Tomatoes are some of the most resilient, strong and fast growing plants in the vegetable garden, but for growing tomatoes proper support is essential. Tall tomato plants are more susceptible to damage from strong winds or falling over because of their weight when they are full of fruit. Tomato supports help keep the plants upright and healthy , which also keeps fruit in good condition.
Depending on the setup of your garden, there are several great ways to support tomatoes. Each method of supporting tomato plants has different benefits and level of difficulty to set up. The best tomato support method for you really depends on how and where your plants are growing, how much effort you are willing to put in, and the variety of tomato you select.
Do Tomatoes Need Support?
Supporting tomatoes is generally seen as a basic requirement when growing them. Keeping your tomato plants upright and off the ground avoids disease, makes weeding and feeding far easier, reduces loss to pests and produces cleaner better quality tomatoes for you to eat! After all, the point is to grow your own food. That being said the necessity is less with some tomato varieties.
Determinate Tomatoes vs Indeterminate Tomatoes: Support Needs
Determinate and indeterminate tomato plants behave differently and have differing staking requirements. This is something to keep in mind from the start, when selecting your seeds or plants.
In general determinate varieties of tomatoes require less support. They are less prone to vining. I would still recommend some basic staking even for these tomato types, but a simple stake or common tomato cage should do the job. With some determinate tomato varieties you can even get away without any staking or other support. These are bush variety tomatoes that are hybridized as patio tomatoes. They remain short and stocky throughout their life span.
Indeterminate varieties are a whole other story. These prolific vines need to be tamed and well supported as the plant grows. Why go through the extra hassle of growing indeterminate tomato varieties? They are prolific tomato producers and produce fruit for a longer period of time. These varieties delay the end of the season until the first hard frost.
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Best Tomato Support Methods
Learn about the best ways to support tomato plants so that you can use the method that works for you in your own vegetable garden.
These tips will help whether you are planting straight in the ground or growing your tomatoes in raised beds.
Grow Them On A Fence
Using a fence to support tomatoes takes planning before the tomatoes are actually planted. Open wire fences, like chicken wire, are best used for this purpose, but the wire has to be strong enough and provide some protection to plants when the tomatoes begin to wind their way through the open spaces in the fencing. Establish a fenced area and plant tomatoes along fencing. As tomato plants begin to grow they will wind themselves up through the open fencing and anchor themselves on their own.
Stakes are the easiest support system to be able to set up for tomato plants because you can add them to plants wherever they are in the garden and at every stage of growth. A very thick, sturdy pole or garden stake, that is bigger and thicker than the tomato plant you are adding is the best choice. Make sure that it is well into the soil and then use ties to attach the tomato plant securely to the stake along the length of the tomato plant, starting at the bottom of the main stem, then moving to the middle and then another at the top.
I am particularly fond of bamboo stakes. They are inexpensive and flexible. I buy them extra long, and use a few for each plant tying them together at the top for added stability.
Cage Tomato Plants
Tomato cages are the most popular and traditional way to support tomatoes, because they provide an individual support system for each tomato plant in the garden. Each plant gets it's own tomato cage. Tomatoes can grow up and in between the cages, and strong winds won’t cause much damage, if any, while tomatoes are in the cages. The one downfall to using traditional, round wire cages is that they are often a lot shorter than most tomato plants.
Newer sturdier tomato cages have been created. These are square in shape, and use much thicker metal. They are also a lot taller and provide more support for taller tomatoes that become very heavy with fruit which tends to grow on the higher stems.
Setting up a sturdy tomato trellis that uses wood and strong string to establish the lines, is another great way to support tomatoes that a lot of gardeners are using. Using this way to support your tomatoes does require a little more time because you need to train tomatoes into viney versions of themselves, with just their stems growing along the string.
A sturdy trellis can support several tomato plants. My neighbor had two trellises angled against each other like a tent and had amazing fruit production.
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Each of these options is great, you just need to decide which one works best in the garden space that you have available to you.
Supports are important. If you are growing roses, check out my plant and rose trellis suggestions.