Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's New at the Farm? Tomato Trellises, Tractor Cultivation

The weather seems to have cleared and will give us enough of a break to finish up our spring planting. Last Thursday night we received just over an inch of rain and over the weekend another third of an inch fell. Add that to cool and cloudy days and you have a slowdown of field activities. All is not lost as this weather pattern provides ideal conditions for transplanting. As long as we have the field prep done a few days ahead of the transplanting crew we'll be OK.

We're finishing up the major transplanting jobs this week. We'll be able to wrap up tomatoes and squash this week, and finish  the smaller jobs next week. Of course, there's some transplanting that occurs all season long, but not as much as what happens in the spring.

Among the favorite activities of the early summer is putting out three acres of tomato trellises. A steel post is driven in every 10 feet and a wire is run along the top. A string is then tied to this wire and to the base of the tomato plant.

Here's a photo of some trellised tomatoes in our high tunnel. Our field trellises will look similar. 

Tomatoes in the high tunnel
We have three people that work continuously in the trellis tomato project during the summer. We start pruning and twining the plants next week and continue through the middle to the end of August. This time frame works well for high school students. They work from mid June through August before going back to school.

Lots of thinning and weeding this time of year keeps us busy in addition to planting. The spring carrots have been thinned; always a big job, but one that can be done in the rain like transplanting.

Now that the sun has come out and the fields are starting to dry up a little we can concentrate on some cultivation. We currently have four cultivating tractors: a Farmall 200 and a AV, an Allis Chalmers "G", and a Ford 1710. I also purchased a John Deere 850 this past winter to use between the beds of tomatoes.

The "G" is set up for cultivating small seeded crops like lettuce, carrots and onions. The AV is a high clearance offset Farmall that is used primarily for plastic. The Farmall 200 is used for all kinds of cultivation projects, from two rows, to three rows, to one row, to plastic. Finally, the Ford is used primarily for killing the weeds along the rows of plastic.

The Ford is the newest and most modern of the cultivating tractors. It has power steering, three-point hitch and a canopy which is great on a broiling hot day. It's also a versatile tractor as it's out laying plastic mulch right now. The John Deere 850 is going to be used to cultivate the wide rows between the tomatoes; we plant our trellised tomatoes on eight-foot beds instead of our usual six-foot beds so we have more room to work around them. We use a three-point hitch cultivator we designed and built here on the farm. What we found at local dealers were what I considered over priced and not built rugged enough to withstand our rocky field conditions.

I'll get some photos of these tractors in action in the coming weeks, and I'll post them once we start the daily cultivation regime.

Until next week, Brian.


Anonymous said...

I'd appreciate seeing (closer view or video) how you trellis your tomatoes in this fashion. It looks as if you keep two leaders? Much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a closer view too. Maybe a short video?

Johnny's Seeds News said...

Hello Anon and Chris:

We just shot some video this morning, fresh from the tomato fields of the plant trellising. A link to the video here.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. We'll be trellising all summer long as the plants continue to grow.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in trying to trellis tomatoes this summer. One question - how do you anchor the twine at the ground? It seems it must be connected to a stake or something and can not just hang free. Thanks for the info -

David said...

The trellis twine is usually tied to the base of the plant when it is young. The plant's natural climbing habit and our training it up the line are plenty to secure the twine to its leader.