There are many selected varieties of tomato. They can be different for the shape of the fruit (pear-shaped, elongated, round, …) and the color of the skin (from yellow to red with black streaks or green ). Also we distinguish the different varieties of tomatoes according to the type of plant growth: there are tomatoes with specified growth (that stop growing) or indeterminate varieties (that continue to grow).
Especially the cultivars with unlimited growth need a growing net. The term “undetermined” in fact is to indicate that the plant reaches a considerable height and mainly vertical development. Unlike other fixed-growing varieties that develop more in width and in height, forming small bushes.
The cultivation of tomato but also that of many other types of vegetable crops requires the use of guides for the vertical growth of the stem.
Applying growing net, plants guiding and tutoring becomes easy. Also it is possible to use growing net for other crops and reuse it year after year.
Growing net, as a vertical support and sometimes even horizontal, is necessary for the optimal growth and yield of crops. According to the kind of plant it is possible to choose a growing net with a different width in order to adjust the height required for the espalier.
Reasons why the cultivation requires the use of growing net.
First of all, tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) are plants that grow very tall. Secondly, they are annual herbaceous species, which means that their life cycle ends in a calendar year, or more generally in less than nine months depending on the climate. This short life cycle does not allow the lignification of the stem. Thus the tomato plant possesses a not lignified herbaceous stem. Therefore it is not very robust and bends easily under the weight of the yields.
Given the little resistance of the trunk and branches, any adverse weather conditions, such as strong winds and heavy rains, could easily damage the aerial part of the plant. Growing net offers a valid support for the branches and the fruits.
In addition, the fruits in contact with the ground may be subject to various problems. The most common are rots, damages caused by various insects that dig tunnels within the pulp. Finally soil dirties the surface. Furthermore, their ripening does not take place in an optimal manner because they are easily obscured by vegetation that grows shading the fruits.
The tomato plant thus requires an artificial support as the stem and the ramifications are not able to hang on individually and self-support, unlike other plants. Growing net is the ideal support especially for the indeterminate tomato cultivars. Sometimes it also require clips that should be fastened by the beginning of the development until the formation of the fruits.
Growing net should be installed at the time of transplantation or seedlings (recommended practice because it is not likely to damage the roots) at the time of sowing or subsequently as soon as the plants have reached a height of 20-30cm.
Disadvantages of using raffia for binding to the supports.
Binding the plants to some kind of support is a traditional and very common practice. It consists of the ligature of the stem around supports made out of bamboo or wooden poles. It is usually carried out after the plants have reached a height of at least 30cm.
This practice often cause injuries to the tissues of the plant. Furthermore the binding should be replicated every 20-25 cm, depending on the plant habit. Also, depending on the variety cultivated, ligatures should be redone approximately every 15-20 days.
Raffia can be used for only one season. On the contrary, growing net is ready to use and it does not require as much manual labor as raffia technique. The workers hands can turn out to be vectors of many viruses. Avoiding manipulating the plants significantly reduces the risk of spreading the virus over the entire cultivar. Growing net is reusable and storable. It does not trap bacteria because it is made out of a single plastic net unlike the raffia which is made of textile texture where dirtiness can accumulates and bacteria can hide and resist to pesticides. Growing net installation need a smaller amount of poles than methods that apply raffia.