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Friday, April 26, 2013

High Stakes

So I put out a feeler on Facebook for someone to help me with this transportation dilemma.

I grow heirloom tomatoes, lots of them, and most of these guys are indeterminate, meaning they outgrow conventional tomato stakes and cages. The first year I grew them, my neighbors asked me what the hell I thought I was staking when I drove sharpened 2x2x8's into the ground from a ladder. A couple months later, they wanted to know what the hell I was feeding those tomatoes (nothing but a little fungicide spray, Tomato-Tone and and bone meal, really. I wasn't even watering them.*

So the wooden 2x2s don't live long. The pressure treated ones I bought in subsequent years do slightly better but get brittle and are subject to breakage. Plus, they seemed to tilt and lean a lot last year, and the garden had a disorderly look I dubbed the Drunken Weave (after Florida Weave, a technique for supporting tomato plants).

So this year, I thought maybe T-Posts. There's a system called Texas Tomato Cages that is very good, and James Worley recommends them all the time, and I'd love them. I would. If any of you Lobster Land visitors want to contribute, I'm planning 36 tomato plants this year—I'll need six packs of the base cages @ $169 per; I'll conservatively need six extension packs at $88, probably nine extension packs to be safe. So for $1500 to $2000, I'm set, never have to tie a plant according to the good guru.

Looking for used T-Posts (because if I can buy them new for six or seven bucks, I should be able to find used ones for half that) on Craigslist, I came across an interesting item. Tree stakes. They're anywhere from a half inch to an inch in diameter, eight feet long, solid steel, with poly sleeves to protect the plants you tie to them. A nursery that has scaled back is selling off inventory, some 12,000-15,000 of them for three bucks apiece.

In other words, I can have live-forever, tall, strong tomato stakes for about what I've paid for crappy wooden 2x2s. $108 instead of $1500.

I drove out to where they were, not a short trip really, and after almost getting my xB stuck in the mud, learned they wouldn't even fit in my car. When I put out the feeler on Facebook for someone with a pickup to help with this errand, the one person who stepped forward was a guy I went to high school with, a guy who I think I mainly argued with about religion back then, and I wasn't probably very graceful about it.

I rode my bike to his house after work, we put Minnie Pearl in the back of his Previa and we drove down to get the stakes and bring them to my house. He wouldn't even accept gas money,and he easily drove fifty miles on my behalf. I'll be delivering heirloom tomatoes to the West Plaza this summer, I guarantee you that. What a huge favor.

*On the subject of watering tomatoes: they're a deep-rooted plant, can go down pretty darn deep to get the water they need. I watered a little bit during last summer's drought, but met some commercial growers at the Greater KC Tomato Tasting who convinced me I'd been foolish to do so. Then again, the Big Tree needed watering last summer, so I can be forgiven for not following my usual rule of watering in when transplanting them and then generally leaving the watering to other crops that don't put down such deep roots.

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