tomato houses
I like to think this year’s pea patch plan incorporated a few things learned in prior summers. Like that fewer plants are happier plants. So this time around the focus was on just four hot season vegetables: tomatoes, tomatillos, summer squash, and cucumbers. Each crop had its own generous 5-foot by 5-foot quadrant, and I have to confess that back in early June the plot looked woefully underplanted.

Which made it so very tempting to plant more, especially knowing we wouldn’t be able to eat exclusively from the patch this year.

But we practiced restraint, and it turns out that the less-is-more strategy does work, especially in the setting of record-high temps. So the more recent question was how to encourage continued growth despite increasingly limited real estate. The solution? Go vertical. We stabilized the tomatoes with standard tomato cages that, clustered together, look like high-rise apartment buildings. The tomatillos are now growing up and through a tall tepee trellis, and we lashed together an A-frame structure for cucumbers. Not elegant, but functional nonetheless. It being kind of late in the game, there was a bit of stem and flower breakage as we wove the vines and tendrils upwards, but no matter. A day later and the plants were re-oriented to the sun, already putting on new growth.

Above: tomato houses built by my hippie neighbor George. “They’re growing through the roof,” he said, chuckling. And thanks to the weather, he’s looking to add on a second story.

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