Friday, June 26, 2009

oh, those beautiful tomato plants

Trying out stainless steel tomato spirals
to see how they work. So far so good.
When the Edible Landscape was first being planned, someone coyly remarked one day, "Good luck making tomato plants look beautiful". It got me thinking, why is a tomato plant not beautiful? Because of its gnarled stem? Its tangled foliage? Its proliferation of bulging fruits cracking their stressed branches? Ok, I guess I can see that. But...what about the grand height to which that gnarled stem reaches? The striking texture of the tangled foliage? And the brilliant hues of the ripe fruits peeking through all that green? If you think about it a little differently, that scraggly tomato plant could actually be a wonderful addition to your garden...not to mention the promise of all those fresh tomatoes! Of course, it helps to have an interesting or unusual trellis to keep your plants under control and looking their best. We have some cool stainless steel tomato spirals that are quite a conversation piece!

Worried about how those lower browning leaves will look in your landscape as summer progresses? Clever planting around the base can hide those, and provide nice contrasts in texture, height and color. Here's an idea that is working well in the Edible Landscape: Instead of planting the common French or African marigolds, which are a mainstay in the garden, try Signet Marigolds, Tagetes tenuifolia. These marigolds have a mounded form with feathery foliage covered with small blooms. They look great planted with basil and parsley around tomatoes.

It's time to rethink how edibles are used in the landscape. They don't have to be banished to a corner at the back of the yard. They can be a part of your ornamental garden, because, depending on how you think about it they're just as beautiful as all those flowers.
Sweet and purple basil hug the base of
this healthy tomato climbing a steel
spiral support.


  1. If you've ever yelled at a squirrel as its run off with one of your biggest green tomatoes, here's a tip from my neighbor in Cincinnati. The squirrel doesn't just want to be mean, it probably wants the water in the tomato. So, near the tomato plants, place a bowl of water. The squirrel will probably take the easy course and drink the water.

  2. Emily, what type of form are you shooting for with those tomatoes? Are they indeterminant or determinate varieties? If the former, are you going to be pinching back the apical meristem to promote lower branches or trying to get the leader to stretch out and reach the top of your spiral trellis?


  3. Tom, I've never tried these tomato spirals before, so I'm not exactly sure what will happen. I've got both types of tomatoes in there, and have been trying primarily to keep a strong leader to promote height and keep them tight and controlled. I've been pinching a lot of suckers to achieve this. I may be sacrificing a little fruit, but probably not much. My biggest interest is keeping them tidy so they look nice and add height to the landscape, while still providing a decent yield. We'll see.