Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Tomato Stakes – Retake

A few of you asked for an additional photo of Kenneth’s Tomato Stakes. It’s kinda hard to see the whole stake in the midst of the green plants. Other than tying the tomato plant to the sliding threaded part-the rest works just like a regular tomato stake would-put it in the ground near your plant and tie the plant to it. The sliding portion allows you to easily adjust the stake as the plant grows through the season.

The Frank C. Brown Collection of NC Folklore lists the following about tomatoes:

  • plant tomatoes on Memorial Day
  • tomato seeds should be planted the 2nd or 3rd day before a full moon
  • set tomato plants out in the full moon-so the plants will be full
  • set plants out in the twin sign of Gemini and your tomatoes will have smooth skin

Pap tells me his Mother saved her tomato seed from year to year. She would start her tomato seeds in early spring under the edge of the porch where they could get sunshine-but be easily protected from late frosts and cool nights. Pap said she started all of their seeds but took extra special care of her tomatoes-because she loved them best. Her great love of tomatoes apparently got passed down through us-cause we all love tomatoes. One time Pap’s sister told me she didn’t think you were a true Wilson if you didn’t like tomatoes.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    July 2, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    We love tomatoes. We used to use the wood tomato stakes but now use the green metal fence T-posts to tie them onto. They work great and never go bad.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    B. Ruth–You’ve aged me all too fast! I’m only 69 1/2 (and right now feeling every monthof it, thanks to a sting from one of your bumblebees while pulling weeds this morning). I got a penny and some “stuff” on it right away, took a benadryl, and it still hurts like h, e, double l.
    Interesting thought on the powdered milk, and it makes perfectly good sense. Plenty of calcium is the key to counteracting blossom end rot and the powdered milk would provide that. We save egg shells all year so they aren’t a problem and, incidentally, egg cartons make a pretty good starter kit if you plant your own tomato seeds. You need to transplant to a larger container before they actually go to the garden, but maters take so kindly to transplanting that’s not much of a problem.
    We may disagree a bit on pollination, and rest assured I don’t own any $40 paint brushes, but one thing is obvious–tomatoes are a shared obsession.I don’t actually worry too much about pollination since I plant enough for a regiment. We are so hot now they aren’t setting, but the vines hang heavy with fruit.
    I had tomatoes two ways at lunch today–chopped fine in a cold rice dish with squash, cukes, parsley, and the like dressed with a bit of oil and vinegar and in a big old mater and piemento cheese sandwich.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 2, 2011 at 9:03 am

    I have to sweetly agree and disagree with Jim about the Love Apple’s (tomato) pollination…We have done the tomato shake, shake, shake as well…Especially the Spring of the hot nights…Cool nights do assist with pollination. Tomatoes are self-pollinating,
    but and but, only the Bumble Bee pollinates to the extent of the fertilization (near 100%)creating far more seeds in the tomato making for a large and meaty tomato…therefore in my humble opinion Bumble Bees are the best pollinators, second is Honey bees, third those little fiesty bees..that you see that look like a pollen ball…and Jim I just do not like to use my expensive ($40) long handled artist brushes to get intimate with my tomatoes.
    Forgive me for that statement!
    Yep, Jim we have used egg shells in the hole as well…but with the two of us it seems we cannot save enough shells…so powdered milk serves the same purpose..we hope…
    Ain’t this a hoot Jim? and
    Tipper is so sweet to let us vent about our “maters…By the way Jim, we are both 70 years old and have yet to try all the wonderful tried and true and folklore methods of growing the Love Apple!
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    July 1, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Do you mean to tell me there are people who don’t like tomatoes?!

