The 5 Best Ways to Stake Tomatoes
I’m obsessed with growing perfect tomatoes. In a good year, my plants can get enormous and be weighed down with an abundance of fruit. One of the secrets to my success is properly staking my tomatoes.
If you don’t stake your tomato plants the right way, you risk branches breaking or the entire plant tipping over and even snapping off at the stem. Not only that, but your tomatoes will rot if they lay unsupported on the ground, and critters will have an easy meal.
If you’re like me, you don’t want to lose a single one of those beautiful fruits that you’ve worked so hard to grow, so let’s get started on learning how you should be staking your tomatoes.
Types of Tomatoes
There are two main types of tomatoes, and you should understand the difference before you get staking. Some people don’t stake determinate varieties, while others think its a must. Let’s look at the differences to understand why you may want be staking your tomatoes, regardless of the type.
Determinate tomatoes will grow to a defined height and set all their fruit at once, typically early in the year. For this reason, some people skip the support structure.
That said, I stake my determinate plants. You want your plants well supported, especially when the wind picks up, because if you have a good season your tomato plants will have to hold a lot of fruit. If they don’t have support, they could end up on the ground or the fruit may break off.
I use small, thin stakes for determinate plants because it’s easier to predict the size and strength you need with determinate tomatoes.
Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow all season and can become massive and heavy. They produce fruit throughout the season, which enables you to pick as the fruit ripens.
You can control the growth by training, removing laterals, and pinching out the main stem; but the moment you stop, the plant continues to grow and get more substantial. Because of this, sturdy staking is a necessity.
There are a number of methods of staking tomatoes. Here are the most common ones and when to use them.
Single Stake Method
I prefer single staking for both determinate and indeterminate tomatoes when I only have a few tomato plants. This method requires one stake for each plant. The bigger the plant, the stronger the stake needs to be.
I lost many plants in my early growing experience by using stakes that were too thin to hold a fully laden indeterminate tomato. If you have a few busy weeks away from the garden, the tomato plants can grow amazingly heavy when you don’t have time to control the laterals and other growth.
How to Single Stake Tomatoes
Dig in a strong stake next to your young tomato plant. You want to aim to bury 1/3 of the length of the stake. Some gardeners would say that’s overkill, but I’ve grown some heavy tomatoes that fell over, taking the stake with them, because they weren’t far enough into the ground.
After sinking your stake, tie the plant stem to it as it grows using nylon stocking or cotton cloth. Add more ties as the plant grows, taking care not to restrict the plant and cut off the stem.
Don’t wait for the plant to get too big to start staking, or you may damage the roots when pushing the stake in. In the spring, I have tiny tomato plants with a huge stake next to them because I’m prepared for how large they’ll grow.
For small determinate tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, a bamboo stake is fine. For indeterminate tomatoes, use a thick wooden pole, straight branch, metal T-bar or similar. You want a stick about 6-feet tall for indeterminate tomatoes.
Staking in Pots
Even small varieties need to be staked in pots. If you have a shallow container, use two or three stakes to share the load. If you have a nice deep pot, one substantial stake will work well.
Weave Method (Florida Weave)
This is the method I use to stake tomatoes when I have a large number of plants because I don’t have to do one stake per plant. You do need to have strong stakes, though, because each stake is supporting multiple plants.
How to Use the Weave Method
Plant your tomatoes in a long straight line. Hammer stakes into the ground, with a tomato plant in between each stake.
Once the plants get about 9-inches tall, tie a string to the first stake at the beginning of the row about 6-inches above the ground and pull the string in a loop around the next stake. Continue this down the entire row, keeping the string taut the entire time.
Tie the string securely to the last stake and then return down the line again with the same process. Tie off at the original stake. The string holds the plants, supported by the stakes in the line. Add new rows of string as the plants get taller.