Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE03-496
This project compared trellis-grown cucumbers and tomatoes with free-standing plants, on three types of mulch, for yield and disease severity. One goal was to determine if using a trellis system was beneficial, in terms of fruit quality, yield, disease, and insect prevention. Another goal was to determine if one mulch was better than another, in terms of weed control and moisture holding ability. The overall goal of the project was to find the advantages and disadvantages of growing cucumbers and tomatoes on a trellis system with various mulches.
Organically grown tomato and cucumber transplants were planted into treatment plots in early June. Treatments were 2 crops (cucumber and tomato) x 2 trellis (with vs. without) x 3 mulch types (hay, shredded newspaper, and crushed leaves). Data was collected throughout the harvest season and included weight, total number, quality rating, soil temperatures, soil moisture, and hours spent weeding each treatment.
The trellis system increased cucumber and tomato quality significantly but did not affect fruit weights, number or total yield, soil temperature or soil moisture, or disease severity. The hay mulch produced higher quality ratings and yield in both cucumber and tomato than did the newspaper mulch and crushed leaves. An unexpected observation was that the trellised plants showed signs of stress in late August, appearing more wilted than the non-trellised plants, possibly due to wind abrasion.
Kristie noted that the project was designed to gather scientific data, therefore economic comparisons were difficult to make. However, she was able to get a better economic return from the trellised vegetables than the non-trellised crops due to the quality differences. The trellis system cost approximately $2.00 per plant to put in place. With such an economic input, it is important to grow crops for several years that can utilize the trellis.