Growing Tomatoes Vertically | Dishin & Dishes

Growing Tomatoes Vertically | Dishin & Dishes


Have you ever heard of growing tomatoes vertically? Growing vertically means that instead of planting things regularly in rows and allow them to grow over cages or stakes, you grow them up a structure like a trellis or twine or anything that you can tie them up to so they take up less space in your garden area, reduces disease because they get more air, and are easier to find pests on!

There is another benefit of growing tomatoes vertically. It allows you to prune your tomatoes easily. We did this last year and were very pleased with our increased production in tomatoes.

Did you ever notice when you buy or look at a tomato plant at a store that they are labeled under the tomato name (like Big Beef Or Early Girl) with some odd words?

Sometimes you will see the words “determinate” or “indeterminate” under the name. These are the two types of tomatoes.

#1 – Determinate tomatoes are sometimes called “bush tomatoes”. They grow to a fixed mature size and usually all the tomatoes appear and ripen around the same time in the span of about two weeks.  At that point, the plant is basically done producing for the season. Determinate tomatoes are great tomatoes for making sauces and canning because you get so many at once.

#2 – Indeterminate tomatoes can be thought of as a vine. The plants flower first  lower down on the plant and those will be the first tomatoes. Then they will flower a little higher up and another set will appear. This will continue to repeat itself as the plant continues to grow at the top like a vine. It will continue to do so until the first freeze and then it too will be done producing. You should be very careful to never trim the top of a Indeterminate tomato or break it as the plant will be done and you won’t get full production from it.

So- back to growing tomatoes vertically!

Most people grow indeterminate tomatoes vertically as they keep producing throughout the season and can grow up to ten feet tall.

Another bonus of growing tomatoes vertically? You can plant a tomato plant in one square foot.

Yes I really just said “one square foot”.

The way we grow our tomatoes vertically is we keep the tomato limited to only one main stem or the original stem that goes into the ground. Any branch that attaches directly to the one main stem gets to stay. But anything that grows off of those branches or in the “V” between branches (called a sucker”), gets pruned off! Also after the first set of flowers turns into tomatoes we cut off all leaves below that spot. I’ll explain more in detail later on in the post!

This process allows the energy of the plant to go to the production of the tomatoes instead of to a zillion leaves.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

We have 48 tomatoes in two 4 X 8 foot beds. Compared to only growing 4 bushy tomatoes in that space below is very exciting to us!

A few years back, Mr. Wonderful added the wooden structure that has served as holding our shade fabric over the garden (the red structure seen in the photo above).  It is anchored to the corners of our beds.  In Oklahoma, it gets so hot in the summer, we use 50/50 shade fabric which allows 50% of the sun through it’s coarse weave to our garden, preventing sun-scorch to our precious plants. You can also see our shade fabric above the garden.

Mr. Wonderful drilled holes through the board frames at the top above two of the beds. He then slid some pipe we had laying around through them to for the top frame for our vertical gardening. You could also use boards with large eye hooks on the bottom of them (the eye hooks you see in this picture are to attach our shade fabric to, not our tomatoes -we use the silver poles).

Down at the bottom of the bed on the inside frame of the wood, he added more eye hooks directly under the poles. Then he strung straight lines of baling twine (we purchased at the Tractor Supply) to make parallel lines of twine under the poles from one eye hook to the other side to another eye hook.

The point is to tie a separate line now vertically (or running up and down) around the poles and then down to the twine line to form a line up for the tomatoes to grow up and be tied to.

This is the kind we bought. It came in a two-pack (About $30) and will probably will be enough that we’ll never have to buy it again in our lifetime!

Tomatoes can grow vertically in about one square foot of space because basically, you’re going to keep them trimmed up like vines.

So we place the twine about every square foot and planted a tomato plant behind it.  Then we tied the tomato to the twine down near the base and again up a foot or so.

Usually we use this flexible type garden tape (but being the unthinking gardener, I hadn’t purchased any yet) but I highly recommend it. It allows the plant to grow and the tape will expand as it does so. I get it at my local nursery.

Now it’s just a matter of letting your tomatoes grow and keeping them tied to the string and …

One very important other thing…..

Trim the suckers.

The thought process of growing tomatoes vertically is to only have one or at the most, two main stems growing from the plant and to trim off the suckers.  This provides most of the energy to growing fruit. It also allows more air into the plant allowing less chance of disease or rot and making it easier to spot pests! It also allows the tomatoes to ripen quicker because they get more energy. This worked very well for us last year!.

This diagram of a tomato plant shows you the main stem. Basically any branch that comes off that stem is OK to leave on the plant with one exception. Once the plant flowers for the first time you can trim off all leaves connected to the stem UNDER the cluster of flowers. The plant flowers as it grow up so these leaves will never be needed.  You don’t need them zapping your plant energy. Cut them off (using sharp clean snippers).

Suckers grow in the “axil” of the V where a branch meets the main stem of the tomato plant (see above). If these are tiny, you can usually pinch them off with your fingernails quite easily. You want to get all these babies OFF or they will grow into more and more branches and form new stems and the result will be a big tangled bush of a mess. Some folks in heated areas like our prefer to just take off the leaflets at the end of each sucker, leaving a bit of it to shade the tomatoes from sunscald, leaving only two leaflets in place.

If you do this correctly your tomato vines will look just like that…a vine growing up to 6-10 feet tall, tied up every foot or so with clusters of tomatoes hanging and growing into bright delicious jewels of summer!.

I will keep you updated on what they look like as they progress! Happy planting!



