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
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
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
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
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 – 2015, Sarah Toney. All rights reserved.