Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tomato cage and the Stapelia mystery solved

Tuesday evening when I got back from coaching T-ball I used the last of the available light to plant Sweet 100, Roma, Black Krim, Mortgage Lifter and Aunt Ruby's German Green tomato seedlings in the raised bed where I'd previously planted the Albion strawberries (which I'm still hoping will come up).  I'm not really happy with the tomato cages that I used in the first bed I built as they take up so much room they limit how many can be placed in each bed and usually aren't tall enough for most tomato varieties anyway.  I was looking for some other way to manage the new plantings when I struck upon the idea of using bamboo tied together like the scaffolding they use in Asia.  I went to Home Depot yesterday and bought 4 packages of six 6' bamboo stakes and using a ball of twine I already had, began to construct my cage.  The uprights were simply pushed into the soil until they hit solid ground and the exterior cross pieces were woven through the uprights to make a loose basket weave, then lashed together with the twine. Next I lashed cross pieces to each side to make five individual compartments, one for each type of tomato and used plastic garden fencing to separate each compartment and add additional rigidity to the cage.  So far, only one plastic "wall" is installed, as darkness stopped me from completing the rest yesterday.  The nice thing about using bamboo, besides it be an inexpensive sustainable product, is that it can be cut with a good pair of pruners, which can also be used to cut the twine and the garden fencing to the right length or width, so the entire cage was built using just one tool. Another bonus to this design is by that cutting the twine, the entire cage can be disassembled for easy storage at the end of the season.  The total project cost was was around $15 and the finished cage is 5.5' x 18" x 5' and each section is 18" x 11.5" x 5'.

3 sections of the cage, with standard tomato cages in the background

The Stapeila mystery has been solved, thanks to Detrick, who provided the cutting at the Plant Swap; the one in the foreground is Stapelia leendertziae and the one behind it is Orbeopsis malanantha, so it's not a Stapelia at all, although they are in the same family, just a different genus.  After Googling both of them and seeing the gorgeous deep red of their blooms, I can't wait to see them for myself.  After seeing the differences in the blooms, I can see why they are in different genera, as S. leendertziae displays the star shaped bloom typical of Stapelia, while the blossom of O. malanantha is shaped like the bowl of a red wine glass, which is highly appropriate since it is a deep red reminiscent of a hearty burgundy.

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