Over the past few years I have tried a few different strategies to stake my tomatoes.
1st year – nothing – I planted them in the ground and let them grow as is. I have had friends ask “Is this okay?”. Well, how do you think the farmers grow them in their big fields? They’re not going to trellis and stake each plant! It worked fine, they are just big plants and take a lot of room, not to mention that some tomatoes will rot if left in contact with ground too long.
2nd try- I purchased those cheapo cages at the hardware store. They DON’T WORK!!! Don’t waste your money. I bought the “upgraded/tougher” ones and they all crumbled under the weight of the plants. I will save these cages though and try using them on my pepper plants this year. My mother and I even used some extra tposts I had laying around and tied the tomatoes with string to the posts and that actually did okay, but it was still quite messy looking.
Last Summer – I used those stake set ups you see in my pictures from last week (which I am using this year for the peas). I used one “staked row” in the middle of the row for the plants to grow up onto. This set up worked okay, except the plants were still bushy and unsupported on one side. Also, you have to encourage the plants to grow on this type of trellising; no big deal.
This year — MY PLAN — is to make a hedge row trellis system that I saw used in that square foot gardening book (see Resources tab). You basically make 2 support systems on either side of the row and plant in between them. The plants will then grow up onto each side of the trellises making a type of “hedge”like appearance. I need to measure my row length to make sure I purchase enough stakes and fencing material
- 6 or so – 7′ to 8′ ft tall Tposts (I will be pounding these in about a foot down so the end result will be a 6ft or 7ft tall trellis).
- Big Metal Mallot to pound in the posts
- Sturdy Wire Clippers if I need to cut/trim fencing/panels
- 2 panels of hog fencing OR a roll of fencing wire that has holes that are 5-7″ big (big enough for me to get my hand and a big tomato through and back into the house. Hog Panels are a fencing material that is more sturdy than the wire roll with bigger holes throughout the majority of the panel and smaller, closer together holes near the bottom (so the hogs can’t escape underneath). At the moment I am not sure what lengths the hog panels are sold in.
After I set this up, when it is time to plant the tomatoes, I will plant them in between the rows. I know that I will have to encourage/train the tomato plants onto the wires and I should have some plastic tying material handy should I need it. I am hoping that this method will create a wall of tomato plants that I can just reach into to harvest. I expect to put in more labor to take them down too because I will have to cut or strip away the plant from the fencing after the season (late October); I will reuse the fencing again for next year. P.S. I am told that you can use the fabric netting too; but when I looked into this I decided I wanted to go with something reusable; I just don’t foresee the netting to be reusable-but way easier clean up — so you decide what works for you. NOTE: if you go with fabric netting you will need extra Tposts to straddle the tops on the vertical ones staked into the ground, zip tie them to one another so your netting has a proper frame.
Tomatoes are important to our family. I harvest many and can/jar them for our use throughout the year. There’s nothing that can compare to the sweet taste of home grown tomatoes (store purchased canned tomatoes taste awful to us now). I also make and can sauce and spaghetti sauce (my neighbor makes and cans a great salsa). We will get into the subject of canning later in the season.