As tomato plants mature, they begin to sprawl along the ground because they become heavy with fruit. If left to grow without training, the fruit is exposed to sunscald and inclined to rot. An effective way to prevent these problems is to train the plants to grow vertically by staking the plants. Another simple training method is to build tomato cages. As the vine grows, guide the stems into the cage.
You can use your vertical space by designing a trellis system to support twining and climbing plants like beans, cucumbers, and winter squash. An important consideration is sturdiness. Vines and wind will be tugging on it for several months, so build the trellis well. The stems of bean plants will twine around the trellis for support; with a little bit of guidance, cucurbits will grab the trellis with their tendrils.
Use strong stakes for tomato plants: 2 inches by 2 inches, about eight feet long and driven 24 inches to 30 inches deep will support most tomatoes. Drive in the stake before setting the transplant, so you won't disturb the growing roots. As the vine grows, tie it to the stake with twine or plastic tape.
Use 60-inch, 6x6-inch welded concrete reinforcement wire to build tomato cages. Regular fence wire won't work because the openings aren't large enough to harvest the fruit. Cut a five- to six-foot section of wire, leaving prongs so the wire can be bent into a cylinder and clamped together with the prongs. Cut off the bottom rim with heavy wire cutters so the bottom spikes can be pushed into the soil around the tomato plant.
Using a Trellis System
Your trellis system will need some kind of support: 4x4-inch posts driven into the ground or a tee-pee design that supports itself are typical solutions. From tower to tower, lace heavy twine or wire and pattern string from top to bottom to support the crop.
Want more information about vegetable gardens? Visit these links:
- Caring for a Vegetable Garden: Read our guide to nurturing your vegetable plants for the best harvest.
- Vegetable Gardens: Find out everything you wanted to know about vegetable gardening.
- Vegetables: Pick out your favorite vegetables to plant in next year's garden.
- Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.
- Garden Care: Whether you're growing cucumbers or columbines, we have all the information you need to nurture a thriving garden.