first season for your vertical garden, make sure you start with an area from which all weeds have been removed and the soil has been vigorously turned and mixed with clean compost.

For an existing vertical garden, you’ll still want to weed and augment your soil with compost, but also make sure you have rotated your crops from their planting locations the previous year. Plants like squash, cucumber and peas are highly susceptible to disease when planted in the same spot as the previous year.

Two common diseases that affect vertical gardens are:

  • Anthracnose: This fungus most often affects cucumbers, watermelons and muskmelons, and is most prevalent during warm, humid conditions. To protect your plants, rotate crops annually, leave enough space between plants to let leaves dry out as quickly as possible and promptly remove/destroy affected leaves and fruit to prevent spreading. To help prevent or eliminate anthracnose, use Safer®Brand Garden Fungicide or Safer®Brand 3-in-1 Garden Spray, which acts as a fungicide, insecticide and miticide. Both are OMRI Listed® and compliant for use in organic gardening.
  • Bacterial wilt: This disease is indicated by vines that wilt in the day but recover at night. Try to purchase disease resistant species and watch for cucumber beetles, which spread the disease.
Pests

All About Vertical Gardening: Protecting Vertical Gardens from Pests

One great advantage of having a vertical garden is the limited exposure to soil-dwelling pests thanks to less direct exposure to the soil. But don’t get lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to pest control – it will still be an issue.

Any insect or other critter that could infest your traditional horizontal garden can still gain access to your vertical garden, particularly if you’re using an in-ground plot for planting. But keep in mind that many notorious garden pests begin to fly at later life stages, potentially depositing their eggs on your eggplant or allowing for their pupae to gorge on your green beans.

To limit the potential destruction by garden pests, you’ll want to take many of the same measures you would to limit disease – clear yard debris from your planting areas, make sure to rotate crops, and use well-turned soil that’s been fortified with clean compost.

Still, you might find pests worm their way in regardless. Here are two to keep a sharp eye out for:

  • Squash bug: Squash bugs are gray or brown and prefer pumpkins and squash, typically toward the end of the growing season. Rotating crops and cleaning fall debris will help discourage them come planting season. During growing season, check the undersides of leaves for egg masses and destroy any that you find.
  • Cucumber beetle: Usually black or yellow spotted or striped, these critters love your cucumbers. Larvae go after the roots while the adults gnaw on leaves, so your attack should be two-pronged as well. Products like Safer®Brand 3-in-1 Garden Spray can help discourage both from overtaking your garden in either stage. A floating row cover will help protect from beetles in their flying stage.
tomatoes_395

COMMERCIAL TOMATO GROWING EXPOSED: Convincing reasons why you should grow your own tomatoes!

Here are some REALLY good reasons why you should grow your own tomatoes. Read “Tomatoland” by Barry Estabrook. Or be convinced by these excerpts from the NY Times book review…

“South Florida, where nearly all of America’s winter tomatoes are grown, is nearly…(an)…alien…environment for farming. It’s insane that tomatoes are grown there at all.

“Florida’s sandy soil, Mr. Estabrook writes, is as devoid of plant nutrients as a pile of moon rocks. “Florida growers may as well be raising their plants in a sterile hydroponic medium.”

He continues, witheringly: “To get a successful crop, they pump the soil full of chemical fertilizers and can blast the plants with more than 100 different herbicides and pesticides, including some of the most toxic in agribusiness’s arsenal.” Migrant workers are coated with these chemicals too. The toll that’s taken on them, in the form of birth defects, cancer and other ailments, is hideous to observe and should fill those who eat Florida tomatoes with shame.

And all this for what? Hard, tasteless, uniform green balls that barely dent when they fall off a truck at 60 miles per hour and that must be gassed to achieve the sick-pink hue they present in supermarkets.

