Sunday, August 5, 2012

Japanese Rings Tomato Staking Method

For several years I've staked some of my tomatoes using a cage-staking method called Japanese Rings. It's a method that was pioneered by Japanese & English gardeners. Basically, instead of planting the tomatoes inside the cage, you plant them outside the cage which is filled with organic materials. I use a foldable garden trellis that forms into a square enclosure. I line it with burlap & insert it into the garden. Then I fill the cage with about 2 feet worth of compost & shredded leaves, then top it off with loamy top soil. I dig a saucer shaped hole in the center of the layers. I plant 1 tomato outside on each side of the cage. Then you're supposed to water the plants through the center of the cage instead of watering the soil at the base of the plant. Then just keep the center moist & add fertilizer every 2-3 weeks. I don't add anything other than more compost though.

This method is supposed to help a plant produce up to 100 pounds of fruit. Last year I had a Black Krim tomato that very well might have produced that much fruit. Unfortunately, my garden was terrorized by a raccoon, so I didn't reap the rewards of my efforts!

I always start tomatoes from seed in April, then transplant outside in mid-May. Sometimes I stagger the plantings, but more often than not I like to plant everything all at the same time & harvest as much as possible at the same time. So even though all 19 of my tomatoes were planted at the same time, the 4 plants staked this way are twice as big & hearty as the others. I added compost to the soil for my other tomatoes, but they don't seem as nice as the ones around the cage.

I like to plant 4 different varieties of tomatoes around the cage & then compare them to the same varieties planted in the rest of the garden. I tried 7 different varieties this year, all heirlooms, & most I had planted at one or more times in the past. I have Sweet 100 cherry, Brandywine Yellow, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Beefstake, San Marzano, & Black Russian. Black Krim was my favorite from last year, so I wanted to try it out again this year. I'm hopeful I can harvest enough to make a few years worth of salsa.
Japanese Rings cage-staking method for tomatoes
The tomato on the right side is so puny compared to those around the cage!

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