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A Lesson at Stake

First you plant little seeds, then they become cute plants, and then, one day you realize . . . It’s raining tomatoes!

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By Michael Buck and Michelle Pittman

The vines of our tomato plants are now bursting with life. Mr. Stripey’s the size of your fist, and there are plump beefsteaks and too many Romas to count.

Since we’re still new to backyard gardening, the excellent yield has taught us a very important lesson: plants get heavy when they grow fruits and vegetables.

We chose to stake all six of our tomato plants, rather than let them grow all wild like.  Until about a week ago, our single-per-plant half-inch square stake were working just fine. Then the fruit got bigger. Then the wind came.

One afternoon we looked out at our garden and that cartoon sound effect of a bomb dropping might as well have been playing. Beefsteak plant down! The Romas are leaning! Grab them, QUICK!

Kaaaabooooom! (Sad Trombone).

We reached for the car keys and headed to Home Depot for some reinforcements. What we collected, and now highly recommend, are inch-square four feet tall wooden gardening stakes, at just $1.20 each.

After severely pounding them them into the ground, those plants weren’t going anywhere. So why did we even go through the trouble of staking them in the first place? Space for one. Our neighbor lets some of his tomatoes grow like bushes. That’s fine, but we didn’t have the space.

Second, Internet research (and common sense) tells us that staking tomatoes will protect the fruit diseases associated with being left in the dirt, like fungus and rot.

The wooden stakes will protect you there. Why the wooden ones and not the cages? Well, in our case, those cages would have toppled over with all the weight. If you have robust plants, they are going to have some serious gravity issues.

We ended up getting our new stakes in the ground just in time. We’re now in full picking swing and pluck ripe tomatoes off the vine just about everyday with no end in sight. What are we doing with our haul? Pasta sauce! We are using a canning method that’s similar to, but not exactly like, how we made strawberry jam. Check that out at Feaston.

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