June Garden Tips & Tricks

June Garden Tips & Tricks

Training Tomatoes  

Trellis for Tomorrow usually starts training tomato plants as soon as they are in the ground. At the time of planting, we like to situate our tomato stakes, cages or other trellis systems. Putting up your trellis at the time of planting will help you avoid disturbing your plants once they are situated and makes your long-term training easier.  

As has happened to many a gardener, if you plant your tomatoes without a plan for trellising, they can quickly get large and unruly. Trellis for Tomorrow trains all of our tomatoes, regardless of the variety, however; knowing your variety is very important for the proper training techniques. We suggest you start thinking about support systems for your tomatoes as soon as possible. The main strategy that we use for our gardens is called the “Florida Weave” and this is applicable for any garden that contains more than 4 or 5 tomato plants and could be used on as few as two tomato plants. For single tomatoes or smaller gardens, large tomato cages can work quite well.  

The Florida Weave 

The Florida Weave involves putting tall, wooden stakes firmly into the ground, at both ends and between every second or third tomato in the row. Then a string is secured to one end stake, and woven between each tomato plant back and forth, alternating sides, and secured at the far end of the bed. Running two strings per level creates a sort of sandwich effect where the tomatoes are held up by a string on either side. As the plants lean, they support each other due to the intertwined nature of the trellis string. Run a new line of string every 8 to 10 inches as the plants grow upwards.  

This trellising process can begin when tomatoes are roughly 1 foot tall and is applicable to both indeterminate and determinate tomatoes. The main difference between these plants is that you should never prune determinate varieties, and you should always prune your indeterminate varieties. If you prune your determinates, chances are you’ll be cutting off branches that will make fruit which are already a finite number. If you prune your indeterminate tomatoes, you will be redirecting energy into the growth of new fruits and shoots, which is important. Find out more about the differences between determinate tomatoes and indeterminate tomatoes HERE. 

Staying Hydrated in the Heat 

As the summer gets closer and weather gets warmer, we all need to make sure we are adequately hydrated. The same can be said for our gardens. Plants need moisture in the soil to maintain growth, health, and to provide you with a bountiful harvest. Many Trellis for Tomorrow gardens have drip irrigation systems, and you can expect a detailed post about that coming soon.  

Many of our gardens require thorough hand watering, and while this can be time consuming it will be well worth it. For each standard 12 foot by 4 foot, you could expect to water for nearly 2 minutes every 2 days. It is important to be gentle when watering, as a hard flow of water can cause disturbance to plants, roots, soil, and even wash away nutrients from your beds.  

It’s also highly important to water strictly at the base of your plants. Wet leaves are a primary cause of disease and damage in organic gardening. This happens because bacteria and pathogens penetrate the cell walls of a plant much more easily when they are wet. Humidity in and around your plant can contribute to powdery mildews, wilt, and countless other problems.  

We also advise you to water early in the mornings before the sun is beating down on your plants. This will give the water time to saturate the soil, without evaporating in the heat of the day. It also gives your plants time to drink the water before nighttime. If plant roots stay soaking wet through the night, it can also contribute to disease problems.  

Succeeding with Succession Plantings 

Succession plantings are a valuable tool for the smallscale gardener. Have you ever ended up with a hundred 20pound zucchinis? Have you ever grown so many beans, but just couldn’t harvest them all before they got tough? The problem of growing too many plants of one type has been an issue for many a gardener throughout our time.  

Luckily, there is a simple way to fix that issue. Instead of planting your whole crop at one time, plant half, and then half again in 2 to 3 weeks. This will stagger the timing of your harvests and allow you to have a window where a more manageable bounty is perfectly fresh and ready to be harvested. It can also help you grow a larger diversity of plants in your garden, by allowing things to mature at different rates and making space for new plants more frequently. 


Green Experiences and Resiliency

Green Experiences and Resiliency

Did you know that green experiences encourage our resiliency?

Resilience is our ability to withstand and recover from difficult conditions. Throughout our lives we will encounter situations that test our resilience—in fact, we have all just been through a year that has tested our ability to withstand difficulties to an extreme.

While we believe that spending time in green spaces is wonderful for so many reasons, studies have shown that spending time in green environments can help us withstand difficulties when we face them in our lives. Experiences that result from these challenging situations and losses, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and cognitive and physical fatigue, can be aided by spending time in green environments.