To read the full review:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/06/books/tomatoland-barry-estabrooks-expose-review.html?_r=2&ref=books

To find the book:
http://www.amazon.com/Tomatoland-Industrial-Agriculture-Destroyed-Alluring/dp/1449401090/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1310152463&sr=1-1

tomatoes_395

Tomato Planting Made Easy

Even gardeners who aren’t gardeners love to plant tomatoes! Seeds and seedlings are readily available. Tomatoes are easy to grow in large and small backyard plots, or in a pot on a balcony. Perhaps it’s because tomatoes appeal to almost everyone…in a fresh salad, in spaghetti sauce or just atop a cheeseburger.

So, here are some basics
Tomato plants can send out roots all along their stems. Strong roots are a good thing, so you should plant seedlings deeper than normal; as high up as the top set of leaves. These extra roots will help the plant grow quickly. Dig a hole deep enough to bury most of the plant. Some gardeners even dig a tunnel or trench and lay the plant sideways Continue reading

tomatoes_395

Tips for Growing Tomato Plants

It’s probably no stretch to assert that the most popular vegetable to grow is the tomato. There must be literally tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of tomatoes grown at home across the US every year… in large and small backyard plots, on suburban decks and patios, on city balconies and rooftops. It’s probably because seeds and seedlings readily available, relatively easy to grow, and appeal to everyone from the amateur to the avid gardener.

But just growing them is not the point, is it? Tomatoes are great to eat in so many ways. You can find nearly 2,000 recipes on the internet from the cultures of countries around the world. A summer staple when fresh, tomatoes can be enjoyed year round through preserving by canning and freezing, in sauces from barbeque to spaghetti, as juice, even as homemade ketchup. It seems that the uses for tomatoes are only limited by the imagination.

Where to plant?
Tomatoes are just as versatile to garden and can be grown in containers, and in small and large garden plots depending on your available space and what you want your yield to be. The most important thing to know is that all tomatoes are vining plants that are generally grown upright and staked.

Staking tomato plants
As vines that can’t support themselves when grown upright, tomato plants need the support of cages and stakes. When grown upright your tomato plants will get tall and heavy so your support system should be sturdy. You can expect your tomato plant to grow to at least 3′ and some varieties may grow to 8′ or more. Tomato cages and sturdy stakes that keep your plants upright and that can be reused year after year are a sound investment that will help your tomatoes thrive.  Stake as you plant and you won’t damage the roots later on. Attach plants to cages and stakes with soft cloth to protect stem growth, never use wire or string.

So, where to begin?
If you’re not growing from seeds, purchase plants from a reliable local nursery that sell seedlings best suited to your locale. Purchasing these seedlings may help reduce the problems that could spoil your tomato crop. You’ll find that different areas may be prone to different diseases and pests. To avoid problems, choose varieties bred to to resist the diseases common to your area. Many seedlings are labeled with the variety’s resistance in code. Your nursery can also advise you since some tomatoes do well in long, hot seasons while others are better suited to cooler climates.

What do I like to eat?
There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes. They vary in taste, use, and most importantly when to harvest. Tomatoes are often designated as “Short Season” or “Long Season”. If you have a short growing seasons you should look for varieties that mature between 55 and 70 days. If your growing season is long you’ll have a wider selection to choose from, but you’ll do best if you choose varieties that produce well in hot temperatures. The smaller cherry and grape-sized tomatoes are usually quick to mature and ripen. You might want to look for these popular varieties: Patio, Pixie. Tiny Tim, Red and Yellow Pear, Small Fry, Sweet 100, Glacier, Jet Star, Celebrity, Big Boy and Better Boy, Heatwave, Roma, Rutgers, Late Ace, Beefmaster, Mule Team, Brandywine, Purple Cherokee, Zapotec.

Determinate or indeterminate?
What are we talking about? Don’t worry, here’s a short answer. Determinate tomato plants mature and ripen all their fruit in a short time (usually about 2 weeks). Growing these makes sense if you want a large yield all at one time, like when making sauce or canning. You’ll still need cages or stakes; they grow to 4 or 5 feet tall. Consider Celebrity and Rutgers of this variety.

The majority of tomato varieties are indeterminate tomatoes and continue to grow throughout the season. Beefsteak, Big Boy, Brandywine and most cherry types are popular choices. Indeterminates can grow very large, from 6-10 feet, and require sturdy stakes and cages.