Hot Wire Your Tomatoes

By Charlie Nardozzi

Well, it was only a matter of time until body piercing made it into the garden. Actually, a Mr. Brimble of Geelong, Australia, has been piercing the stems of his tomatoes with copper wire for 37 years with fantastic results. He says the technique was passed down to him from his father who originally heard it from a Chinese market gardener. It's so simple that it's hard to believe.

When your tomato transplant's stem is as thick in diameter as a pencil, insert a 3-inch-long, 18- to 20-gauge copper wire through the stem just above the soil line, piercing the stem through the middle. The wire should be pulled through until you see equal lengths of wire on both sides. After about a week, the wired tomatoes should start to become noticeably greener, and eventually, Brimble reports, the tomatoes produce larger fruits and are less prone to disease, especially verticillium and fusarium wilts.

Being a skeptical gardener, I decided to ask our National Gardening test gardeners to give this technique a try. The test was simple: They would grow two plants of the same variety side by side, and treat them identically, but only one plant would get the copper-wire treatment. Our testers' results using this technique were split right down the middle: 50 percent saw no difference in growth, disease resistance, or yield. The other 50 percent said the wired tomato grew better, some significantly so.

So I still can't tell you for sure, but I know I'm curious enough to try this technique in my garden.

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