Techniques from

How to Grow World Record Tomatoes

by Charles H. Wilber.

The book presents things in a jumbled order, and is frequently confusingly worded. I've tried to find all the techniques and present them in the order you would use them.


Make two compost bins, side by side, from "dog wire" (1x2" wire mesh). The bins should be 4 feet high and 4-6 feet in diameter.

Start with a 3 inch deep layer of dry, coarsly ground "hay" of kudzu (or other legume) and sudex (or other fibrous material). Water evenly to moisten. Put 2 inches of cow manure or 1 inch of chicken manure on top, then 1/4 inch of garden soil, a sprinkling of colloidal clay and either granite dust or wood ashes.

Repeat the layers, including shredded green kudzu (or other legume) in the "hay" layers, until the bin is full and rounded. Cover with a tarp to protect from rain. Water pile by hand as needed to keep moist.

Every 3 days (or as often as the interior reaches 160 degrees), use a pitchfork to transfer the pile from one bin to the other, taking care to move the outside layers of the old pile to the interior of the new pile. After two weeks, turn once a week until no more heating occurs. Store in barrels, garbage cans, etc. for up to three years, adding water as needed to keep moist.

Green manure

Plant rye and hairy vetch in the fall where tomatoes will be planted in the spring, mowing and tilling in 30 days before planting crops. After tilling in, cover the planting area to protect from rain, so the ground isn't too wet at planting time.

Planting and mulching

Plants will be set 5 feet apart.

Dig a hole 24 inches wide and 6 inches deep, reserving the soil to refill the hole. Dig the hole 6 inches deeper and scatter that soil around the garden. Mix 1 part compost to 3 parts reserved soil (skim soil from the surface elsewhere in the garden to supplement the reserved soil as needed) and refill the hole with that, firming as you fill, and leaving a depression in the center where the plant will go.

Pinch off all leaf stems except the top pair, but leave the buds to produce suckers. Set the plant at its original depth, just barely covering the root ball.

Make a 4 foot wide, 1/4 inch deep band of compost or well-rotted manure along each side of the row, one foot away from the plants. Cover that lightly with alfalfa meal, till them together, and smooth.

Mulch is made from baled straw that has weathered for a few months. Break a straw bale into square mats several inches thick. Consider the plant the center square of a 3x3 grid. Put straw mats in the 8 outer squares, pressing the edges together firmly to make a weed-proof barrier. Fill the center square with finely chopped leaves or straw about an inch deep.

Watering and caging

The watering system is made of 10 foot sections of 3/4 inch PVC pipe. Along one side of the pipe, drill one 3/32 inch hole every foot. Connect pipes into 40 or 50 foot lengths as needed. Cap one end, and attach a hose fitting to the other. Lay a pipe on the mulch on each side of the row, one foot from the plants, with the holes pointing down. Keep the soil under the mulch moist, but not soggy. Fertilize young plants with compost tea.

When the plants are tall enough to need support, form a cage from 6-inch mesh concrete reinforcement wire 5 feet by 9 feet. It should have 19 vertical (5 foot long) wires. Form it into a cylinder 5 feet high and 3 feet wide, joining the ends with hog rings. Move the watering pipes out from the plants enough to set the cage over the plant, on top of the mulch. 24- to 30-inch lengths of rebar, each with a hook welded on one end, can be used like tent pegs to anchor the cages. For each cage, hammer three pegs (spaced evenly around the cage) into the ground so that the bottom of the peg is inside the cage, and the hook rests securely over the second wire from the ground. To support the plant while it is small, insert 3 bamboo sticks through the cage so that they form a triangle enclosing the stem of the plant, and tie them to the cage.

The first pair of water pipes should now be just outside the cages, and a second pair of pipes should be added 3 feet further out.


Below the main fork of the plant, allow 6 suckers to grow, and allow each of them to fork once, yielding 12 growing tips. Allow the tips of the main fork to fork into 3 tips each, for a total of 18 growing tips per plant. Tie one tip loosely to the outside of each vertical wire of the cage. Use soft, 3-ply string and tie just below a leaf axil. As they grow, keep them trained to their vertical wires.

As other suckers grow, if they come from a strong section of the vine, allow them to grow until they produce a flower cluster, then pinch the tip out of the sucker. Otherwise, pinch out the whole sucker. If the sucker is already more than 1 1/2 inches long, pinch the tip instead of removing the whole sucker.

As the vines grow up, you may want to stack a second cage on top of the first, attaching with hog rings. On stacked cages, you should use guy wires for extra stability.


For best results, measure the center growing tip of your average plant. A normal rate of growth might be 1 to 2 inches a day, depending on variety. If the rate changes suddenly, a problem is indicated. Check moisture levels (for too wet or too dry) and try adding compost, which is good for most problems.

Never touch wet leaves. Remove diseased foliage from the garden and do not compost it. Use a torch to sanitize your cages each year.


Tomatoes can be grown in half whiskey barrels or similar-sized containers. Use the same 1 part compost to 3 parts topsoil, fine mulch, caging system, and watering system as for growing in the ground.