TZ -OH6
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Tomato Support Methods

I started this list for something else and thought it might be helpful if I posted it here.

I'm cheap and have access to various junk and stuff and things. I also grow a lot of tomato plants in a handful of different size/shape plots. Support methods depend on material available, plot size, number of plants per plot, and how big and productive I want a given plant to be. Sometimes its better for me to grow three plants, each pruned and staked, in the same space that would fit one unpruned caged plant. The question of "which is best?" depends on the circumstance. I included the spacing I use or would use.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/51251503@N03/sets/72157624247441049/

Methods

1) Sprawling on the ground (spacing, 4 ft). It is best to have something under the plant like plastic or straw mulch to keep things from eating and rotting the fruit. This way sucks if you have a bad back, foliage disease, mice, slugs, and/or are space limited. I have seen described a modified sprawl technique where “hogâ€
Last edited by TZ -OH6 on Mon Jun 28, 2010 12:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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applestar
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Wow, TZ, this is GREAT! Your list is giving me all kinds of ideas! 8) :()

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gixxerific
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Thanks TZ now I don't have to do it. I saw this topic but not the poster and thought here's yet another question on support. I was thinking I should make up such a list and ask that it become a sticky. I see this question so often so what do you mods think. STICKY THIS!

Only thing that would make this better is links to sites or just some picture of your own support methods. :D

Nicely done. :clap:
Last edited by gixxerific on Wed May 12, 2010 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

TZ -OH6
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I wish this forum had direct download for pictures. I do have some great pictures but I don't have an image account and don't plan on getting one. I'm on dail-up and can't even see most of the pictures other people post here because of download times from places like Imageshack.

TPTB can sticky this and retitle it if they like.

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applestar
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I already put in the request. Waiting for WM's approval. :wink:

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lakngulf
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Great recap TZ. I resemble many of those methods. The idea to have 1.5 height on construction wire is a good idea. Healthy tomato plants always outgrow five feet and head back down.

An accompanying picture of each type would be great
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filmnet
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tomato spirals 6 ft tall

I bought some 6ft metal spirals for my Black Cherry, Sungold Cherry, and Nicholayen cherry plants. Nice i hope?

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gixxerific
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Here are a few examples of Concrete reinforcing wire cages
[img]https://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj185/gixxerific/DSC02710.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj185/gixxerific/Gardening/DSC03636.jpg[/img]

Here is an example of staking from last year.
[img]https://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj185/gixxerific/DSC02591.jpg[/img]

1947jd
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tomato support methods

Great ideas - everyone should be to find an appropriate method for their own needs.

I use 4' high stock fencing - a $50 roll is plenty for a dozen or more long-lasting cages. The wire is relatively easy to cut and work with; once the cages are assembled, I cut "access windows" into the sides as the plants grow to make weeding and harvesting quick and easy. Rather than trying to find space to store the cages from year to year, I lay them on their sides in the garden as part of my fall/winter cat-proofing system.

tedln
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I've always used the CRW cages in the past. They work great. This year I started a lot of heirloom tomatoes and simply didn't have enough cages so I drove three of the T stake fence posts into the soil in an 8' X 4' bed. I then ran cheap nylon rope between the posts creating a lattice effect. This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago. The posts and string in the back have my Prudens Purple tomatoes which have grown significantly since the photo was taken. As the plants grew, I have woven the plants into the rope. The posts and string in front now have three new varieties planted which I will weave into that string as they grow. I don't know if this is the Florida weave or not, but it seems to be working well. At the end of the season, I will roll the string up, pull the posts; and store them for next years garden.

[img]https://i291.photobucket.com/albums/ll308/tedln/2010%20Garden/05-20-10/IMG_2255.jpg[/img]

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lakngulf
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tedln wrote:The posts and string in front now have three new varieties planted which I will weave into that string as they grow.
Ted
Ted, we gets lots of wind where I live, and I am sure others do also (As a matter of fact, it seems to be much more windy in the last 5-8 years than ever before, or maybe I am just noticing my tomatoes getting blown over).

