Many of us are just entering one of the most favorite times of the year for gardeners;
The Tomato Harvest!
The tomato is to the vegetable garden what the lion is to the jungle - The King! Many gardeners who don't grow any other vegetables still raise a few tomato plants.
There is more written in the blogosphere about tomatoes than any other vegetable. Veggie Garden Info for instance has over 100 posts about tomatoes. I admit that even I have gone overboard writing about tomatoes. I have written about harvesting and eating tomatoes, growing tomatoes, types of tomatoes, early tomatoes, tomato pests and heirlooms versus hybrid tomatoes among other tomato topics. The topic we seem to leave out most of the time however is how we support those massive tomato vines. Moving back to our King of the Jungle analogy, tomato plants without the right kind of support can turn into a jungle!
So how do you support your tomatoes? Stakes or cages? Stake and Weave or some other system? Do you tie them up or use a trellis? Tomato Tepees? Do you have your own creative way of keeping those tomatoes off the ground?
I grow over 40 tomato plants each year. They are all spread out in my garden so I end up trying many different means of support. With some of the plants, I lazily plop down a store-bought cage around them. Except for determinant plants or bush patio types, this is a bad idea. They tend to eventually fall over like the one below on the left!
So other than store bought cages, I use three different types of support: The Florida Stake-and-Weave, Wood topless tomato tables, and a tie up each plant to a trellis method.
The Florida Weave is probably the easiest to do.
You put stakes in between each plant or every few plants depending on how closely spaced you tomatoes are. You then tie twine or clothesline from post to post, weaving in and out of the tomato plants. With subsequent twines above one another weaving the opposite direction, you can easily "suspend" your tomato plants.
My main advice here is to put the system in while the plants are still small. I waited till the plants were about to fall over and it was much harder to "weave" the plants.
Probably my favorite tomato support to use is my home-made "topless tables".
These don't look pretty, but they keep the tomatoes off the ground without any pruning, staking or tying. You could call them wood tomato cages. They are basically like frames for a table without a solid top. The tomato plant grows through the middle and the branches sprawl over the sides. I have experimented with making them double-decker like the one on the left, but I don't think it is necessary.
Lastly, I have what my family calls the tomato tower.
It is basically a very tall trellis in which you tie twine or clothesline from the top and then loop the other end around the base of the plant (you do not tie it to the plant). You then wind the twine around the central stem as the tomato plant grows.
This keeps the plant growing straight and upright. It works best if you keep the suckers pruned off of the central stem. I have used this method for years, but you can only support a limited number of plants this way.
Well there you have it. This post ended up being longer than I expected but when it comes to tomatoes, I just can't stop writing about them. If you are still reading, chances are you too are a tomato gardening fan!
So I would love to hear from you. How do you support your tomatoes? What are some ways you have tried that worked or didn't work? Let's make this a poll of what kind of support is most used by gardeners who blog or read blogs.
Thanks and Happy Tomato Picking!