Supporting Tomato Plants – Tomato Cages and Staking
When you read or talk about growing tomatoes it doesn’t take long for someone to mention staking or caging tomatoes.
If you have never grown tomatoes, it can be confusing why a plant needs so much help not to fall over, but it is vital for a thriving tomato plant that can handle the weight of its fruits and surrounding weather conditions.
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Why Do You Need to Stake or Cage Tomatoes?
Tomato plants are known for being weak and falling over easily. The tall, lanky stalks, thin branches, and heavy fruits make it hard for tomato plants to stand up and can often lead to the plants falling and breaking.
Tomato plants are also notorious for shallow root systems that tend to not have the power to support your plants and protect them from falling over.
Staking and caging your tomato plants helps give them the support they need to survive so you can get a great harvest from your plants.
How to Stake Tomatoes
Tomato stakes are a great option and a major space saver for smaller determinate varieties of tomatoes that often do not get over 2 to 3 feet tall. These tomato plants do not need the same level of support as much larger varieties but still need added structure to help hold up heavy fruits and survive summer storms.
Add your tomato stakes when you first plant your tomatoes so that there is no risk of damaging your plant’s sensitive roots.
Choose a tall stake to support your plants at the tallest height expected for them to grow. This will help prevent your plants from outgrowing the stake. Even if the plant gets taller than the average for that variety, your stake will be tall enough to support the main body of the plant.
Once your tomato plant has gotten large enough to connect to your stake, attach the tomato plant loosely. You do not want to attach it as tight as you would see in a plant designed to be transported from the nursery to the home, as this can prevent your tomato’s stalk from getting wide and strong.
Your attachment should be loose enough to allow the stalk to grow wider and to slide up the stake as your plant grows. You may need to adjust and replace the ties you use as your tomato plants grow to give them more room.
How to Cage Tomatoes
The best way to care for your tomatoes and provide the structure they need to grow is to provide your tomatoes with a quality tomato cage to handle the height and weight of the variety you are growing.
Most garden centers only sell smaller tomato cages so you may need to look harder for a full-size one or even build your own by placing stakes in the ground around your tomatoes and using rope or chicken wire to build a cage around your tomato plants.
Using rope or twine to build your tomato cages can be a great way to make harvesting easy because you can simply slip the ropes out of the way to reach in and grab ripe tomatoes.
To add more security you can use wood to connect the wood stakes along the top and use tent stakes to help build a grid between the top of your tomato cage and the ground. When doing this wrap the rope around each rung as you work your way down to help keep the horizontal ropes in place.
What to do if Your Tomatoes Outgrow Their Cage?
Tomato plants outgrowing their cages is a common problem that gardeners see. Most stores sell tomato cages that are small and ineffective for most full-grown determinate tomato varieties.
These small cages can not handle indeterminate tomato varieties that essentially do not stop growing through the season and often end up well over 6 feet tall with large heavy fruits on the longer-end branches that need extra support. If you find yourself in this situation you have a couple of options.
You can opt to use large stakes to help hold your tomato plants up but this can be a bit tricky and you need to avoid damaging the roots of your plant or surrounding plants while you place the new stakes.
The better option is to build on your tomato cage to help support your tomato plant. This can be done in a couple of ways.
You can place stakes outside of your garden bed then use rope or twine to create a web between them that can help support multiple tomato plants at once, or use your existing cage as support for adding a large cage of chicken wire or wire fencing around your tomato plant.
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