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Stake Your Plants: Kinds of Garden Stakes and Tomato Cages

Question: Can you walk me through the different kinds of garden stakes and which stake would be best for what plants?

Answer: There are a few different kinds of plant stakes, each suited to certain growth habits. With all kinds of garden stakes, it's best to tackle staking early in the season, before the plant puts on a lot of growth and becomes challenging to work with. Staking early also ensures that the plant's foliage will hide the stakes as it grows, making them less obvious.

Single stakes are available in wood, plastic and metal; of these, bamboo stakes are both popular and inexpensive. Use these on plants that are fairly sturdy but tall, like monkhoods (Aconitum spp.) and foxgloves (Digitalis spp.). Usually these plants need only one garden stake per clump. The stake can be shorter than the estimated mature height of the plant; 3/4s of that height is a good goal. Once the plant has some height to it, tie it to the bamboo stake (or other material) by looping a plant tie around the entire clump. Plant ties can be storebought or homemade; they should be made of soft, flat material, such as cloth strips. String or wire might cut into the stems, so avoid it.

You can also use single stakes on weaker plants, such as delphiniums and hollyhocks. With these, you'll likely need to use multiple plant stakes, one per flowering stem, and tie them at intervals as the stems grow taller.

Tomato cages are usually four feet tall. They are made of circular rings. Put tomato cages in the ground early and the plant will grow up through the rings, using them for support. This kind of garden stake is not just for growing tomatoes. It works equally well on the above-mentioned delphinums, hollyhocks and the like.

Peony supports are a third style of garden stake. These are a circular piece with bars crossing the center of the circle, forming a grid. Again, put peony supports in place early and the plant's stems will grow up through the grid. Besides peonies, you can use these garden stakes on Shasta and Montauk daisies, border phlox, asters, smooth ironweed, New York ironweed and other tall, clumping plants. You can make your own peony support by placing four bamboo stakes around the perimeter of the plant and tying string to them in a crisscross pattern.

Ring supports are basically a metal stake with a loop at the top, which you can wrap around single-stemmed flowers such as gladiolus, hyacinths and tall dahlias.

See some great tall and narrow perennials.

Make your own garden stakes with prunings, also known as pea fencing.

Understand the ins and outs of staking, deadheading, dividing, thinning and more with The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting & Pruning Techniques (Expanded Edition).

Learn the secrets of companion planting in Carrots Love Tomatoes.

Stay on top of vegetable garden tasks with the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook.

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