September 20, 2011
Tomato plants covered in bags to protect them from frost damage
Photo by Jim Ruen
I’m trying to squeeze a few more tomatoes of my plants by protecting them from the frost.

You’ve bagged tomatoes in the supermarket, but have you ever bagged tomatoes on the bush? I did this past week when the garden was threatened with an early frost. I was able to cover peppers and raspberry canes with plastic used earlier this year on high tunnels. However, when it came to my 8-foot tall Early Girl tomato, I was stymied.

First, a word about the plant: Never have I had an Early Girl variety tomato plant grow and grow and grow like this one did. It topped the 4-foot tall cage by mid-July. I then wired a second cage top down to the first and drove a 7-foot steel post alongside for support. Within weeks, the aggressive plant had topped the new cage, as well.

The height was matched only by productive output. I picked my first tomato before July even closed its doors. That may not be special for many gardeners, but our tree-shaded garden gets a mere 5 hours of sunlight on the longest day. The past few years, we hardly picked a tomato until late August.

While I had no problems letting other nearly spent tomatoes go, I couldn’t let all the Early Girls left on the mega-vine go to waste. In the corner of the garage was a folded-up plastic bag, but not just any bag. Left over from the purchase of a single-bed mattress earlier this year, it was a full 7 feet long. With the help of a couple of long rods, I managed to slip the bag over the towering bush. Now that the weather has warmed, I’ll be pulling it off again. With any luck, I’ll be picking fresh tomatoes through September and October, too.

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