Yesterday my brother and I spent about 3 hours in the garden, in the blazing pre-noon heat, re-securing the tomatoes and the cucumber plant to their stakes. My brother did all the hard work. I just had to cut him pieces of twine and hold on to stray branches as he attempted to untangle the mess and determine which branches belonged to which plants. We pulled off most of the dead leaves and branches, of which there were many, and were left with a bit of a scary mess – tomato plants with very few leaves to protect them from the sun. Akin to a hairless cat – just not right.
We’re not sure if disease killed off and dried up all the leaves or if it’s been extreme shock from the cycle of heavy rains and drought and near-daily watering. My neighbour’s tomatoes still have full, green leaves but they are growing different varieties than I am. The plants are still growing at the top so I picked off the growing tip, removed flowering parts that wouldn’t have time to produce fruit before the fall frost, and continued to remove suckers. Hopefully these steps will make the plants put their energy into ripening pre-existing fruit.
The stakes were leaning from the weight of the plants so my brother devised an ingenious scheme: he removed the dead sunflower that the cucumber was using as a support (not a very good one at this point as the stem is much shorter than the cucumber plant and as a result the weight of the cucumbers have the plant dragging on the ground) and the stake that was also supporting the cucumber and placed the plant on a nearby stake that happened to be supporting a tomato plant that has not much going, on compared to the others (much less branches).
He placed the empty stake in the middle of the occupied stakes and tied them to it as a central point. Because the tomatoes are pulling on it from different angles, it is staying in place and the tomato plants aren’t leaning over so much. Precarious? Definitely. On today’s watering visit, my brother found that his contraption had fallen over; cause unknown. He put it back up again.
The ground is visible now and I can see so many more options for fall planting. Beets are already planted in the spaces that look empty. Hope they are far enough from the tomatoes; they are supposed to be antagonistic to each other. Maybe if I plant some lettuce nearby, which is a companion to beets, it might help (in what way, I have no idea). And look – dill and parsley planted weeks ago are growing!
There have been many ripened and unripened tomatoes discovered in the plot, some still intact and some in various stages of decay. Incidentally there seem to be more yellow pear making it to maturity than red pear. We found this one mutant yellow pear yesterday. Nature’s mistake is kinda cute:
Reiterating some very important tomato tips for next year:
- establish a clear mainstem early in the season, once the plant has established itself after transplanting and is starting to grow
- use more than one stake for each plant (note to self: buy more stakes! Bamboo is great. You can buy them in bulk in Chinatown for cheap)