Back to the point, I think my tomatoes would get "cut" by the string. I like the weave idea, though. When I was growing up we had some super duper fence sections, shaped like net wire, but the wire was huge. The section would stand up on its on, was strong enough to actually be a gate, and the opens were probably 4 inch by 4 inch. The section was probably six or eight feet long. I have thought of using one of those, if I can find some at the farm----put two metal posts in the ground, and tied the section to them. I think my parents might have run cucumbers on them.

Anyway, the wire is large enough that it could well support the weave idea. I sorta have my cukes running on something similar now. It is construction wire, left flat, and attached to metal posts. I might try some tomatoes like that.
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tedln
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lakngulf,

You may be 100% correct. We do have high winds. Had a couple of days of 55 mph winds a few weeks ago. It was snapping my squash plant stems off at ground level and the plant would blow away.

I did consider the wind problem when I installed the rope/post support for my tomatoes. I decided the Prudens Purple tomato plants are large and when woven into the rope will provide a degree of tension to the ropes which will prevent the plants from moving against the ropes in a sawing motion. I may learn this year that the system is not a good idea for next year.

I guess the Florida weave is something I need to research a little. My desire was to have something the tomatoes could grow onto or into, rather than something to install after the tomatoes are of good size.

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tedln
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I looked at the Florida Weave support system and it is different than mine in that the string/rope is on both sides of the tomato stem at each level. The only problem that presents for me is the fact that you must continue weaving the support as the plants grow. Seems pretty labor intensive to me. While the Florida Weave does provide more support, it also requires more effort than I want to expend. Since tomato plants don't always grow up in a straight line, it may be difficult to weave the support line into the tomato stems without a lot of effort.

I did a minor revision to my support that is not reflected in the photo. I have a good supply of those tall green, plastic coated; garden stakes you can buy at the big box stores. I wove a few of them at regular intervals from the top rope strand down through each rope strand, and pushed them into the ground. Each stake took about 30 seconds to install. The stakes do tighten the support strands and prevent sideways movement of the tomato plants on the supports.

I guess I will know this winter if it worked.

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tedln
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Re: tomato support methods

1947jd wrote:Great ideas - everyone should be to find an appropriate method for their own needs.

I use 4' high stock fencing - a $50 roll is plenty for a dozen or more long-lasting cages. The wire is relatively easy to cut and work with; once the cages are assembled, I cut "access windows" into the sides as the plants grow to make weeding and harvesting quick and easy. Rather than trying to find space to store the cages from year to year, I lay them on their sides in the garden as part of my fall/winter cat-proofing system.
Thats the same material I've always used for my cucumber trellis access holes included.

[img]https://i291.photobucket.com/albums/ll308/tedln/2009%20Garden/IMG_1703.jpg[/img]

and my bean trellis.

[img]https://i291.photobucket.com/albums/ll308/tedln/2009%20Garden/IMG_1646.jpg[/img]

It just never seemed to have the structural strength of the CRW for supporting large tomato plants.

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Dixana
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Lakngulf the fencing you're thinking of we call cattle panel. My SIL uses it to fence her whole garden in (the only thing the kids don't destroy while climbing)
It works great!

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The other day at a Tractor Supply, I was briefly considering those cattle panels, but they're heavier gauge than concrete re-inforcing wires, longer, and heavier. The elderly gentleman who was showing me around the outside supply area was skeptical -- "How are you going to get it home?" (I have my husband's pick up today) "You can't even lift it" -- and I couldn't, not even one corner :roll: (I don't know if I could cut this myself) "You'd need a bolt cutter."

In short, I decided against getting those. :shock: :lol:

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You don't need to cut em :)
One big piece, staked at each end, tie your toms to it as the grow, or your eggplants, or peas, or beans, etc.
I know the stuff is strong though, when 80 pound children climb and lean on it and it doesn't warp

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I use sticks :P. When you have about 50 tomato plants, cages and even 2x2x8s get to be expensive. One thing I can say about sticks is you get what you pay for. If it's too weak it breaks or if there's a hard rain and it's not in the ground deep enough, well, let's just say that mud-wrestling with a 4 ft. tomato plant in September is not the most fun thing in the world.

