Staking Tomatoes

There are many options when it comes to staking tomatoes. It use to be that some straw under the plant was sufficient, but nowadays staking, so that they fruits are cleaner, less likely to blemish or be bothered by pests, is the most accepted method. Beyond that it’s your choice. Cages are often the most popular option, but they can topple over, make fruit hard to pick and are more likely to be heavier leaf growers than fruit producers. There’s also the chance of damaging the plants, especially the stems when working with cages.

Whatever you choose to do for staking, you’ll want to have a plan in place by the time you put your tomato plants in the ground. Try to get your support structures up either at the time of planting or within the first two weeks, this would be the first two weeks of June for most people. If it can’t happen until later, try to have it done by the end of June, or you’ll miss out on some key steps.

Individual stakes, in which the gardner trains the tomato up, are the best for better yields. They are also a good option for compact gardens, or for the gardener who can’t help buying more than they have room for, like me. In the end you’ll be glad you do it, but it does take work, especially in July when the tomato plants really jump. You will need to decide on the length of your stakes, anything four foot to six foot should be sufficient (this is the measurement from the ground up, you’ll need an extra six inches to a foot pushed into the ground). Tomatoes can be tied to the stake with a flexible material that won’t damage or rub the plant. I use retired tights (stockings/panty hose). They are flexible and easy to use and won’t damage the plants. I just cut the legs into 1″ strips and either use them as a loop or cut the strip to make a tie. You can also use an old piece of clothing that has some stretch, or purchase tomatoes ties at your local gardening center. Start soon after the tomato is planted. Tie each six inches, or less to the stake and pinch out any wayward growth to make the plants tall and straight. Use extra ties around areas with fruit development. This method requires plant maintenance almost every day.

Using string has developed a following lately. It requires the same amount of work in the beginning stages, but not the daily maintenance of the individual stakes. You can build a frame that stretches across your tomatoes and tie heavy string vertically, something like clothesline string works well. Some gardeners use tent spikes to hold down the bottom of the strings. I tie rocks or bricks to the ends. Then you just train them up, not unlike beans. For this type of support method, some monitoring is needed each week. You can tie more string for supports, which means it’s a more flexible way to support tomatoes. Another way to use string is to put stakes at the ends of rows and tie string horizontally at intervals. This is the most versatile, as you can just keep winding the tomatoes stems through the string. without adding string or pinching stems.


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