January 2022

The Florida Weave: A Dance with Tomatoes and Twine

IMG_0006When I first started growing tomatoes, I bought those little conical tomato cages. Right from the start I began having problems with them. My tomatoes grew and grew and spilled over the tops of their cages, toppling them over. So back to the hardware store I went to get taller and sturdier tomato cages. But, since I grew indeterminate heirloom tomatoes which tend to grow long vines throughout the entire growing season, even the sturdiest, most heavy duty tomato cages still toppled over from the combined weight of plant and fruit.

I began reinforcing the cages. I planted tomatoes in a grid overlapping the cages slightly at the top. I pounded tall electrical conduit rods into the ground, weaving the rods through the overlapping cages which stabilized them and prevented them from falling. I further reinforced the mesh of cages by tying them together with the long thin bags that the daily newspaper came in.

And then I discovered a new way to trellis my tomatoes – the Florida Weave. I like that name. It sounds like the name of a dance – a dance for a gardener and her tomatoes using no cages, just stakes and twine.

I plant tomatoes IMG_0001about 18” apart in a row. Every two tomatoes, I pound in a wooden stake using a brilliant tool – a post pounder. At the ends of the rows, I pound in metal stakes at an outward facing angle.IMG_0003


When the tomatoes are about a foot tall, the dance begins. As with any dance, one needs the right attire. For this dance, instead of dance shoes, I use box of tomato twine. Twine comes out of the top of the box and the box  has belt loops for attaching to a belt.


I tie the twine to a stake at the end of a row. Then I walk down one side of the row, spooling twine out from the box at my hip, weaving the twine around a post, against the tomatoes, around the next post, forming a figure-eight with the twine and sandwiching the stems and branches of the each tomato plant between lengths of twine. Diagram_1


I tie off the twine back at the starting point and then wait for the tomatoes to grow some more. When they have grown another foot, I go back out to dance with the tomatoes again.


And so, as the tomatoes grow, I trellis them every foot or so with a weave of twine.

An added bonus of using the Florida Weave is that I no longer have to struggle with stacking bent tomato cages at the end of the season and finding a place for the accumulating stacks. I grow a lot of tomatoes and those stacks of cages were so very awkward. In fact, last year, I gave away all my tomato cages. At the end of the season, I simply cut away the twine, pull up the stakes, and store them in a corner of my garden shed.

While the Florida Weave is usually recommended only for determinate tomatoes, I have successfully used this method with my indeterminate heirlooms. I’ve also used the Florida Weave with other vining plants, such as peas. I love the simplicity and beauty of this trellising method and the routine of tending to my plants as they grow.


The Aesthetics of Seed Catalogs

This post originally was published on Goshen Commons on

Seed catalogs are arriving in my mailbox almost daily now. Some go directly into the recycling. Some go into the basket of magazines and catalogs near the door for perusal at a later time. Some come into the house with me for immediate consideration.oakley_0209a

What differentiates these catalogs is not the content (though I do tend to favor organic and heirloom seeds over the conventional variety). What differentiates these catalogs is their aesthetics.

First there is the size. Seed catalogs come in all sorts of sizes. The catalogs that are in large tabloid sizing go immediately into the recycling. That size is just too cumbersome. They are hard to hold. I can’t easily sit in bed or in a comfy chair and pore over each page. The bottom crinkles on my lap and gets creases in weird places unless I hold the catalog higher, but then my arms get tired. It is just not worth the bother. So into the recycling they go.

The other sizes are much more manageable. There is the traditional magazine size, which is reasonable to handle. Then there is a smaller size – a bit taller than a paperback, but not much wider. All these catalogs deserve a look.


Once I have determined that a catalog is worth looking at, I open it. Now comes the next differentiating criterion: the layout of the interior pages. Some catalogs are crammed full of little pictures of plants on each page. Accompanying the barrage of little pictures is the tiny font that describes the seeds. When I look at such pages there is an overload of information. I have to strain to read the type. I get agitated. I cannot relax and enjoy the experience of savoring each page. Into the recycling they go.


Often associated with the amount of information on each page is the amount of color on each page. Sometimes the colors are much too bright. Sometimes there are just too many colors crammed together on a single page. I much prefer more muted colors and a more coherent color scheme. So if the colors in a catalog disturb me, into the recycling it goes.


Some catalogs try to catch your attention by highlighting certain seeds as award winners or the catalog “choice.” All those extra icons and symbols make the pages look messy. I particularly dislike those catalogs that are alarmist in nature and pronounce that this will be your “last chance” to purchase some seed variety. Really? It will be my last chance ever? Are those seeds going extinct? Into the recycling these catalogs go.

So now I have pared down my selection of catalogs: they are of a reasonable size, and they have a reasonable number of selections of seeds on each page and a soothing color scheme. Now come some finer distinctions.

Catalogs are printed on different types of paper. Most of them are printed on glossy magazine paper. Some are printed on rough, grayish newsprint paper. I must say that I do prefer either white paper or glossy paper, though I feel that I should like the newsprint best. (Is newsprint more biodegradable?) Though I have a preference for the type of paper, I don’t dismiss any catalog simply on that basis.

oakley_0209foakley_0209eSome catalogs have text boxes that discuss planting tips and germination times in addition to the description of the seeds that they sell. This is all helpful information. My estimation of those catalogs rises.

So, you may be wondering by now what is my favorite catalog. I am not sure that I can answer that. There are several catalogs that I enjoy perusing and from which I purchase seeds.


However, if I were to select a catalog for purely aesthetic reasons, there is one catalog that stands out above the rest.This catalog is magazine sized, with just a few seed selections on each page. The color scheme is very muted. In fact, many of the pages are just charcoal print on white paper with dusty green headings. The paper is white but not glossy, heavier than regular laser-print paper, but not as heavy as cardstock. And there are no photos at all. Instead, there are drawings, some in color, some just in that dusty green color.

Even though this catalog is not packed with seed selections, it gives me the impression that the seeds that are offered have been carefully chosen. The presentation is beautiful. I’ve already started starring those seeds I am interested in getting. And I am sure that I will look at this catalog, John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, over and over again.