Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tomato Plant Mistakes Made 2013

20 April 2013 I put four commercially started tomato plants into the new raised bed #2. Boy, they looked good and I took credit.

The bed has 16-1' x 1' squares in a 4' x 4' frame. I numbered the 1' square starting with #1 in the lower left and continued numbering them moving to the right through #4. Numbers 5 through 8 in the second row, so on and so forth until the last square in the top right corner is numbered 16.

Planted in position #9 was a Beefsteak, which I purchased at my wife's request. In position #10 was Mr. Stripey, whose taste is rather buttery. In position #11 a Mortgage Lifter, a prolific producer.  A Tami G grape tomato finished out the third row at position #12, a variety I had never heard of until this year. 

At that time there were no supports in place. No trellises, cages or even stakes. Over the next month the plants gained in size. Without stakes or support the tomato plants bent over from their own weight and were touching the ground. 

By the time the new trellises were made and installed along with the trellises made last year, the stems of the tomato plants were rigid. Rigid and bent. I was worried the stems might break if I tried to straighten them and tie them to the trellis. Starting down low, I tied the stems loosely. Hoping I would be able to change the shape of the stems slowly, over the course of days if not weeks. That I would be able to get the tomatoes upright, off the ground and tied vertically to the trellises.

Unfortunately, I was impatient that day. I lacked finesse. I pushed the stem of the Beefsteak tomato too far. The stem broke. Not completely severed. Just cracked, half way through. At the time I thought, "You dumb #*∞§!"

My mind went into first aid mode. I triaged the situation. I looked at the materials and tools at hand. I was going to save this beefsteak or else.

What did I have on hand? I had 1"-2"/25mm-50mm wide strips of knitted bed sheet rolled into a ball, like a knitter rolls yarn. I expected to use the strips to tie the vines to the trellises as they grew during growing season. These bed sheet strips resembled bandages. You know, the kind women boiled and rolled back in the old days. Seemed perfectly clear what to do.

Cut my wrists.

No! I wasn't going to take the easy way out.

I fashioned a face mask out of my red bandana and prepared to begin the operation. I wrapped the damaged stem with a long strip of bed sheet. I figured that would pull the stem together to keep out insects but allow some flexibility in the stem. With the stem closed, I hoped it would somehow heal itself, the sap would continue to flow and keep the plant alive. I wound the bandage snuggly around the stem. Then I tied it to the trellis.

I removed my face mask and stepped back to evaluate the situation. The wound was closed and the vine was off the ground. Only time would tell if the operation was a success.

With my face mask down around my neck I continued to survey the remaining tomato plants. That is when I saw the Beefsteak wasn't the only tomato damage I inflicted.

Trying to keep the plants healthy and as productive as possible, soon after transplanting I began pinching suckers from the tomato plants. Suckers are branches that grow from the crotch where a side branch connects to the leader stem. Many people believe the suckers take energy from the main portion of the plant and are not necessary. It seems I was a bit too aggressive pinching the suckers from Mr. Stripey. It wasn't the sucker I pinched off at all. I mistakenly pinched off the leader stem. Once that was done the plant stopped growing, all together. It looked really sad. All the leaves were curled and discolored. A sad looking plant.

There were some flowers below the point where the leader was pinched. Those flowers went on to set fruit. Those tomatoes continued to grow in size. I had no idea where they got the energy to grow with the leaves in such bad shape. I hoped some new growth would emerge below that pinch site. New growth that would take over for that missing leader stem.

Of the four tomato plants transplanted on 20 April, 2013 neither Beefsteak nor Mr. Stripey look good. I take full responsibility. It is all my fault. You dumb #*∞§!

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

1 comment:

  1. You could be a doctor! Keep us posted on how your patient does. I plant my tomato plants about 3'
    apart. that is still too close! They grow to over 7' tall.


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