Growing Tomatoes using Tomato Stakes

Tomato stakes

Tomato stakes are the most commonly used tomato supports. That's because they're simple and the stake materials are so readily available and cheap.

For indeterminate tall growing varieties the stakes are usually six- to eight-foot long one- to two-inch diameter posts that are hammered into the ground about 4 inches from the tomato plant. The posts are made of wood, metal, or plastic.

Stakes can be placed either before or after the tomato plants are set out.

The advantage stakes have over cages and other supports is their cost. Their main disadvantage is that vines must be regularly tied up and you'll need to learn about pruning tomato plants as well because the vines should be pruned to a single main stem for single-staking.

Vertical Gardening Advantages

In another article I gave reasons why using tomato supports has advantages over letting plants sprawl naturally and those included:

  • Tomatoes remain free of ground spots and blemishes
  • Fruit is less subject to slug damage and soil rot
  • Less bending is required for tending vines
  • Gardens are neater -- less messy looking
  • Frees garden space -- unsupported tomato vines need 15 sq. ft.

Using Multiple Stakes Per Plant

For better support and less pruning you can also sink two to four stakes around each tomato plant.  If you're using wooden posts nail cross pieces every foot or so to provide more places to tie the vines.  Another method is to pre-drill holes every six inches in each post. Then you can slide dowel rods through the posts for cross members where they're needed. With four stakes you'll have a box-like structure that supports the plants very well. The disadvantage of the multiple stake method is the initial labor and cost of materials. 

Attaching Vines to Supports

Tomato stakes

To attach the vines to the stakes the basic idea is to attach the material tightly to the stake and loosely to the plant to avoid injury to the stems and allow room to grow. Try not to tie flower clusters too close to the supports because the fruit may get crowded later. Some materials used to tie up tomato vines include:

  • Soft twine -- tie one knot tightly to the stake and a loose knot on the vine
  • Twist ties -- plastic-coated wire is easier than twine. Twist it tightly on the stake and loosely on the vine
  • Plastic tape -- this stretchy tape used for tree-ties won't damage stems as they grow. Tie loosely to the vines.
  • Other household materials that can be used to tie up vines:
    • Nylon stockings
    • Cloth strips
    • Raffia

The nice thing about tomato stakes is they are the quickest type of support to put in place.  The main issue with single staking is the frequent attention needed for pruning tomato plants to one main stem and the need to tie up branches every week.  I've used tomato stakes many times and they definitely do the job. But this year I'll be using nylon netting tomato trellises because I think they're attractive and I can put up one trellis to support eight plants at once.


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