Regardless of your decision to grow determinate or indeterminate plants, I would still recommend using some kind of tomato support technique. Some gardeners believe in letting their plants grow wildly, and allowing them to settle on the ground, but once they sprout tomatoes, any that are touching the ground will quickly become rotten and unusable. Another negative to this theory is that when a tomato plant contacts the ground, it is more easily affected by disease, fungus, and pests.
garden plant supports
There are many options for tomato plant support, and you will have to decide which one is the best for you. The type of support system you’ll see more often than any other is staking. The length of the stake should be somewhere in 3 to 6 foot range. Indeterminate plants require the longer end of the range due to the fact that they grow taller and taller through the season. You can purchase commercially produced stakes that are made of fiberglass or bamboo, or use metal rebar or wooden fence planks. The type of stake you choose is not important, but make sure you bury it no less than 1 foot into the soil so that windy weather won’t topple over your plants. You also want to install the stakes at the beginning of your growing season so as not to disturb the roots.
garden plant supports
As your plant begins to grow higher, you can attach it to the stake. It is important not to use any type of wire or twine, because it will grow into the plant stems and damage them. I recommend using old cloth rags torn from shirts, silk panty hose, or something of that nature to tie up the plants. Make sure to tie the stem loosely to the stake using a figure 8 type knot. If at some point later in the season, your plant height exceeds that of the stake, simply prune the top of the plant to make sure it doesn’t get too tall that it can’t be supported any longer.
Now, for the next system of tomato support, which is known as caging. It can be a little bit more expensive of a technique to set up, but it works really well at ensuring the plants continue to grow upward and not outward. As with most gardening implements, you can purchase ready-made caging systems, or you can construct your own. If you choose to make them yourself, you’ll need to buy some metal concrete mesh from the hardware supplier. It is sold in large “rolls” and you’ll need to cut it down to the right size for tomato garden applications, and 5 foot lengths work well. Cut the bottom rung from the mesh, leaving the little metal “stakes” on the bottom of the cage. This is what you’ll be planting into the ground. As the plants continue to grow, weave the stems through the mesh of the cage. By doing this, you will be making sure no parts of the plant hit the ground, and more sun and air will be able to get to your plants.
If you are new to tomato gardening, or haven’t tried staking or caging before, I highly recommend giving it a try during the next growing season. Tomato support systems are a very effective way to keep your plants healthier, grow taller, and produce more and more delicious tomatoes!