how to stake tomatoes

Stake and Tomatoes

Take it from me—trial and error gal—don’t learn this the hard way.  Your tomatoes want big stakes, firm stakes.  Sturdy, semi-permanent. They want to know there’s support for them when the wind blows, that they won’t lose their ruby-red jewels dripping from their vines.

triangle cage

Trust me when I say, “think strong” (as in men, too.;)). Next time you’re shopping for tomato cages and you see this packaged structure, walk on. Don’t stop. Don’t waste your time.

Admittedly, I thought this three-walled triangle style cage would be the secret to success. It was–for a while. But when the tomato plant grew and the tomatoes hung heavy, it fell over like a twig.

And this round, loopy one? More

Choosing the Best Tomato Cage

Now I know you probably think this is a fairly easy decision but I assure you, this can be a lot tougher than you’d expect.  With a few years of gardening under my “greenie” belt, I’ve come to realize there are some pros and cons to these contraptions.  I know, isn’t there always a catch?

Oh yes there is and for starters, I’d stay away from these bamboo type stakes.  Yes, they’re simple and green and fully biodegradable—all points in the plus column if you ask me, but if you plan to grow big, heavy tomatoes then these are NOT for you. 

First you must tie your plants to the bamboo which opens them up to stalk injury.  Originally I tried using pantyhose because it was soft and flexible but it also holds moisture which attracts mold and fungus—NO good for my plants.

Sot then I want on to the standard cone cage.  Problem here?  My plants outgrew it and the whole thing fell over under the stress! 

Talk about disheartening–UGH.  How can a girl grow gorgeous beefsteak when her cage can’t handle the weight?  She can’t!  It’s no good.  So I tried to salvage what I could by placing bamboo stakes in strategic locations around the tomato plant/cage.  Won’t ever do THAT again.  I worked way too hard for these babies to lose them to a structural malfunction.

Even the larger cones didn’t work well because the tomatoes were getting trapped inside the cage and hard for me to reach.  What happens when your tomatoes get stuck out of reach?

Ick-blick moldy mess, that’s what.  Then I saw a fabulous triangle cage and thought:  yes, it’s tall and appears to be sturdy.  My husband tells me triangles are an excellent shape for support—learned this from one of my daughter’s cake tower building experiments—so I thought:  perfect!  It’s currently my cage of choice for the home garden.

For a more inexpensive version, I also bought this round cage.  It’s already not my favorite because it’s harder to set up—too many moving parts and not enough hands—and it’s a bit more flimsy than the triangle, a.k.a. support master.  But I’m going to give it a chance.  I’m nothing if not open-minded an experimental when it comes to my garden.  (Translated: I don’t do new fangled rollercoasters where my feet dangle.) So we’ll see what happens.

I even have my smaller Lincoln tomato plants supported by bean cages—or small trellis style border cages.  Not really sure what their official name is, but they seem to be working. 

My bet is on the triangle but you never know—I may be surprised! 

My husband is shaking his head

Oh, poo.  What do those darn engineer types know, anyway? 🙂  I’ve made it this far, haven’t I?  And just look at some of the beauties I’m growing!

These are San Marzano—excellent for making sauce.

These are Lincoln.  I think they’re simply a general all around delightful tomato, but as I’ve never grown them before, I can’t be sure.

This is a beefsteak bubba and I can’t wait for HIM to be ready (and no, it has nothing to do with my romance novels!), though try not to allow them to sit on the ground.

Makes them susceptible to rot. 🙁  Hopefully I’ll avoid that tragedy but stay-tuned!