Growing tomatoes without stakes or cages allows for an abundant harvest: one plant will produce as much as 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 moisture away from fruits: it would otherwise rot them. You can also lay crates or wooden pallets around the plants for this. Lastly, you might consider plastic sheeting, but this will require cleaning up once the season is over.
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.
→ Note: in this case (greenhouse), it helps to set up an irrigation system because trudging through your ‘maters at knee-height isn’t something you want to do every day.
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!
→ Read about the opposite: how to stake tomato
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.