Photo/Illustration: Janet Jemmott
Sometimes I think there must be tomato sauce flowing through my veins. My earliest memories are of watching my parents water the tomato vines in the backyard and of my Italian grandfather, who boasted about the big, heavy, delicious tomatoes he had grown in rocky soil enriched with countless wheelbarrows of horse manure. As a kid, I spent many summers at my aunt and uncle's ranch, where they grew nearly a hundred acres of processing tomatoes. A stay at their house meant tomatoes at every meal. After harvest, when the fields were littered with rejected tomatoes, my brothers and I would have raucous tomato fights and come to the back door drenched with tomato pulp. For a while, I even worked in a tomato cannery, where the ground was paved with spilled tomatoes and the air was scented with ketchup.
These days, tomatoes are still a large part of my life, and summer would simply not be summer without lots of tomatoes. To keep my tomato plants happy and productive I give them the necessities of life: food, water, and light. But, for the greatest yields, they also require that I provide some means of support or trellising. Lifting and supporting the plants keeps the fruit clean and away from pests, provides better air circulation to help prevent disease, and makes it easier to see and harvest the fruit. I can also fit more plants into a smaller area by trellising them. All this translates into more and better tomatoes. During my many summers of tomato fixation, I've tried and observed many types of tomato supports and have found several tried-and-true structures that are readily available, dependable, and sure to keep the garden looking attractive and orderly.