Growing tomatoes without stakes or cages allows for an abundant harvest: one plant will give you a production equivalent to three staked tomatoes.
Without any of the hassle, too!
Space for tomatoes
The first requirement to succeed in growing no-stake tomatoes is space: in the garden, a single tomato plant will cover more than a square yard (meter). Varieties that have limited growth – ‘Felicia’, ‘Ferline’, cherry tomato, plum tomato – are perfect for this technique.
After planting, your tomato plants will feel right at home and spread around. The main stem will wind all over the place, and the plant will grow many leaves: two sure signs that fruit-bearing will be abundant.
Good mulch on the ground
Plant your tomato plants in mid-May, early enough for an end-of-summer harvest lasting even until the first frost spells. Add a handful of crushed nettles in each planting hole, and water once or twice to ensure settling in.
Unless your soil is rocky or sandy, it is best to cover the ground with dry mulch (straw, flax or grass trimmings) to keep the fruits away from moisture which would otherwise rot them. You can also lay crates or wooden pallets around the plants for this.
The goal is to keep fruits from touching the soil directly.
This planting technique is also appropriate for use in a greenhouse. Inside, since soil stays dry, tomatoes will form well even if they rest upon it.
Minimal care for your tomatoes
Once your plants have settled in, prune the two topmost leaf crowns and only keep the lower ones. After that, just let the stems run around. Water reasonably, once a fortnight with drip irrigation if the weather is dry.
To ensure success in your sprawling plantation, it is best to preventively spray against downy mildew and tomato leaf spot, just as for staked tomatoes. That’s all. No need to prune, no need to tie stems everywhere. The plants will crawl around and cover the ground with their many leaves that will choke out any weeds. Even suckers become useful and start bearing blooms and fruits.
Minimal care for maximum harvest!
Smart tip about growing tomato without stakes
This system actually reproduces how tomatoes naturally grow in the wild. They would either climb up over shrubs and bushes, or crawl along the ground to spread.
I have a small farm in Andalucia. Locally it is quite common for tomatoes to be grown on the ground, particularly the large beef varieties. There is of course little issue with contact with soil because the earth is so dry throughout the growing season, Flood watering is general used with water soon draining into the soil and allowing the surface to dry out quickly.
That’s a very interesting comment, thanks a lot for the input. Flood watering for tomatoes is a first for me, I’ve never seen it in action. Must look nice to have a swamped patty with tomatoes sticking out of it! Isn’t it difficult to manage irrigation to get enough water for the flooding?
My family accidentally grew tomato plants in their patio and we haven’t seen anything like it sprawled across the floor it thrives with little to no care and the patch it’s in is what an inch thick so even minimal growing conditions! I have harvested so many tomatoes so far and there are still loads left to go. This is definitely our new way of growing tomatoes. Definitely do recommend!
That’s a great story! It’s clearly a good thing, letting the vine grow wild does wonders for productivity! It also perhaps helped that it had a nice, clean surface to crawl along; in my experience it’s important to have either a clean surface or a lot of clean mulch, like hay or straw. If there’s too much direct contact with dirt and soil, sometimes disease appears and spreads through.
THIS IS THE WORST TOMATO GROWING ADVICE IVE EVER READ. I PLANT MY TOMATOES 12 INCHES APART, SINGLE STEM, UP A ROPE OR STAKE.NOT ONLY DOES THIS WASTE GARDEN SPACE, BUT YOUR METHOD ALSO CREATES DISEASE AND SLUG/PEST PRESSURE.
Well, thank you for contributing! It’s an article that describes that it is in fact possible to plant tomatoes without using stakes. Some gardeners like the idea, and this advice helps guide them specifically to reduce diseases and pest pressure in this case. Others might say that this technique, though it does need more space, will save time, so it’s a trade-off that’s worth it. As some would put it, better a few tomatoes in a garden with no need to maintain, than zero tomatoes just because “you have to do it the right way”!
In short, it’s nice to have your contribution, since it illustrates how important it is to give gardeners options, not close doors.
I recently had a young plant fall. I was worried the stem snapped, but then I realized it was intact and resembled a squash vine/stem which brought me here. Now I know I’m not crazy, and realizing that’s what did/do plants in the wild do!
Next year will be different for sure. Thanks for taking the time to write this up.
Tomato stems are indeed prone to breaking when grown tall, whereas if left to crawl around they stay much more flexible. At times, where the stem touches the ground, it’ll even sprout roots and grow even more vigorously!