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How to Grow Radishes | Dishin & Dishes

How to Grow Radishes | Dishin & Dishes


Radishes are one of the absolute easiest of vegetables to grow. The bonus that they come up very quickly and you harvest them after a few short weeks is instant gratification, and I promise you that you’ll love the home-grown version so much more than the store-bought. Mr. Wonderful didn’t think he liked radishes until he tried our home grown ones.

Radishes, Raphanus sativus, belong to the Brassicaceae, or mustard family. Makes sense since their peppery tops are reminiscent of mustard greens right?

If you don’t know what Brassicas are, think kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

There are all different kinds of radishes like Easter Egg, Watermelon and others, but my very favorite and the easiest to grow for me has been French Breakfast Radishes. The seeds I use are from Botanical Interests. I absolutely love their seeds and can get them locally at my favorite nursery.

The part we eat is actually grown primarily under the ground, so you’re actually eating the root of the plant.  Also, radishes are full of Vitamin C and plenty of other nutrients…so finding different ways to eat them is good for you! (See my Sauteed Radishes with Bacon recipe here.) The tops are actually great too – shred them into salads for a added peppery zip, or saute them like any other green like kale or spinach.

Now, onto growing radishes!

Radishes usually prefer cool weather, although there are summer varieties. I’ve never ventured into those due to our extreme heat here in Oklahoma, but if you live in a cooler climate, you can try French Breakfast, the cool looking white Icicle or the Scarlet King.

Wait until all danger of frost is over in your area, although I’ve had these things live through one! Make sure you plant in an area that gets at least 5-6 hours of sunlight per day.

Till your ground up so it’s not all compact. Radishes prefer cool and loose soil.  I take the back of my garden trowel and poke a very shallow hole, about 1/2 inch deep and about 1 inch apart. You can plant A LOT of radishes if you take some time and drop a seed or two in each hole instead of just sprinkling them in a line. I like to sow a different line each weekend throughout spring and fall so that I don’t have 9 million coming to harvest all at once. It literally takes 2 minutes to plant a row.

Water them every few days as the quick-growing roots of the radish require plenty of water to keep them going. You won’t believe how quick they pop up-  their tiny green leaves sprout above the ground sometimes in as little as 2-3 days, but may take up to a week.

You’ll know they’re ready to harvest when the “shoulders” of them poke up above the ground about 1/2 inch.

If you wash them before you store them, make sure to thoroughly dry them to avoid them rotting in the refrigerator.

Try slicing them into salads or onto sandwiches. Butter some crusty bread and top with slices and a sprinkle of coarse salt. Try them sliced into matchsticks in one of my Poke Bowl Recipes or in a Vermicelli Bowl.

Let me know if you have a great radish recipe…I’d love to hear more things to do with them!



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Garden 2019 Update | Dishin & Dishes

Garden 2019 Update | Dishin & Dishes


It’s been awhile since I did a garden update. Because …well it’s been winter.

After the holiday excitement passes by, it helps that I start getting seed catalogs.  This stirs the inner spirit animal in me that is always missing my garden during the bare cold months of winter.

I have tomato and pepper seeds going in the greenhouse and they are already pushing against their clear lids clamoring to get out!

We use a small ceramic electric heater inside so we can get an early start on the seedlings around the first of February.

Back in October we visited The Silos, Chip and Joanna Gaine’s place in Waco.

It was during Silobration and we had so much fun experiencing the organic wonderful vendor fair around the site, the food trucks, Silos Baking Co., Magnolia store and gardens. And the concert was so much fun with Drew Holcomb and JohnnySwim!!

silobration 2018

We were especially inspired by the Seed & Supply and the lovely gardens around it.

Our raised beds had been only one board level in height (about a foot or a little more),  unlike the ones we saw there.

I loved the natural structures they incorporated into their edging, garden supports and trellises.

I also loved the color schemes of green, purple and cream they used with just a touch of yellow and pink mixed in.

When we got home,  Mr. Wonderful got inspired to add another level to our beds with an edging around the top just like theirs were.

We’ve also added two truckloads of river rock pebbles around the raised bed area and the chicken coop. The muddy times were driving us crazy.

Yesterday he also got two more truckloads of dirt from our favorite place – Minick Materials. They have fantastic garden ready soil, much needed here in Oklahoma, the land of red clay. He got quite the workout hauling it all back to fill in our newly elevated beds.

Oh yes! And that new cover you see in the front is our new cold frame Mr. Wonderful built recently

. I asked him to build me one back when all the lettuce got yanked from the shelves during the salmonella scare. Here’s a horribly bad video I took on my iPhone.

We have several kinds of lettuce sprouting in our cold frame, as well as spinach, kale, romaine, and bok choy. We’ve had some pretty cold days here of late, (as you can see by the attire on Mr. Wonderful) and it is insulated enough to keep these little babies growing so I’m very excited about that!

In case you’re wondering what those taller red support beams are, they serve two purposes.

One is as a support to hold the 50/50 garden shade fabric we put over our beds when the intense heat hits in July and August. It helps keep our plants from burning up but still allows 50% of the sun through.  We ordered ours on Amazon. They have those circle metal grommets at the corners and there are hooks on the support beams to hook them easily over.

The second is to help with a successful experiment we tried last year and will continue doing with our tomatoes.

Growing them vertically.

I’ll write some more about that this summer but we’ve never had so many tomatoes!

So there’s my beginning of the year garden update! I hope you enjoyed a little tour of our gardens.

What are you doing in your garden that is new this year?


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