This spring has been tough for gardeners in the Pacific NW. We’ve had 3 times the regular rainfall in May and June that we normally do and the temperatures have consistently hovered in the low to mid sixties. Not exactly the best tomato growing weather. I’m pleased to discover, however, that my rat-outsmarting preparations are helping the tomatoes to set fruit and ripen.
After battling a large army of rats last summer I decided to take some preventative measures this year. No more will I come out to find hammocks strung between the tomato vines, discarded rat magazines and tiny sized cans of bud littering my tomato bed in their campsite.
I’ve built a fortress around my tomatoes that I hope the rats can’t penetrate.
Outside the raised beds: compact dirt covered with weed paper and then gravel.
Inside the raised beds: 24″ high metal roofing
Trellises made from cedar 2″ x 2″ that I can tie twine to. I loosely tie one end of twine to the plant’s main stem, wrapping around the plant as it grows and tie the other end to the top of the trellis. If the vines get too heavy with fruit I can screw c-hooks into the vertical posts and trellis the tomatoes horizontally as well.
As the season goes on we’ll see if the rats can indeed get over the metal, or if they are smart enough to climb up the Camellia tree and jump down to get my prized heirloom tomatoes. Just in case I severely pruned the lower branches of the Camellia so in order to jump they will need to make a large leap of faith.
Just before I added the metal perimeter I found what appear to be rat bite marks on one tomato. Since adding it I’ve not found any new ones.
I’m thinking this enticing red beauty, the first nearly ripe tomato of the season, would be bitten into if my fortress was less secure.
I realized, however, that my rat fortifications are proving useful in ripening fruit sans sun this year. My yard is south facing with full sun exposure and the gravel around the beds does an amazing job of retaining heat into the evening. The metal is reflecting and magnifying the sun’s elusive rays and the red color from the plastic mulch to the tomatoes from the north and east sides that would not normally get as much strong afternoon sunlight and by pruning my tomatoes severely I’m letting light and air in to ripen the fruit.
Despite these tactics I’m still expecting to end the summer with a surplus of green tomatoes. When that happens we’ll be making green tomato enchilada sauce.
Are you having a hard time getting things to grow this year? Don’t despair – summer will come eventually. But just in case we’ll be starting winter crops this week. My fall/winter seed schedule is buried in this post just to get you started. Nearly all the seeds are from www.TerritorialSeed.com so get your seeds ordered!