Most types of tomato plants are vegetables that never stop growing. The botanical term to describe this type of blooming and fruit-bearing is the word indeterminate.
As they keep expanding, it’s important to guide them in the right direction thanks to an adequate structure. Which materials are best? What is the best structure for tomato plants? And what is the best way to tether the plant to the stakes? Follow these tips to learn how to stake tomato plants.
Before diving into the details, take note that the timing is crucial: set stakes up as soon as you plant your tomato seedlings. That way, you’ll avoid wounding and damaging roots, which would be inevitable if you did it later on.
Best materials for tomato stakes
Whether you choose to use bamboo, wood, metal or plastic, it’s all the same to the tomato plant in the end. So the two main considerations for you to decide are convenience (price, availability, durability…) and appeal: does it look good?
Regarding the tether:
Again, there are several options to choose from. Each is as effective as the next to tie your plants to the stakes, be it coated wire, hemp string, coconut fiber, raffia, or even plastic clips. Our tip: favor natural materials. They are softer and more flexible and thus won’t wound stems as much on windy days.
How to stake tomato plants
Basic stakes, either straight or with spiral twists:
- No need to fiddle around with nails, twine and screws. Readily available in every garden store at affordable prices.
- Many types to choose from: bamboo, wood, metal, plastic…
- Very long lifespan.
- Only comes in a few standard heights.
- Use requires pruning each plant to a single stalk, which lowers productivity.
V-stake or A-frame:
- To begin with, tie the tips of two stakes together at one end.
- Repeat as many times as needed along the growing bed.
- Align each frame, leaving enough space between them to allow for air circulation. This protects against appearance and spread of diseases.
- Tie the tips of each frame to a very long pole to consolidate the structure.
- Later, upon transplanting, place each seedling at the foot of a pole.
- You decide which height is best,
- Long lifespan as well.
- Higher productivity per tomato plant.
- Requires taking apart and storage every year.
- Poles fill the storage shed up when not in use.
The “Clothesline” technique:
This is very often applied in greenhouses because the frame of the greenhouse itself can be used to attach cables and wires.
Which direction is best? It mostly depends on the type of supports.
- In greenhouses, very often, strings run up and down vertically. The twine can be thin, since the vine itself still bears its weight and uses the string only for guidance.
- In the field, horizontal lines are typically the easiest to set up, as they run from post to post. In this case, wire or sturdy nylon that doesn’t stretch should be used because it carries almost all the weight.
- However, what suits tomato plants best is at an angle, because they will twirl around it naturally without needing much manual “alignment”. Again, a rather strong type of string is needed in this case.
- A string is woven from one post to the next.
- As you pull the string through, you “weave” in and out. For example, in front of the first plant, then behind the next, and in front of the third…
- Keep going on until you reach the end of the row. Loop around the last post.
- Weave your way back, this time crossing each plant stem on the other side.
That way, neighboring plants hold each other up. With this purpose in mind, a new string is woven in this way every 10 inches high (25 cm). As the plants grow, keep up with the weaving!
Trellis and tomato cages:
Sometimes straight, sometimes shaped into a cone, using cages or trellis is best suited to growing tomatoes in pots on a deck or balcony. In much the same way, wall mounts may steadfastly hold a lattice in place.
Actually, the goal is ornamental even as it aims to be convenient.
It’s possible to purchase a lattice ready-made. Otherwise, gear up and make one yourself with a combination of bamboo, wooden poles, or plastic stakes tied together.
Short stakes with plastic hooks:
These are ideal for short, bushy cherry tomato plants. It serves the purpose of gathering branches together in a clump, thus avoiding them falling over to the side.
Similarly to orchid stakes, clips slide up and down a stake and prop a branch up. Check every now and then which branches are bearing many fruits to adjust the clips.
- Not suited to larger tomato varieties.
What is the best way to tether tomato plants to stakes?
The knot itself is in the middle, with one loop around the stake and the other around the stem.
In doing so, you’ll keep the stem from rubbing directly against the stake. In any case, best anticipate growth and avoid strangling the stem: keep the tie loose and don’t tighten the noose too much.
To learn more, read:
Makeshift tomato stake by Man Chung under Unsplash license
Bamboo stake by Steven Reynolds under © CC BY 2.0
Spiral ‘twist’ stake for tomato by Markus Spiske under Pixabay license
A-frame by ViryiMarin2 under Pixabay license
Tomato with single vertical string by moonrock under Pixabay license
Diagonal strings by Antonio José Céspedes López under Pixabay license
White tomato cage by forstefany under Pixabay license
Cherry tomato stakes by enaoniro under Pixabay license
Tether in a figure-eight knot by Nacka under Pixabay license