That's a great system!
I started by using basic cheap tomato cages, but they're pretty weak. I then built my own using cattle panel -- heavy steel fencing sections cut down with bolt cutters, and shaped into cylinders with the liberal application of obscenities.
You can see them here, in the background:
MK, Nice density. You must have great sun exposure. You beans look amazing too. My father used to use those wire baskets. its cheap and simple but not the most attractive ;-) Plus, I'd always catch my wrist on the exposed metal stubbs when pulling fruit out.
I love your stone raised beds with the stone border. If you get a chance, take a shot of the whole garden.
Do you gardent organically or are you a miracle-gro grower?
A bit wider shot of the beds below -- I ripped out the grass along our driveway, and stepped them into the hill.
Definitely no Miracle Gro here -- organic compost, sometimes a little TomatoTone, and compost tea. I've got massive sun exposure in this spot -- makes for a fantastic start to the growing season, but it also contributes to the overall misery by July, when everything takes a two-month siesta. The midsummer heat here is just brutal. With the tomatoes and beans, it's a sprint to get as much growth and fruit production in as possible before the heat really sets in, which both shuts down the plants and exacerbates pests and disease.
My biggest problems are funguses (leaf spot, etc.) and leaf-footed bugs, which go by a much more expressive name in my yard. I don't mind sharing, but any tomato they feed on goes sour and refuses to ripen. Once past the nymph stage, they have no predators, other than me. I keep a spray bottle handy with an oil/soap mix in it that kills them on contact, but they still take a toll.
MK I feel your frustrations believe me. I have vine borers that have broken my heart too many times with summer squash.
Regarding your heat problem, have you seen this Shade cloth? 40% reduction in light trnasmission. Claims to drop the tempatire as much as 20% Not sure how you'd rig it though?
For general pests I've had great success with neem?
Also, I love Plant Tone. Do you really think their specialised blends (roses, tomaotes...) really work are a gimic?
Squash borers are truly the devil's own -- it took me a while to figure out what was even causing the damage, since it looks like the stems get some kind of weird rot. I've had decent luck using BT on other kinds of worms, but I've given up on growing summer squash here.
I've used shade cloth a bit, but to do it right I'd really need to put up a structure. If I were staying here, I'd probably do a shade sail, with posts set in concrete -- but that will have to be someone else's project.
Honestly, I don't have any idea about Plant Tone -- the tomato version is the only one I buy, and I use it on all kinds of things.
Today I gave all the tomatoes a foliar feed of this stuff, which I love:
Then more mixed with extra Alaska fish fertilizer and seaweed on the ground.
Mark, I think the most important consideration for choosing varieties is to find out what grows best in your area of the world. What works in Southern California might not work for someone that lives very much to the north (you).
What I've found the best is to go to the farmers market and find out they are growing and have success with.
Buy those. I've had delusions of grandeur trying to grow Cherokee Purple, and many other varieties that have not turned out so well.
One thing you can give and still keep...is your word.
Last year I didn't do too well with the bigger tomatoes (pineapple and cherokee purple). My wife still teases me about my $100 tomatoes.
This year I am going to try San Marzano and probably Sun Gold because I like to munch on cherry tomatoes while working in the garden.
I am also going to try out making a couple raised beds.
Not warm enough here yet to put out the plants, but soon.
I really enjoy orange tomatoes. KBX, Kellogg's Breakfast, and Persimmon grow well for me and taste great. It's hard to make recommendations because different varieties will peform differently in your garden. Half the fun is trying all the varieties. Keep good notes and after several seasons you can have a list of top toms for your garden.
I have to difagree about Cherokee Purple, for me it is far down on the list for black tomatoes. They taste pretty good, but for me they get too large, the plants don't produce all that many fruit, and the have a very short window of peak ripeness...they will spoil rather fast if you have more than you can eat. Same story with Brandywine, overrated IMO.
It's also a good idea to try and get early, mid, and late season ripening toms so you get a steady flow and aren't inundated all at once. Stupice is a good early tom.
I find Sun Golds too sweet, but Black Cherry is awesome for snacking and they produce boatloads.
Good luck on your season!