Dear Florida Weave, You suck. Dear Tomato Cage, You suck. Dear Weird Spiraly Wire thing, You super-suck.
Dear String Method, I love you with all of my heart. You do not, nor will you ever suck. Sincerely, Everyone who has ever tried you.
Before I go on and on and on and on and on and on about how if you grow tomatoes you shouldn’t bother with any other support system than the string method, let’s have a quick reminder of what an heirloom tomato looks like when left to its own devices by the month of August.
So, yeah. Impressive for sure. Also space sucking, a little bit tangled and frightening to children, pets and any adult who doesn’t have some sort of martial arts training.
I remember sticking my head in this plant to pick a tomato and thinking … well here goes … this is why people buy life insurance … then hoping I’d be able to pop back out in the next 5 minutes before some sort of tomato vine strangulation occurred.
The string method on the other hand … is a work of art. And you get the same amount of tomatoes because the plant isn’t spending all its energy on creating miles and miles of stems and leaves sticking out every which way.
This is how a tomato plant approximately the same age looks in my yard this year. LOOK AT IT!
The string method is just a matter of planting a tomato, pruning out all the suckers leaving only the one main stem, and wrapping that stem as it grows around a string. In this case the string is attached to a screw at the top of my fence. Here are all the details in case you missed it the first time around when I talked about it in the spring.
Once the vine reaches the top of the string you can either continue the string horizontally or you can drop the whole plant down (you can see there are a couple of feet of bare stem at the bottom) by loosening the string, and letting it climb up again.
The reason the stem is bare at the bottom is because after your tomato has set fruit you remove all the leaves underneath that first fruit set. Once you pick that fruit, you remove all the leaves from below the next fruit set. And so on. You eventually end up with a lot of bare stem.
I tried the string method at my house on a whim to see how it would work against a fence but the main reason I tried it was for my community garden to save space and work. In the spring when the seedlings were about 18″ high, I attached my string and started training them.
Now the tomatoes have made their way almost to the top of the string.
And the plants and fruit are PERFECT.
There was no disease at all because there’s so much air flowing between the plants to keep the leaves dry. Since you pinch off all the leaves below the fruit nothing is near the ground to get disease splashed up on it when it rains.
It’s tomato Narnia. Actually, since I’m from the 80’s it’s tomato Nirvana.
There’s exactly enough greenery to produce nice tomatoes but not so much that the fruit is shaded. Every tomato gets plenty of light and air.
Everything grows so perfectly and in order that it’s almost bizarre.
All in a single row up the vine you have ripe tomatoes at the bottom with cluster after cluster above them in various stages of growing and ripening.
And not a single plant looks as though it’s going to reach out and wrestle you to the ground.
Not all experiments in the garden turn out this well. Not all experiments in the kitchen turn out well. Or decorating, DIY, fix it, hairstyle or makeup experiments.
But for every contouring experiment that makes you look like a paint by number, or every marshmallow/potato/fish salad that makes you sick, there’s a string method.
So keep experimenting and learning and trying. It ain’t that hard. Any of it.