Homes

Make your own tomato tepee

Jackie French tells us how to build a tomato tepee to ensure every tomato plant branch gets sunlight.
Spring gardening, tomatoes

Want the biggest, most productive tomato bush in town? Try a tomato tepee. The more food and sunlight a tomato plant gets, the more tomatoes it will give you. Tepees mean that every branch gets sunlight and the fruit ripens faster. The highest yeilding plants can give in excess of 70kg of fruit over the course of a year.

Step 1: Collect your old stockings (or someone else’s) and cut them into long soft stretchy lengths. They are the best tomato ties we know.

Step 2: Buy one large grafted tomato plant. Plant it carefully, then angle three tomato stakes at equal distances around it to make a tepee, with the stakes meeting together near the top. Hammer the base of the stakes about 30cm into the soil, then tie them together at the top with a couple of lengths of stocking.

Step 3: Feed your tomato plant every two days with a pelletised organic fertiliser – giving it a scattering like icing sugar on a sponge cake. Water every day it doesn’t rain. Mulch when the plant is knee-high and keep at least 30cm of mulch around it, adding the mulch as the plant grows wider as well as taller.

Step 4: Check the base of the main stem every few days and break off any new shoots. Grafted tomatoes are attached to vigorous stock, which means the root stock may sprout and overwhelm the grafted variety on top. As the branches grow, tie each one to the nearest stake. The low branches will be low on the stakes, the high ones higher, until you reach the top. If your tomato grows taller than this, it can support itself or begin to cascade down.

Step 5: Pick. Eat. Give away a basketful and feel smug when everyone raves about the flavour. Freeze the surplus for winter.

Photo: Getty Images

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