But at the end of the day, they serve their purpose and I get some nice tomatoes.
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Hopefully it's OK to post in an already existing thread?? :D

Anyway, long story short, I have my tomato plants staked at the moment, and kept from falling over by nylons (strange, yes, but it's worked so far!). I took a look this morning, and they've managed to already start growing taller than the stakes. I don't know if cages would be a better option, but is it going to hurt the plants roots if i put cages into the ground and around them now? What's the best way to support them as they grow taller ? Several already have green tomatoes growing on them!

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Discussing methods is what the thread is here for...adding to it is better than cluttering up the forum with individual posts, IMO.


What little damage a cage would do to roots wouldn't be noticed by the plant. Generally stakes are added after the plant out grows the cage, not the other way around, but whatever looks like it will work in an emergency. How tall are your stakes?

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TZ -OH6 wrote:Discussing methods is what the thread is here for...adding to it is better than cluttering up the forum with individual posts, IMO.


What little damage a cage would do to roots wouldn't be noticed by the plant. Generally stakes are added after the plant out grows the cage, not the other way around, but whatever looks like it will work in an emergency. How tall are your stakes?
I got littelier ones than I should have :oops: :oops: . They're probably about 3-4 feet tall above the ground. When i used to plant tomatoes with my grandpa, I never remembed the plants growing all that tall. So, when I walked outside this morning and my tomato plants were up to my chest, t was a mega Oh EDITED - PLEASE REPORT THIS POST! Do the tomatoes just fit right in the cages on their own most times? do I have to tie them to the cages at all?

My current set up is three stakes per two plants - one on each side, then one in the middle. The stakes are about 6 inches out from the plants, and i've got the nylons woven around them to keep them from falling over.

TZ -OH6
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If you are talking about the commercial ring cages then you will have to tie them off to the wires to prevent slumping eventually. If you have a big ol' CRW cage with 6 inch squares then a bushy plant with fruit will support itself as long as you keep poking the plant back inside the wires. In general, tomato vines/branches are weak wimpy things, and then they try to hold up a couple of pounds of fruit so when in doubt support the heck out of them. You may need to tie off fruit trusses to prevent vine slumping and trusses ripping.

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When in doubt go BIGGER! Tomatoes are known to get out of hand, at least here they do. I have on cherry plant that has already overgrown it's CRW cage. While other are doing there thing, it was an early plant.

Don't worry too much about putting stakes in the ground and destroying the roots worry more about supporting what you already have.

I can tell you that even if you have a 7 foot support system ready some plants will try to outgrow it.

Good luck

Liska
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TZ -OH6 wrote:If you are talking about the commercial ring cages then you will have to tie them off to the wires to prevent slumping eventually. If you have a big ol' CRW cage with 6 inch squares then a bushy plant with fruit will support itself as long as you keep poking the plant back inside the wires. In general, tomato vines/branches are weak wimpy things, and then they try to hold up a couple of pounds of fruit so when in doubt support the heck out of them. You may need to tie off fruit trusses to prevent vine slumping and trusses ripping.
Oh wow. I never knew tomato support was so complicated!! Now I wish I hadn't put my bell peppers right in between them :(

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It really isn't complicated, it just sounds that way :lol:. In the end, find something that is sturdy, as tall (or preferably taller than) your tomato plants, and tie them to it. Really, that's all tomato staking comes down to :wink:.
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I forgot I had already posted comments about my t post and string method on this thread.

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TZ -OH6
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I took a bunch of pictures and made a Flickr set showing as much as I could about the things I mentioned in the original post. The file names should help to group them.


https://www.flickr.com/photos/51251503@N03/sets/72157624247441049/

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OK, I just want to throw this out there that whatever support method you use, you will want to take a torch and flame it before you use it if your plants had septoria, early blight, or some other fungal disease the previous year.

These diseases will can live for up to three years on a trellis or stake and infect future plants.
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tedln
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I tried to burn my CRW cages but ran out of matches before I could set even one on fire. :shock:

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TZ - enjoyed the virtual "walk through" your garden. Great use of "whatever" is available for support of tomatoes!

