The multi-purpose tomato cage

Published 9:49 am Tuesday, November 11, 2008

By Staff
As a gardener, I'm always willing to help out other gardeners and perhaps by doing so make a few new gardening friends.
If I know something I think might benefit others, I will gladly lay it out there.
And, on the other foot, I have gleaned a lot of not only useful but very fun tidbits from others as well.
For quite a while there I was very worried about the fate of the human race.
No manners, road rage, no consideration for others, things like this.
But since I have been writing my garden column I must say I am not as worried.
Sure, there are a couple bad apples out there. But on the whole there are still MORE really great people out there.
And, because of my column, I have met lots of really great – with a capital G – people.
Getting back to the sharing and exchanging of garden tips, I should also mention whenever we gardeners get together, if it's about vegetables you can bet a few recipes get thrown into the mix, too.
I just can't imagine when someone was inventing the tomato cage what they were thinking.
Did they even stop to think the gadget wouldn't be tall enough to contain "the beasts," or tomato plant we gardeners often grow?
I mean the average determinate, tomato plant, better described as bushes than a vine, is one which reaches a height of three to six feet tall, growing foliage to a certain size, they flower, set fruit – a cluster of fruit is called a truss, by the way – they tend to stay compact and often ripen more fruit at one time within as little as 10 days.
Whereas an indeterminate tomato plant is said to be a true vine, six feet and over, growing continuously, till a hard frost kills the stem tip.
The flavor of this type is purported to be better, with more and bigger fruit, and with less pests and rot.
They also keep growing and growing, blooms and more blooms and this produces more and more fruit, growing larger, longer vines.
All this indeterminate vining has one drawback. This being they tend to produce their fruit a little later into the season than the determinate types.
Did you know this? Ripening on the vines is very important for a sweet tomato.
This is the secret why our home-grown tomatoes taste so good.
On the vine, the sugars and vitamin C which gives the tomato its sweetness is developing.
This flavor-enhancing process continues only as long as the fruit remains on the vine.
Tomatoes picked while green will never taste as delicious as the vine-ripened fruit for, you see, the vitamin C and sugars are actually destroyed during off-the-vine ripening.
Well, actually they have not had time to develop.
Here's a tip, or the real reason why I wrote this column.
I don't use my tomato cages for my tomatoes. I use mine in the flower garden to hold up and contain various plants.
When cut in two, the smaller bottom ring is perfect to encompass and hold up the floppy chive plant or any herb for that matter.
A whole cage envelopes and provides the perfect structure for the growing peony to lean on and grow into.
A whole cage also keeps my coneflowers, sedums and toad lilies in a gladden clump.
And, as a plant is growing – it being the cage – seems to melt into the foliage, unseen.
The multi-purpose tomato cage provides restraint and keeps plants in check – how I enjoy, savor, relish these words in the garden – up off their neighbors and the earthy soil, thus preventing them from splaying, flopping and rotting.