Lean On Me: Tomato Supports

June 2, 2015 | By | More

tomato supportsAh…the taste of a summer tomato. Does anything else compare to plucking one of these beauties and snacking on it, still warm from the sun? I used to do this when I was a kid, and I still do it today. There is supreme gratification in growing these summer treats yourself.

Choosing the right types of plants for your situation is important for tomato success. In the world of tomato plants, there are determinate plants and there are indeterminate plants. Determinate plants are more compact and are good for containers and small spaces. Most of their fruiting occurs on the terminal end of the plant, and they tend to produce fruit earlier in the season. Indeterminates are the giants of the tomato world, growing an “indeterminate” height until it’s too cold for them to grow any taller. They produce tomatoes all along their stems and branches and up until frost kills them.

If you want to successfully grow tomatoes, you will need to invest in good tomato supports and be diligent about maintaining the plants. Properly training tomatoes to a support structure helps promote good air circulation for fewer plant diseases, makes tomatoes easier to harvest, and helps keep the foliage from touching the soil which can harbor fungus.

Types of tomato supports:

Tomato stakes are simple stakes that are pushed into the ground next to your plant. Simply tie the vines to the stake at regular intervals. Stakes can become overwhelmed by hefty indeterminate plants and can topple over with too much weight attached to them, so they are best used with determinate tomatoes. Stakes are inexpensive to buy, and they are super-easy to make yourself from large branches, bamboo, salvaged metal rods or rebar. Making a tripod using three stakes connected at the top is much more stable than single stakes and this is a good solution for a low-cost support for indeterminate varieties.

Tomato cages are usually made of metal and are designed to encircle the tomato plants. These are good if you don’t want to do a lot of pruning, since the cages can help corral unruly vines. Tomato cages can be used with any type of tomato plant but in my experience, they tend to be too flimsy to accommodate rapidly-growing, large indeterminate plants.

Tomato ladders have rungs that you can wind vines around and tie plants to for support. The best tomato supports I have used and what I currently use in the Tomato Envy garden are the stacking tomato ladders from Gardener’s Supply. As disclosure, GS did send me some of these to use in my garden this year, but I’ve been buying them for years even when my sickly tomato plants barely climbed past the first few rungs.

These ladders are made of very heavy-duty metal and they are shaped like a “V” for added stability once you sink them into the soil. In fact, during my first year growing tomatoes, we endured a hurricane followed by a tropical storm with high winds. NONE of the tomato ladders toppled over! They stack neatly when it comes time to store them in my little garden shed. When the pieces were stacked high, these ladders easily handled my massive plants last year – some of which grew to more than 8 feet tall! Oh, and they look nice in the garden, too. When you grow food right next to your backyard pool and in plain view of the deck, that’s important.

Whatever type of support you decide to use, install it as soon as possible after you transplant your tomatoes to the garden. Once the weather heats up, your plants will grow quickly and installing the tomato supports too late can injure plant roots or damage growing vines. When you give your plants a little something to lean on, they’ll reward you with gazillions of tasty tomatoes!

 

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Category: General, Home and Garden, Kitchen Garden

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