At the early stages - I still use old Walmart $2.00 cages from the days when I didn't know any better. They do provide enough support and proper upward growth. But the rest is EMT conduit poles and trellis netting (just wash it with bleach in the washer machine before the season starts)

[img]https://drphotography.smugmug.com/Garden/2010-Garden/2010supports/921849202_f797Z-M.jpg[/img]

And green vinyl tape to support heavy clusters:

[img]https://drphotography.smugmug.com/Garden/2010-Garden/2010dagestanski20701/921848441_aQ6hb-L.jpg[/img]

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D

speedster7926
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ok quick question i got my tomatoes in the cages but the branches wither went horizontal and ended up breaking off or bending or going over the cages and doing the same i will stake them next time but what about the side branches?
Thanks for all the help and advice Daniel G.

TZ -OH6
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What type of cages? With the 6" square concrete wire cages you have to keep pushing the branches back inside. They will flop over the top when they hit about 6 ft tall, but you can tie the tops together and get a few more feet before they fall over. They generally keep growing and producing even when kinked over.


With the store bought 3 and 4 ring cages there is not much you can do except get a bunch of twine out and tie the branches off, wrap them up whatever...because they don't support the branches worth a @#$%.

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Yeah, those store-bought cages are terrible.

If you go with stakes, it'd be best to prune your plants to 2-4 growing stems. To do this, pinch out the suckers that grow in the axles (crotches) of the branches.

Here's another tip: if you are growing the concrete wire cages, you can tie up the stems along the outside vertical wires of the cage. I've seen it done with good success.
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tedln
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D,

Love your supports. What diameter conduit are you using and how tall is it? Do you simply drive the uprights into the soil. I assume you simply use a conduit elbow to connect the horizontal conduit to the vertical conduit. How many feet do your horizontals span? Where is the netting available? It looks similar to the netting used for soccer and hockey gaols.

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TZ -OH6
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I like the way they attached the conduit pieces in this study using bent sections of pipe for the corners.

https://www.mastergardeners.org/picks/tomato_staking.html

tedln
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Yea TZ, that is neat. I have a little problem understanding the 10' spans of conduit. Normally conduit is pretty thin walled. I'm surprised it can support heavy tomato plants over that distance without a center support.

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TZ -OH6
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Mine are tied to stakes so the span is only about 9 feet, but I haven't had any trouble with weight. I tie the sides of the trellis fence off to the stakes so that might help take pressure off the top center. The weight distributions might be different with the nylon. I definitely would NOT go with 1/2 inch, but 3/4 seems to work well.

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The cages some of the stores come up with are wimpy, it's amazing that they even hold the tomato plants up! :shock:

Anyway, long story short, i was trying to go off the shorter stakes until I coudl figure something else out, and a tomato branch broke off :cry:

So I ran out in a panic to the local tractor supply store and picked up some 9 ft tall (taller than me -_-) rolled steel rods, banged them into the ground best I could with a hammer, and tied the tomatoes to them with some anchored rope. They're managing pretty well so far, they move with the wind (in a good way, without falling over) and no more broken branches. Does anyone know if having the steel up against them is going to hurt the plants in any way shape or form? They seem to be doing okay, but thought I would double check.

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I think only if they're loosely tied and rub against the rough surface. When in doubt, I make a figure 8, tying the X in the 8, or wrap the material around the support to create a cushion.

A tip: Note that you don't have to keep the same tomato on the same stake or cage. When a branch grows out too far, tie it to the NEXT stake or tuck it inside the NEXT cage.

Liska
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applestar wrote:I think only if they're loosely tied and rub against the rough surface. When in doubt, I make a figure 8, tying the X in the 8, or wrap the material around the support to create a cushion.

A tip: Note that you don't have to keep the same tomato on the same stake or cage. When a branch grows out too far, tie it to the NEXT stake or tuck it inside the NEXT cage.
Thank you :D I will try the figure 8 thing. Thankfully, the steel rods have a smooth surface, so I don't have to worry about them getting damaged that way. I was more worried about the fact that when I picked them up, i ended up with some black stuff on my hands from carrying them, and didn't know if that was something that'd hurt my plants too!

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