By mid-June it is time to stake your garden tomatoes for support. This post will explain how to stake garden tomatoes in your home garden. It also offers other alternatives to staking and why tomatoes need training in the first place.
How to Stake Garden Tomatoes
You should stake tomatoes two to three weeks after planting. If you plant your tomatoes just after the last frost or around Mother’s Day, you should stake them by early to mid June. Drive a 6 to 8 foot stake 1 to 2 feet into the ground a few inches from the center of the tomato plant. You want to do this before the tomatoes are too mature so that you do not damage the roots.
Tie each tomato using stretch ties (other loose ties with some give) up 12 inches from the base. You can use a loose figure eight to tie the stem to the stake. As the plant grows, you can tie the stem to the stake about every 12 inches or so. Pinch suckers which grow as new shoots out of the axils of the leaf and stem.
Pinch suckers which grow as new shoots out of the axils of the leaf and stem.
Pros and Cons of Staking Tomatoes
Staking tomatoes usually brings a quicker crop. However, the yield will be less. Blossom end rot and sunscald are also more common. This happens due to removal of suckers, which reduces the leaf canopy. You can leave a few suckers to reduce likelihood of sunscald.
Additional Methods of Support
Staking is not recommended for determinate cultivars. There are other methods for supporting tomatoes as well. Cages are very easy and require less attention. Areas open enough to harvest through them is all that is required. Plant’s grown in cages do not require pruning. As the plants grow, tuck stems poking out back in the cage.
Another method is a weave system. Using this system, stakes are placed between tomato plants. Twine is tied at the end post and then around the first stake. This is continued down the row of tomatoes keeping twine tight. When you reach the end you go back down in the same manner with the twine on the opposite side of the tomatoes. This method encloses the tomatoes between two strings of twine- one on each side. As the plants grow you do this again 12 inches higher.
At Demonstration Garden we trellis the tomatoes in the raised vegetable garden. This method trains tomatoes to grow on a trellis. Please visit the garden in May to see us demonstrate this method. In addition, we use cages in the food pantry garden as well.
Reasons to Train or Support Garden Tomatoes:
- Training up with supports saves space
- Easier to cultivate and harvest
- Produce better quality fruit
- Provides better air circulation resulting in less disease