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Our Great Grandma Fry use to make the most wonderful Tomato Butter (she called it). It was a preserve-like jelly with bits and pieces in it that tasted like a cross between apple and apricot jelly, and it was wonderful on buttered bread.
    Even when we used her exact recipe, it didn’t turn out right. Ours was thick and tasted like molasses. About the only thing it was good for was adding to homemade baked beans or barbecue sauce.
    Oh, how I wish…
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    July 1, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Those sliding stakes are pretty nifty! I trellis my tomatoes like the commercial growers do. My son uses cages — we both get lots and lots of maters.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Tipper–I’ll add a couple of thoughts to B. Ruth’s interesting and instructive response. She obviously shares my passion for the wonderful plant. I’ll also tender one slight correction. The correction focuses on bees and pollination. They aren’t necessary (though they probably help)–tomatoes are self-pollinating by air-borne pollen and the two best ways to be sure plenty of blooms set is to shake the plants or the stake every few days. If you want to be really persnickety, take a Q-tip and touch first one blossom and then another. Incidentally, when it gets to hot tomatoes do not set at all well.
    Here are some additional tips (and I’ve tried and/or do many of the things B. Ruth does).
    1. Consider using a post hole digger to plant your tomatoes. This gets them deep and makes it simple to put spindly plants in deep (the stem part will readily form roots–just remove leaves as B. Ruth suggests).
    2. Prune scientifically or consistently. Probably the best way is to leave the sucker immediately below the first bloom cluster and remove all other suckers. That gives you two stout stems or stalks for each plant.
    3. An exception to #2 is tommytoes. They don’t need to be suckered, because they’ll set fruits no matter how many suckers you have.
    4.Save your egg shells and crush them fine. Put a bit in the bottom of each hole. It will help ward off blossom end rot.
    5. Rotate the planting place for tomatoes in your garden each year.
    6. As bottom leaves darken, turn yellow, or show signs of blight, remove them and either burn or put far away from the plants.
    7. For varieties prone to having rough fruit, and many of the heirlooms do, gently remove the dead bloom end once a tomato forms.
    8. Differentiate between determinate and indeterminate varities, because the height they will grow to is quite different (helps when you us a single stake for multiple plants).
    9. Tomatoes need about an inch of rain a week to thrive, and mulch not only helps (I use newspaper without any color and cover it with straw) but it takes care of weeds. If you have to water, don’t do it in the evening. That encourages blight.
    10. A handful of cow manure, or better still, chicken manure (make sure the latter is two or three years old, because it is so rich in nitrogen it can scorce plants), placed in the planting hole can be a big help.
    I’ve raised tomatoes for almost 50 years, tried Lord knows how many approaches, and I’ve still got a lot to learn. I do think, however, that I’ve reached the kindergarten stage of mater culture.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 1, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I better clarify something…
    about our way of planting tomatoes..
    When #2..I said nip off the first few leaves…DO NOT NIP FROM THE TOP…nip from the bottom (root end) up about an inch or so…those leaves usually die anyway after planting..and also you are planting deep…
    My husband thought someone might decapitate a tomato if I didn’t clarify where to nip it…. in this case…NIP…NOT IN THE BUD BUT ON THE BUTT…HA
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Those are the neatest tomato contraptions I’ve ever seen.
    Maybe one day I’ll have a few myself to try.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Mary Jane-since our garden at home is on the small side-we do use each stake for more than one plant. You could do it the way we do-or you could even use more than one of Kenneth’s sliding pieces on the same piece of rebar if you wanted too.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Mary Jane
    July 1, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Tipper, is there more than one plant per stake? I can’t tell where those strings are going.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 1, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Tipper–You are using Ken’s stakes somewhat differently from me, but the basic result is the same. You just unscrew the adjustable part and move it up the stake as the plants grow.
    I grew my tomatoes from seed this year–about 20 heirloom varieties–and it will be interesting to see which does best. It’s sort of a test for me and I’ll narrow it down to half a dozen or soin future years. I know there will be a yellow mater in the mix and Cherokee Purples. Similarly, I’ve got to have some tommytoes. As for Wilsons liking maters, I reckon my wife can compete with anyone when it comes to love of them. She’s mighty close to a free-range chicken when it comes to eating ’em. I think she’d dine on pretty much nothing else and waste away, just the way chickens will when they have all the access to tomatoes they wish.
    Aren’t the volumes compiled by Frank Brown a pure joy? They hold a prized and important place on my library shelves.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 1, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for the new pictures…I think I get the “complete picture” of the idea now…(pun intended) Sorry I needed so much help..ha
    We love trying new ways of doing these will be for us..
    Tomato Ideas we have learned and tried and still use most of the time…
    1…Plant a few tomatos on or before the frost free date…I know what “they” say but we cover with large plastic buckets if a freeze or frost is expected!
    2…Nip off first leaves or so before planting..
    3…Plant deep..
    4…Plant laying down gently bringing stem to top of hole and then cover with soil…plant all in the same direction..
    5…Dress hole as you plant with powdered milk..sprinkle soil then Epsom salt and dolomite..and sprinkle soil..and a good double handful of compost!
    6…Put two tiny sticks about an inch or two right up against the stem..front and back..anything will do I usually pick up a few redbud twigs..don’t need them long but saves the plant from cutworms…might as well do it as you are planting..saved popcicle sticks broke in half work wonders too..
    5…Sucker tomatos as they grow to make a strong stem..just for a short while..too much will not allow shade for your tomatoes…
    6…Stake in a few weeks…with your choice..we have tried a lot of ways to stake..some better than others..
    7…If you use wood be sure and tie with nylon hose or string for static electricity..(nitrogen) we believe it helps! don’t laugh
    8…Pray for cool nights so plants will pollinate better..
    9…Pray for bees to pollinate..
    10…Always pull a few green ones to fry and it scares the plant into more production..ha
    11…Talk to your plants..don’t cuss at them..or even think it!
    12…If you plant close you will not need mulch..unless you just feel the need. If you space out your plants too much.. mulch well..the ground will bake around the plants in the sun..another reason to plant deep!
    13…At the end of the season pull up plants and eat the dirt..(soil mixture you planted them in!) JUST KIDDING..PLEASE DON’T EAT THE DIRT..EVEN THOUGH MY HUSBANDS AUNT (LIVED PAST 95)ATE A PINCH OF DIRT EVERY MORNING WHEN SHE WENT FOR HER MAIL..but we often wondered if she would still be alive if she hadn’t eaten the dirt..ha
    Thanks Tipper…have fun tonight at the singing!

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Thanks for the pics Tipper.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 1, 2011 at 8:33 am

    I think the really great thing about these stakes is that you only tie them once. Then when they need to be raised you just loosen the the knob that holds the raiser rod to the rebar, lift it up and re-tighten the knob.
    It is the genius of simplicity!
    I’m not sure it really shows in the pictures. You might want to make a video the next time you raise yours.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    July 1, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Good idea. I have only one tomato plant (don’t have space for a big garden like I used to work) and it has a number of green tomatoes, but I seem to be having visits from the pesky bushy-tails as some tomatoes have these little scrapes on their skin.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 8:08 am

    daddy started his tomato seeds in a box he built, he found two old glass french doors, he built the box about 10 inches high with 2 x 5 frame and attached the doors so they opened upward. he would plant the seed and the sun would shine on the glass and make them grow and protect them from late frost. i like the idea of under the porch. the stakes are really cool, they look like something from outer space maybe.

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