Monday, April 26, 2010

To Stake? To Cage? To Let Sprawl?

Those are the questions. Well, who has the answers? I know purty well that I shore don't. ;)

I think it's one of those things in the world of gardening that there is no answer for. Yes, folks have their preferences, but is there really a bona fide answer?

I don't believe so.

The very first year that I had a garden, I really didn't have a clue what I was doing. I planted several tomato plants and watched them grow. And grow. Well, I did declare, they were gettin' mighty big. In fact, now they were bearing fruit, and couldn't stand up any longer. I tried to stake them with bamboo stakes.

Uh huh. That worked. Sure.

No. It did no good. So....I allowed the rascals to sprawl. They did just fine, actually. It did result in lots of wasted fruit, but other than that, it wasn't necessarily a "bad" experience. I just knew that I most certainly needed to try tomato cages the next time around. I would be ready!

So the next season came, and the cages were purchased (and some made), and I was ready. They would not sprawl this time. Not iffen I could help it. The little bitty mater plants were caged, and through the summer they grew, and did very well, and the fruit was easy to get to, and all was well with the world of my gardening experiences.

I caged them for a few more years after that, but this year, I was convinced that they could grow much larger if they were not confined to a cage, but instead were staked with a large, strong stake. (not the previous wimpy bamboo stake of my first year of gardening ;P) I dunno, I just feel that last year my maters were confined and didn't do as well as they could've done...seemed like the cages were just made too small. Even the big ones seemed too small.

Well, I could have used really large sticks from the woods, but I just didn't have the time these past few weeks to go hunting for 'em, so instead Mama and I headed to The Home Depot. I knew the stakes that they sell in the garden section would not be large enough for what I had in mind, so we headed over to lumber. We found a few things that could have worked, but the prices were high, to us anyway, especially because we had to buy over a dozen. Well, we kept on searching, and finally found the perfect lumber to use. It was tall, it was strong, it was... well...just what I had in mind! AND, to top it all off, the price was $1.09!!! Needless to say, I was ridiculously excited, and Mama and I proceeded to load them onto our cart. We got to the cash register and our total came to over $80!! "WHAT?", we asked. "Oh, they're $1.09 per foot."
My heart sank. We went to put them back in their places. Oh it was so sad. BUT, Mama spotted something else that she thought might work. We compromised.

So thar ya have it. My interesting experiences--exposed.

This is my plan for my nightshades this year: cage my eggplants, stake my peppers, and stake my maters. I am in an experimental mode this season for some reason. I am going to see how I like this, and maybe next year, I'll do the Florida Stake and Weave method! Now there's a method I hear is great!

Now I wanna hear from ya'll. Do you stake, cage, trellis, let sprawl, or stake and weave your nightshades? I am curious... :P


Green Gardening Girl said...

Our "maters" we stake, our peppers are free, and our eggplants are free. We don't like to "cage our veggies in" :)

Jess (ica)

nana said...

I have one lone mater, and it is a bush, what do you think I should do?

Jess said...

Jessica: I used to always allow my peppers and eggplants go free as well. However, last year I had a problem with ants. My eggplants were so laden with friut that they leaned down and the fruits were on the ground. For some strange reason, the ants liked this. :P I am hoping the cages will help with this.

I sure don't blame you though. I feel bad for caging them in!! It's sad!

Nana: sometimes the determinate bush varieties you don't have to do anything with. I would say that either one would be fine though.

Thanks for the comments!

Green Gardening Girl said...

Hmmm! :)

We haven't had that problem, but we will definitely watch for them this year.