Tomato Support Techniques
Clever ideas for supporting tomato vines
Once your tomato seedlings are in the garden, the next big decision is how to support them. Tomatoes are vines, not bushes. Most varieties are healthier and more productive — as well as easier to pick — when they are supported up off the ground. So what'll it be: Stakes, cages, ladders or some other invention of your own?
Cindy Goodenow, the merchant responsible for sourcing most of our vegetable gardening products, is a fan of the Tomato Ladders, too: "I have a small garden in my front yard. With ladders I can get more plants in a small space. They keep my garden tidy."
Kathy LaLiberté, a founding employee at Gardener's Supply, chooses Tomato Cages: "I set the cages up when I plant in May and come back when it's time to start picking. The plants are well-supported and I don't need to bother with pruning or tying." She even uses the cages to create an enclosure with garden fabric to protect new transplants during cool spring weather.
Frank H. of Newton, Mass.: “The cherry tomato I grew in my Self-Watering Planter got so big so fast that I had to cobble together this frame support really fast. You can hardly see the framework, which is just as well cause it's pretty ugly. I'll be better prepared this year!”
Some gardeners tackle the problem like an engineer. The creative solutions we've seen are amazing. One gardener wrote:
"I find that using half-inch electrical conduit pipe is the best way to stake up tomatoes. Buy a 10-foot piece of pipe, cut it in half. They are easy to drive in ground. If your plants exceed the top of your pipe, buy a coupling and add a short piece of conduit to the top. They last for years seeing they are galvanized and are easy to store, inside or out."
How tall should your support be? The height depends on the variety of tomato you're growing, and where you live. Tall, indeterminate varieties growing in a warm climate, such as Texas, may get to be 6 feet tall. A determinate variety in a cooler climate may get no more than 30" tall.
As you go about choosing a tomato support, consider the following points:
- Is the tomato a determinate or indeterminate variety? Indeterminate varieties, such as cherry tomatoes, will usually benefit from a taller support. Determinate varieties can often get by with something smaller.
- Will you be pruning the "suckers" off your tomato plants to reduce the amount of foliage (use Ladders) or letting your plants grow unpruned (use Cages).
- If you use one of the taller supports, such as the Stacking Tomato Ladders, you should think about adding extra stabilization — especially if your plants are in a windy site. Bamboo poles are good for adding support.