Staking tomatoes makes all the difference in the health and production of your plants. I learned the hard way the first year I grew tomatoes. I allowed the plants to sprawl on the ground. It required no work on my part, but many of the tomatoes rotted before they were harvested, and blight quickly claimed the plant. Staking eventually saved the day!
The Journey to Staking Tomatoes
By year two, I had bought wire tomato cages. They’re cheap, easy to find and relatively durable. I quickly learned, however, that they don’t really do that great of a job, especially with indeterminate tomatoes that can grow up to six feet tall. Most of the varieties I grew that year were rampant vining types, and by midsummer they had rocketed past the top of the cage and flopped down over the sides to trail along the ground, making them susceptible to soil-borne foliar diseases.
I eventually started staking my tomatoes, using eight-foot lengths of one-by-two-inch untreated furring strips. Staking allows me to fit more plants in my garden beds and keeps the foliage off the ground.
How to Stake Tomatoes
Immediately after planting, drive the stakes about a foot into the ground, four to six inches away from the tomato seedling. If you wait until plants are actively growing, you risk damaging the root system.
As the seedlings grow, secure them to the stake with strips of soft cloth, nylon stockings or twine, looping the tie in a figure 8 around and between the plant stem and the support.
Prune plants occasionally by removing the suckers that develop in the crotches between the main stem and the side branches. Pruning directs the plant’s energy into producing fruits rather than leafy growth. I prune several times in summer by pinching out the suckers with my fingers.
Niki Jabbour grows edible plants all year near Halifax, Nova Scotia. She's a frequent contributor to Horticulture and the author of Veggie Garden Remix and other titles. Visit her online at Savvy Gardening. This article was excerpted from Edibles Year-Round in Horticulture 2014.
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