5 Ways to Stake Tomatoes

5 Ways to Stake Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the #1 thing planted in my garden. We can tomato sauce, ketchup, whole tomatoes, salsa, etc. so we plant  a lot of tomato plants each year. If you aren’t careful tomatoes can get out of hand in a hurry- so strong staking or trellising is a must to keep them healthy and off the ground. If you shop your local garden center you have no doubt come across the tomato cage- a cone shaped, wire cage meant to hold up your precious tomatoes.  I used these for one year before giving up on them and their habit of toppling over as soon a the plant gained a little weight. Luckily, those little wire cones aren’t your only choice! Here are 5 different ways you can stake tomatoes to keep them happy, healthy and growing strong!

5 Ways to Stake Tomatoes

1. The Tomato Cage

stake tomatoes with a cage

Image from Eclectic Momma

There are a lot of cage options out there that work much better than the cheap, flimsy cones.  You can build your own using strong fencing and wooden or metal posts. Or you can buy pre-made cages. This is a good option if you only grow a few tomato plants each year and don’t want to have to continuously tie or train  your tomatoes. It can get expensive if you grow a large number of plants though. You can find a how-to on building your own, inexpensive tomato cage on Old World Garden Farms.

2. The Single Stake

single stake for tomatoes

This has been my go-to tomato support for years.  Simply drive a stake into the ground near your plant and gently tie the stem to the stake using twine or yarn, and repeat as the stems grow. This method works best if you are pulling off the suckers to leave one main stem. I usually pick the suckers for a few weeks before I get overwhelmed and give up! So as my plants get larger and bushier I simply loop the string around the entire plant, capturing the suckers and all- effectively making a “twine cage” around the plant. You can use what you have on hand as a stake- t-posts, rebar, bamboo, wooden posts. I use a combination of metal t-posts, rebar and bamboo. Make sure you match your stake to your plant- heavy growing indeterminate types should have taller stronger stakes, while shorter, determinate varieties should be fine with wood or bamboo.

 

3. The Florida Weave

Florida weave to stake tomatoes.jpg

We live down the road from a very large commercial tomato farm. And while I don’t admire their growing practices, I do admire their trellis! They use a system called The Florida Weave, which is essentially weaving tomato twine between posts and plants to hold up plants and fruit. As with a single stake, you will have to continue to run the twine as the plants grow. With our tomato plant numbers reaching past the 250 mark this year, I have decided to use this method to save on the number of stakes required in the garden. The Garden Betty has a nice post on using this method.

 

4. Vertical String Trellis

This is a common support method for tomatoes grown in greenhouses, but it can also be utilized in the garden as well.  You will need to make some sort of frame to support the strings – such as an A-Frame. Tie the strings to the top bar of the frame and then either loop it around the root ball of your plant or tie it to a bottom support bar. Then simply wrap the string around the plant as it grows (you can also use tomato clips). With this method you will also have to keep the plant pruned to one main stem, but it is a good method for those without a lot of space.

 

5. The Fence Panel

fencing to stake tomatoes

Wire fencing can also make a great support your tomato plants. We’ve used this method a couple times over the years when I replace my withering peas with tomatoes. It’s pretty simple to construct- just pound 2 metal t-posts in the ground and stretch your wire fencing between them. You can do a long stretch of fence, placing posts every 6-8 ft. Then tie up the stems with twine or string just as you would if you were  using a single stake. This way is nice if you can’t or don’t want to keep up with the suckers as you can just tie them up to the fence as well.

 

 

© 2014, Sarah Toney. All rights reserved.

11 comments on “5 Ways to Stake Tomatoes

  1. This post is such perfect timing for me! I was just researching ways to trellis tomato plants without a tomato cage. I have quite a collection of tomato cages I’ve acquired over the years but this year I have well over 60 tomato plants and not that many cages. We put up a fence panel yesterday to trellis our tomatillos but ran out of fencing to do that for the tomatoes. We do have a bunch of scrap wood so I think we’re going to try the single stake method. Thank you for this great post!

  2. […] 5 Ways to Stake Tomatoes | The Free Range Life […]

  3. Courtney says:

    We plant a lot of tomatoes here, too, I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets tired and gives up removing the suckers! We stake a lot of our plants too, suckers and all, but I really like the Florida Weave idea!

  4. Jean says:

    Another way: buy cattle panels, which are 16′ long, 5′ tall, and have 6″ square openings. Plant a row of tomatoes, and then put a cattle panel on either side of the row (so two 16′ cattle panels for one row of tomatoes). The two panels should be about 2′ apart (The cattle panels are attached here and there to a support stake….also, the panels can be attached a foot or so off of the ground, to make it taller, as the bottom 1′ of the tomato plant doesn’t need to be caged.) Then, as the tomatoes grow, add in sticks or posts that go between the two panels on either side of the plant (from one panel to the other panel) to make a cage around each plant. I just do that part as needed if one plant seems to be growing into the space of a neighboring plant. Cattle panels can be cut apart to make shorter fences (they don’t have to stay 16′ long). This system is great because it stores flat. There’s only been one time so far that I had a tomato that was too big to fit through the 6″ square opening and I had to lower it down to the ground to pull it out.

  5. Marissa says:

    We have used tepees and like them. If you have a bunch of saplings around that you don’t want, you can use them. Leave a little bit of the side branches still attached as spots for your twine to rest. Push them into the ground and tie the tops together above the plant.

  6. Julie says:

    I plan on trying the Florida weave this year. The posts should have been in the ground a week or two ago! It’s still not too late. Thanks for sharing these techniques.

  7. Lori says:

    I used cones and the square wire ones last year for the first time. They worked for a part of the year. You are right as soon as they start getting tomato heavy they bend and crumple and then they come apart at the welds. If you do use the cones I learned to put the cone in when you have the hole dug for the tomato and then back fill. Much easier then trying to stab the ends into the ground (they bend!!). I am using them this year on my peppers and eggplants and then they will go to the recycling center. I am back to the tried and true bamboo stakes. Next year I may try the weave ( i only have 8 plants – 2 Sungold, 2 Roma, 1 Mortgage Lifter, 1 yellow pear, 1 Black Krim and 1 Green Zebra)

  8. Patti says:

    Liked this so much I pinned and stumbled!

  9. […] none of these ideas are quite right for you, you can check out “5 Ways to Stake Tomatoes” from The Free Range Life and “Low and No Cost Trellis Ideas” from The 104 […]

  10. That’s amazing you grew over 250 tomatoes in one year! I’ve never grown my own tomatoes before, but I can’t wait to finally be able to. I had no idea they could take over so much! I will keep these techniques in mind. Thanks!

  11. Vickie says:

    This is great information. Last year I grew a garden for the first time in many, many years. My tomatoes went crazy! I ended up with a tomato forest and I think a few trolls and fairies set up residence in there! ;) I needed some suggestions on better ways to tie up the little beasts – the tomatoes, not the trolls. Thanks. Oh, I found you on stumbleupon!

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