By Carla Hogue
Gardening is really just a big science fair project, minus the tri-fold cardboard display board. First you generate the hypothesis, and then you plan and perform experiments to test it. Ricky and I are excellent at the hypothesis phase. We regularly crank out strings of gardening hypotheses over coffee, on the way to the bank, in emails to each other. In their fledgling form, they are brilliant and rock solid. In reality, most are dim-witted and shaky.
In the spring issue, we focus on some of the blue ribbon ideas that worked out beautifully. In gardening as in life, though, the goof-ups are usually more entertaining.
Tomatoes, for example…
Not wanting residue from treated wood to leech into the soil, we tried stakes made from untreated wood. The rich dirt pushed the tomatoes way past the tops of the stakes, and we found ourselves adding stakes around each plant just to keep up. By mid-summer, we had what looked like Tinker Toys on steroids. Vines were velcroed to the closest pole. If there wasn’t one close by, we simply jammed another into the dirt.
Completely disgusted with the poles, we turned to the Florida weave. I checked out google images, read a few articles, and even pulled into a stranger’s driveway to get a closer look at his perfectly woven tomato plants. It seemed amazingly simple. It was not.
From a distance, the wall of vines in the back box made you think of Boston’s Green Monster. Up close, it was a train wreck. The twine sagged, the limbs broke. Eventually plants started overlapping, chocking each other out. And the blight! The blight was at its worst that year.
At this point, the rusty cages weren’t looking so bad after all. That’s when we hit on the collapsible, powder-coated tower-style structures, because when you can’t solve a problem, throw money at it. Alas, the towers were smarter than the gardeners. We couldn’t figure out how to secure them with the accompanying clips. We tossed the clips and wedged the frames into the dirt as best we could.
While you will no doubt see examples of each of these failures in the garden this year, we have a fantastic new technique for supporting the tomatoes. You can read about it in the spring issue, on the stands now!
Photo credits: Tomato cage via bigstock.com, Florida weave via pinterest.