In 2010, the National Recreation and Park Association gathered evidence of this through their research series. Conversely, research showed that environments lacking green space do not seem to help with recovery. Physical responses to distress, such as raised blood pressure, a racing heart, fatigue and elevated cortisol levels, are slower to return to baseline levels when in urban environments lacking green space. Furthermore, some environments that are noisy, chaotic, and even dangerous, as some urban environments are, actually add to stress.

At Trellis, we are committed to using green spaces as “living classrooms” where we can engage with youth and community members, grow food for sharing, and build on our capacities for resilience and living in a more sustainable world.  The gardens that we help to establish along with our partners can provide a green respite that allows for healing as well as shoring up our resilience.

A vegetable garden provides a source of fresh and nutritious produce to the surrounding community, but equally important is the benefit to the gardener. When we have a chance to sink our hands into the soil and feel connected to the earth and the green space around us, we are caring for ourselves as well as our neighbor.

One of the principal aims of our mission at Trellis is to help build more resilient communities, but the first step starts with an individual. When we feel the sense of calm and peace that we get when spending time in green spaces, we are better able to help and care for others.

Taking a quick walk at sunset, reading the morning paper outside or by your favorite window, spending time at a nearby park or garden and breathing in fresh air can work wonders. We encourage you to remember to take time for yourself, especially in a green space, which can bring you peace, strength, revitalization, and improved resiliency.

Tremendous Tomato Types

Tremendous Tomato Types

Tremendous Tomato Types 

There are two main types of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate. Depending on your garden you may have one, the other, or both. It’s quite important to know what type of tomato you’re planting so that you know how to manage them throughout the summer.  

Determinate tomato types are so called because they grow to a pre-determined size (3-4′ usually) and will set flowers and fruit within a specific window. They can produce a healthy harvest of tomatoes all at once, or over the course of a couple weeks. This type of tomato can be advantageous when you have a smaller garden or want a tomato that’s easier to tame than their indeterminate counterparts.  

Sauce and ‘plum’ tomatoes are often determinates, like Romas and paste tomatoes, which are perfect for making big batches of sauce to can for the winter. For some more details on growing Roma or other determinate tomatoes, check out our post here 

Indeterminate tomato types grow to an undetermined height for an undetermined amount of time, setting new flowers and ripening fruit as long as they are healthy and happy, sometimes all the way to NovemberThere are some truly incredible tomatoes in this type, including many heirloom varieties, and with proper care these plants will provide a steady supply of delicious fruit.  

However, because these plants live a long time and can grow well over 10 feet tall, they require more care and attention. These types of plants require staking (trellising) and pruning (‘suckering’) throughout the season for optimal results 

There’s One Born Every Minute 

We’re talking about suckers. No, not that kind. Suckers are what we call the new growth emerging from the upper side of where the stem meets the branches. Each sucker is a new lead for the plant, and left untended will cause massive, uncontrollable bushing, sick plants, and a diminished yield.  

The goal of ‘suckering’ or pruning your tomato plant is so that you train it to have 1 or 2 ‘leads’ or main stems. This will allow you to manage your plant, and harvest more easily, while also encouraging the health of your tomato plants.  

To sucker your indeterminate tomatoes, look at the ‘nodes’ on the main stem. At the junction between the main stem there will be offshoots of leaves, tomato bracts (flowering parts) and growing tips which would go on to produce large, vining offshoots. Our goal is to pinch out these little growing tips before they ‘suck’ energy from the main stem or our fruits. We like to do it by hand, or with a clean pair of shears.  

NOTE: Make sure you’re cleaning those scissors as you move through the garden, or you’ll spread any diseases between your plants. Don’t remove leaves, or flowering parts of the plant unless they are damaged.  

Trellising for Success 

Determinate tomatoes need less support than indeterminate varieties, but they still need to be supported. Keeping your plants and fruit up off the ground will help you avoid damaged tomatoes, and encourage airflow between your plants which is necessary for success. Cages can be a cost effective and easy way to prop up your plants. Trellis for Tomorrow normally employs the ‘Florida-weave’ method of trellising our tomatoes. To learn more about the Florida-weave style of trellising, check out our June Tips and Tricks blog post. 

