Most of the tomatoes that Curtis grows fall into the cherry and saladette category – the smaller tomatoes. These types of tomatoes offer several advantages – they are pretty vigorous, they have a relatively short DTM, and because chef’s like them. And when much of your sales are for restaurants, you grow what they want to buy.
Over the years Curtis has evolved his system for tomato culture. And he now looks at them as a bit of a bonus crop given the way that he grows them.
Many home gardeners dedicate full rows to tomatoes and give the plants wide spacing’s.
Curtis does the opposite. He interplants his tomatoes; dedicating most of his bed space to another crop, while squeezing his tomatoes into the out 2 edges of each bed.
This strategy works for several reasons. It takes advantage of more of the soil strata. The tomatoes are planted deep, so their roots occupy the deeper layers of soil. While the main greens crops in the beds have shallow root systems. So while the plants are planted in the same space competition is minimized. Another reason why the competition is minimized is that the tomatoes occupy more of the vertical space. If you time the plants strategically during the year plant growth and sun angles allow you to get more plants in the same space with no shading.
Overall, inter-planting has been huge for Curtis’s farm. It’s what’s allowed him to hundreds of pounds of greens and hundreds of pounds of tomato, in same relative space.
Not a bad bonus yield in a situation where most farmers would simply leave the tomatoes out.
Look around your garden at the extra space and think about that next time you plant your tomatoes.
- Plant the crops themselves at their normal density.
- Don’t worry so much about how tight different crops are stacked.
- If space is tight, make the surface crop beds a little narrower to allow more walkway and room for the vertical crops.
- Cut and come again crops work well in an interplanted situation because there is less crop turnover and more harvesting which is easier in the space.
- This strategy works well in the fall and the spring when a lot of the light makes it’s way to the greenhouse floor.
- Playing off of sun angles.
- Some of the varieties of tomatoes that Curtis grows:
- Mountain Magic
- Sweet Baby Girl
- Sun Gold
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