TOMATO SENTRY GUARDS AGAINST ALL
This past weekend, I must've mentioned the new product Tomato Sentry at least a half-dozen times. So, I thought "why not put out the information to the masses in this week's email tip."
With the recent (mind you, completely over-blown) news coverage of tomatoes and salmonella, it gives one rise to make sure they do a better job of growing their own tomatoes in a backyard garden. While many people attempt to grow tomatoes and while they do fairly well in our climate, they do tend to get ravaged by certain pests. Birds, squirrels, rats, raccoons, and insects like tomato hornworms and stink bugs, can each single-handedly decimate a tomato crop. What if you have more than one of those rascals doing damage?
The compulsive, highly-attentive gardener, who tends to his or her crop two and three times each day, probably can keep all these problems and critters at bay, but what about the rest of us? Fortunes have been spent on bird netting, pesticides and elaborate defense systems because truly "vine-ripened" tomatoes are worth it! There is no other fruit or vegetable that tastes so completely different from store bought, than the incredibly delicious, vine ripe tomato. The problem is that most of us have to be away from our gardens, sometimes, and that is most certainly when a pesky mocking bird will feast on the huge, red beef-steak that was slated for the table that night!
For years, on the GardenLine, I've recommended using good old fashioned Mosquito Nets, fashioned in such a way that they can still let light, air and moisture through while deterring these critters to a certain extent. Smart squirrels and birds can often still find their way under the gaps. So, what's a tomato enthusiast to do?
Tomato Sentry could be the answer to your prayers. Developed locally, just last season, Tomato Sentry is an easy to use, "cinch-able" tomato net that defends against all the aforementioned pests. Traditional nets are designed only for birds, which will allow insects to fly right through or to crawl up the plant from beneath. They also allow birds to peck between the webbing and of course there is the tangled mess caused by "grow-through" vines. Another netting solution is to cover the plants with mosquito netting, but this still allows ground dwelling pests to crawl up the stalk and makes harvesting somewhat cumbersome.
Tomato Sentry is a new concept that focuses on protecting the cluster of tomatoes. instead of trying to guard the whole bush. Simple in design and easy to use , Tomato Sentry employs a mosquito netting bag with a draw string, to enclose each cluster of tomatoes.
While you understandably won't be able to cover each and every tomato with these Tomato Sentry Cinch Sacks, you can still protect way more than the birds, squirrels, rats, raccoons, stink bugs and worms can ravage. While ripe tomatoes are visible through the netting, fear not, because the netting keeps sharp-eyed birds from biting down on the tomatoes. Harvesting is as simple as untying your shoe. Undo the bow, open the net, pick the ripe fruit and retie the bow, until all the fruit in that cluster has been picked. Once the whole cluster has been picked, you can reuse the bags on developing clusters. Since birds and even stinkbugs don't typically bother the green fruits, there is no great hurry to cover them. Just be sure to inspect the new cluster for any caterpillars or insects before reusing the net from the harvested cluster. The product info says that they can be used two to four times per season, but I think if taken care of properly, you can extend that time.
As the garden-advice person in this equation, here's what I love most about the Tomato Sentry -- you can still apply other needed insecticides or foliar feeds with all the rigamarole that it takes to move a mosquito net. Don't get me wrong! If you still have mosquito nets and still like to use them, I'm not really here to change your mind. Meanwhile, the nets will also help shade any fruits that find themselves out from under the natural shade of the foliage.
Tomato Sentry nets are being produced by Texas-based Turbine Industries, who probably made your favorite hummingbird feeder. Although new this season, Tomato Sentry it is becoming more widely available. Already in the Houston and surrounding area it is available at many garden centers and hardware/lumber/feed stores. More information on these nets and local retailers can be found at www.tomatosentry.com.
Until next issue, here's to Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard exclusively, 6-10 a.m. Saturdays and 7-10 a.m. Sundays, only on NewsRadio 740 KTRH.
Be sure to check out Randy's Event Page to see where else Randy will be for the next few weekends. Bring your plants, bugs, and diseases for identification purpose.