Juneteenth – Food as Celebration and Memory

Juneteenth – Food as Celebration and Memory

Juneteenth is an annual holiday celebrated on the 19th of June to honor the day that the last Black enslaved people in Texas found out that they were free. It is important to note that this day was first recognized on June 19th, 1865 which is two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was declared; this news was delayed due to lack of communication technology and urgency on behalf of the messengers.  

Today, celebrations are a combination of remembrance, education, music, and FOOD! In some instances, community members may each bring one dish to contribute to a larger meal. These often include meats like lamb, pork, and beef; which were not available every day, to celebrate the special occasion. In some celebrations, you may find a highlight on red food items- whether it be strawberry pop, watermelon salad, or spicy red sausages, which symbolize the blood and strength of those who were previously enslaved. In other celebrations, you can find an indulgence in traditional Black Southern cuisine, such as collard greens and cornbread. Using recipes which have been passed down across generations brings a special attention to how history can be shared and live on through oral tradition, when reading and writing were forbidden. 

 Although a recipe may not be written down, watching a loved one cook in the kitchen or calling a community elder to help walk you through the steps are ways the rich knowledge of formerly enslaved Black people has persevered to the present day. This Juneteenth, we can take time to reflect on food as a way to gather community, a means to celebrate strength in diversity, and a vessel through which so much nurturing and knowledge is shared. 

Photo Credit: https://www.saveur.com/juneteenth-african-american-chefs/
 D.J. Costantino

A Measured Response to Hunger

A Measured Response to Hunger

A Measured Response to Hunger 

This year, in the midst of a pandemic, Trellis for Tomorrow’s highly impactful Food for All (FFA) program will surpass the 200,000 pounds harvested from our organic gardens throughout the region. This translates to more than 800,000 meals improved through the addition of nutrient-dense foods. 

Since 2012 hundreds of volunteers and gardener champions have logged thousands of hours in our many gardens, and though we only require at least 50% of the harvest gets to neighbors in need, last year 95% of the harvest from our FFA sites was delivered to 43 partnering agencies, food pantries, and food banks to community members struggling with hunger, food insecurity and malnourishment.  

The only reason we can share these incredible things with you is due to the diligent recording and reporting of our FFA partners and garden champions. We ask that our partners and participants in the Food for All program submit data regularly through the FFA weekly reporting form. {Detailed instructions are provided at the bottom of this post.} 

In addition to letting us see the impact of this important program and where we can improve, it also provides purpose, encouragement and inspiration to our gardeners, partners, supporters and funders.  

Because of the careful recording and reporting of our partners and participants, Trellis has secured sponsorships and other funding to expand this effort into communities with limited resources. This measured response to hunger and food insecurity is having an immeasurable impact. Thank you! 

If you are interested in becoming a Food for All partner or learning more about the program and benefits, visit https://trellis4tomorrow.org/food-for-all/ or contact David Ryle at dryle@trellis4tomorrow.org.

FFA Partners and Participants – Regular Reporting Requirements  

If you are actively engaged in a Food for All garden, we ask you to keep track of a few simple numbers: 

  • Number of volunteers engaged in the garden 
  • Number of hours logged by volunteers during garden related activities 
  • Number of pounds harvested  
  • Number of pounds donated (and who to) 

We encourage each of our Food for All partners to keep a simple clipboard in or near their garden or garden shed where participants can log any/all of the required info whenever in the garden.  

Each week (or so), you or your garden data manager can submit the information to Trellis via our handy-dandy FFA Reporting Form here:  https://trellis4tomorrow.org/food-for-all-submissions/. This link can also be found on our Food for All page at https://trellis4tomorrow.org/.

For weighing produce, we have a couple recommendations. For smaller gardens (up to 20 raised beds) we recommend the use of either a traditional produce scale – though these can be more expensive than you might think – or a convenient, economical option is a simple digital scale from which you can hang a bag or other container with freshly harvested produce. A good example is HERE. For larger gardens (more than 20 beds) we recommend a digital platform scale onto which larger quantities of produce in bags or bins can be placed and weighed. HERE is one we have found to be durable and accurate.  

For getting your produce to people who need it, we can provide key information on more than 45 partnering agencies throughout the region working with food insecure communities. For a list of agencies in your area, contact Grace Hardy at ghardy@trellis4tomorrow.org.