Early last spring we began using a new type of trellis system for our tomatoes. It involves running wires six feet off the ground from side to side in our unheated greenhouse. The tomatoes are then strung up using an ingenious device that spools out string, but which will clamp tight and easily slip over the wire. We anchor the bottom of each string with a ground staple next to each plant. (If you click on the photos, they’ll expand and you’ll get a closer look at the spools and strings.)
As the tomatoes grow, we use a “tapener,” another ingenious invention that allows us to clamp tape, something like a silk ribbon, around both the tomato stalk and the string, which keeps the tomatoes upright. The tapener clips off the ribbon and staples the two ends together
before the two arms of the device swing open and we move on to another tomato.
We followed a plan that called for allowing just one sucker to develop into another tomato-bearing vine, putting a second string-spool in place as the plants grew.
And how they’ve grown! We’ve learned quite a bit from using this system. We’ve come to realize that even with the strings, the rows need to be planted farther apart. The strings have kept the tomatoes from turning into an unmanageable jungle, but just barely.
As the plants started to bear fruit we faced an unexpected problem: the weight of the six rows actually seemed to be bending the ribs of our greenhouse. We fixed that with the simple addition of six-foot 2×4’s to prop up the wires and take some of the load off the ribs. This year, with our rows spread farther apart, we may not have this problem, but we still plan to have the 2×4’s ready.
We’re also going to use more tape. At least we think that will prevent the problem of the tomato plants slipping down the strings under the weight of their fruit. We have to admit that we’re still learning, but the system has certainly paid off in terms of production.
Since late July last year we had Tomacchios and Favoritas (both cherry tomatoes) coming in, along with an interesting variety of artisan tomatoes that are up to twice the size of those first two. Our sandwich tomatoes also kicked in to high gear, with quite a few weighing more than a pound.
We began the season by growing Salanova lettuce, a variety particularly well suited for greenhouse production, but the heat of summer put an end to that. No matter how you grow it, lettuce eventually turns bitter and tries to bolt, getting ready to set seeds, when it gets hot.
Last year we sold the tomatoes and other produce from the greenhouse at the Fresh Chicks Farmers Market on Mondays from 11:00 to 3:00 on the grounds of the Monadnock Community Hospital. If you’re interested in getting tomatoes tomatoes or cucumbers this year, call Ara at (603)878-9876 to make arrangements.