Howdy folks! As a horticulturist, I’ve spent my career studying the best ways to grow plants. And I know one thing is for darn sure – tomatoes do way better with some support in their lives! Those big ol’ fruits get heavy fast, and need a sturdy trellis, cage, or stake to reach their full potential.
In this handy guide, I aim to share everything I’ve learned over the years about supporting tomatoes. I’ll walk you through all the ins and outs of trellising those thirsty tomato plants for maximum harvests. Sound good? Then let’s get growing!
Why Bother Trellising Tomatoes?
Now I know what you’re thinking – seems like an awful lot of fussing with stakes and strings and such. Why not just let tomatoes sprawl however they please?
Well let me tell you, there’s some mighty fine reasons to give them a boost up:
- stops plants from flopping over when fruits get beefy
- keeps fruits clean and mold-free off the soil
- allows air flow to avoid fungal nonsense
- makes it easier for you to spot ripe tomatoes
- helps sun hit all the fruits evenly
- reduces cracking and splitting of tomatoes
- lets you pack more plants into small spaces
- extends the growing and fruiting season
- improves fruit size and quality
- keeps garden rows accessible
- reduces pests like slugs on fallen fruits
Take it from this old gardener – a bit of trellising goes a long way! Sturdy supports are like a helping hand for healthy, prolific tomato plants.
Pick Your Tomato Trellising Poison
There’s all kinds of ways to trellis up your ‘maters. Let’s explore some of the most popular:
Cages – These wire cages are pretty fool-proof. Just pop that tomato in the middle and watch it grow up nice and straight inside the cage. But they hog space in your plot.
Stakes – A classic option, just pound some tall stakes in around your tomatoes and tie the stems on up. Best for bushy determinate types.
Trellises – Make a nifty trellis from scrap wood, wire fencing, or whatever you have around, and you can support tomatoes in tight spaces.
Strings – Run some strings between posts or attach to an overhead trellis. The tomatoes will grab on and you can weave stems through as they grow.
Netting – For easy-breezy tomato support, use nets made of stretchy plastic mesh. Just wrap ’em around your plants and off you go!
Rings & Clips – These clever rings attach to stakes, then you clip tomato stems right to ’em as they grow upward.
Walls & Fencing – Lettin’ tomatoes scramble up against a warm wall or sturdy fence can work in a pinch.
Lots of options for every gardener and every space!
Setting Things Up The Right Way
To avoid floppy, sad tomato plants, follow these tips when setting up supports:
- Put those cages and stakes in at planting time or soon after.
- Really jam those supports down deep in the dirt for stability.
- Space plants and supports to allow for growth – don’t overcrowd!
- For trellises, get them built before popping in plants.
- Check for wobbly supports and fix as needed while tomatoes grow.
- Prune off bottom leaves and branches touching soil to avoid disease.
- Add cross-pieces between cages for mega-huge tomato varieties that get extra heavy.
- Mulch around the base to stop weeds from interfering.
- Use the tallest supports in back and shorter ones up front for easy picking.
Get your supports ready at the start and you’ll be setting your tomatoes up for success!
Keeping Your Tomatoes Trellised All Season
A little attention throughout the summer keeps your tomatoes happy on their trellises:
- Gently tie main stems to supports as they grow using soft fabric or twist ties. Watch for chafing!
- Pinch off those baby suckers and side shoots to avoid a tangled mess.
- Water evenly – irregular water makes fruits crack!
- Watch for hornworms, pickleworms and other hungry pests.
- Feed with a complete tomato fertilizer to keep plants robust.
- Rotate crops each year to avoid diseases in the soil.
- Periodically check ties and attachments aren’t too tight.
- Remove supports cleanly at season end and store for reuse next year.
Stay on top of tending your trellised tomatoes and you’ll reap the rewards!
Make Trellising Easier
No need to struggle with tricky tomato ties and attachments. Here are some of my favorite tips:
- Use Velcro plant ties instead of annoying twist ties. Easier on you and the plant!
- Slip old socks over cages for padding – no more scratched arms!
- Drive a sturdy stake at each end of a row of cages to attach strings for extra stability.
- Weave strips of old t-shirt between cages to support heavy fruits. The soft fabric won’t chafe stems.
- Train 2-3 main leaders up a trellis instead of just one – provides extra strength and structure.
- Cut panels of plastic netting at the start of the season to custom fit cages and avoid frustration later.
Work smarter, not harder! Hope those tricks help.
Helping Out Other Veggies
It’s not just tomatoes that benefit from a helpful hand! Consider giving trellises or cages to:
- Peppers – short cages keep fruits up off the ground
- Peas – give ’em a trellis and they’ll grab on with their curly tendrils
- Cucumbers – save space by training these runners up a trellis
- Pole beans – they’ll climb anything you give them – stakes, netting, whatever!
- Eggplant – keep those big beauties contained with wire hoops
- Melons – help heavy melons by slinging them up in old pantyhose!
- Corn – stakes prevent stalks snapping in wind
- Vining Squash – get them climbing a sturdy vertical trellis
Don’t forget your other vining veggies need a leg up too!
Troubleshooting Tomato Trellising Problems
Sturdy tomato trellising doesn’t just happen. Here’s how to deal with some common issues:
- Could be supports settled over time. Re-firm in ground or add cross-bracing.
- Maybe you didn’t prune suckers enough. Keep stems trained narrow.
- Heavy handed watering can weaken roots – water gently.
- Add a board, tiles or straw under fallen fruits. Airflow is key!
- Pick fruits promptly when ripe rather than leaving to rot.
- Diseases like Early Blight or Blossom End Rot can cause fruit rot.
- Velcro or cloth plant ties are gentler than harsh strings or twist ties.
- Loosen or remove constricting ties right away to avoid stem damage.
- Support nets allow pests to hide – inspect closely.
- Pick off bugs by hand or use insecticidal soap if infestations persist.
- Prune vigorously throughout season to keep plant growth orderly on trellises.
- Remove side shoots and lower leaves regularly.
Don’t get frustrated – with a bit of troubleshooting you can get those tomatoes trellised just right.
Well there you have it, my full scoop on trellising tomatoes and other vining veggies. I hope these tips help your garden thrive and produce bountiful harvests! Let me know if you have any other questions – I just love to talk growing! Happy gardening!