Tomato Support Techniques

Tomatoes ripening on a supportTo prevent rot, keep ripening fruit off the ground by using supports.

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?

Tomato cageTomato Cages are among our most popular tomato supports. Choose them if you have plenty of space and little time for pruning and tying vines.
Tomato Ladders take up less spaceTomato Ladders take up less space, so they're good for compact gardens. By adding height to the stackable ladders, you can still accommodate plants with long vines.

How much room do you have?

For small-space gardens, choose a compact support, such as the Tomato Ladder. It's ideal if you're using square-foot gardening techniques. And because the ladder is stackable, you can use it for just about any kind of tomato, from short "determinate" varieties to tall , "indeterminate" varieties. To keep the plant tidy and well-supported, prune the vines as they grow.

If you have a little more room, choose a cage-type tomato support, which is similar, but has a larger footprint. Because of the extra room, tomato cages can handle vigorous plants with little or no pruning and no need to tie the stems to the support.

You can also use a simple stake, but you'll have to spend more time tying the vines to the stake as they grow. In addition, pruning will keep staked plants well-supported and tidy.

What kind of tomatoes do you grow?

Is the tomato a determinate or indeterminate variety? The plant tag or seed packet should indicate what kind you have. Indeterminate varieties, such as cherry tomatoes, need 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? If so, use Tomato Ladders. Or, are you letting your plants grow unpruned? If so, use cage-style supports. If you're not sure about pruning, read about the benefits and drawbacks of each approach.

Tomato suckerstomato suckers

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.

Tomato tiesBe sure to have some type of tomato ties on hand, especially if your growing space is limited.

Not sure what type of tomato you want to grow? To help you choose, read this article: How to Choose a Tomato Variety.

Whatever support you choose, you'll want something to tie up the vines. Tomato ladders and cage-style supports will require less tying and support; single stakes will require more. We like to use Foam Ties or Re-Usable Plant Ties, but torn-up T-shirts and nylon stockings work well, too.

Last updated: 07/26/2023