We made our own tomato cages
…because those tomato cages you buy at Menards are so stinkin' expensive!
We started out with the skinny wire ones that were left in the garden by the previous owners. FAIL.
Then we graduated on to the heavy duty ones – but only bought two – $8 each is crazy, don't you think? In my uber-frugal mind that is a FAIL.
When you have 50+ tomato plants there is no way you can justify $400 for cages.
No way. We'd already put a grand into our new garden so there was no way we would put out another $400 for cages.
So we made our own…out of concrete reinforcing mesh. We cut up a big roll of the mesh and made about 35 of them.
We attempted to spray paint them, but decided not to use up a dozen cans trying to paint all the wire.
When we cut it apart we left enough to make hooks so we could form a cage around the plants.
Isaac, my grandson, helped me put them around the plants – it was a "manly moment" for him.
We got hit with the creeping crud on our tomatoes (last year) and didn't really need that many cages since the plants were wimpy and spindly, almost leafless by the time I pruned off all the bad leaves. Oh boy such a disappointment. The year that before we lost 90% of our tomatoes in an early frost that caught me unaware.
We also enlarged our garden nearly 3X, so even though two years in a row the garden was a bust, we did improve it for this year.
The poles were rotting so they had to be replaced.
Post hole digger – such an easy way to dig holes – specially if the DH does the digging.
After all the work we put into the garden, there was no way we would not give it another shot this year.
We took drastic measures and changed it up a bit.
DH built a fence for our beans. It was fun watching them wind themselves around it a couple of inches each day.
A wall of beans
Compost and Coconuts
We bought 12 yards of 3 year old compost with crushed up coconuts and added it to the garden.
We are now using soaker hoses instead of overhead watering and only water if it's been hot and dry.
Overhead watering, especially at night can hurt your tomato plants. They don't like to go to bed at night with wet leaves.
I only prune the plants in the morning on a dry hot day to give it time to heal.
I use Epsom salt as an additive to the soil around the plants every 3 or so weeks to help the plant bush out and get stronger. We decided NOT to use chemicals as a fertilizer.
I also added coffee grounds and ground up eggshells with a touch of banana to enrich the soil.
Yesterday I found a great article with 101 Gardening Secrets that you might want to check out.
A Jump on the Growing season
I bought young plants (about 6" tall) from our local nursery to get a head start and also planted seeds of a couple of different varieties. Our growing season in Wisconsin is ridiculously short. They were offering 12 or 72 seedlings for $20. Guess which one I chose! I kept about 45 of them and gave the rest away to family and friends. It was great fun passing them along.
This has been a record year for our garden, but then that's not too hard considering what our last two years were like.
You can pick your tomatoes early and let them ripen in your kitchen. I pick them just as they start to turn red to take the stress off the plants while they work on growing the others. It's only taking 1-2 days for them to finish ripening.
Add Marigolds to your garden to help deter pests. Some say they keep rabbits and snakes away too. I read today on Pinterest they attract spider mites, aphid and leaf hoppers. What say you? Do you have experience with Marigolds in your garden? So far they have worked well for me and pretty up the garden.
We cut some of the DIY tomato cages in half and 2/3 to fit some of the plants that didn't grow as much but are producing well.
It's so funny to see a little scrawny tomato plant with 8-10 big tomatoes growing. One of my plants has 42 Roma tomatoes on it and it's only about 2 feet tall and is scrawny!
I think the creeping crud from last year might still be in our soil because some of the plants are a scrawny. I'll add more Epsom salt today and hope it helps! A friend told me the problem might be that my soil is lacking something, so we plan to have our soil tested to see what's up.
I've been reading up on the soil fungus and it may stay in the soil 4 years. I surely hope that is not the case here!
The new DIY cages blend in better than the heavy duty cages from Menards.
To the right are our surprise squash plants. The mystery seeds came in our coconut compost and I planted them after I saw them sprout. I had no idea what they were until they grew.
Keep It Sweet – Lettuce
To the left is our leaf lettuce. It's fab this year. If you are having problems with your lettuce tasting bitter, pick it in the morning, wash and dry it and put it in the fridge for a day. It should sweeten up.
The hot sun of the day can dry it out and make it bitter. It usually recoups over night in the dew. Isn't God amazing in how He does things?
Tell me about how your garden. How about you leave a comment telling me what you are growing this year and any tips you might like to pass a long?
If you're interested in growing herbs, my friend Karen is an expert at it. Visit her blog at To Work With My Hands and do a search on Herbs. She has several posts about various herbs that are quite informative.
Until Next time – be AMAZING!
Don't forget to comment with details about YOUR garden!
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