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Tips for growing tomatoes: Tieing

and staking
Posted on July 7, 2013 by naturesurrounds

How the garden has grown in the past week! Compare this photo, taken today, with one taken less than a week
ago–notice how much taller the tomato plant in the center is.
Right now, while tomato plants are growing rapidly, is the time to take steps that will safeguard the harvest you’re
so eagerly looking forward to. Many factors go into a good tomato harvest–the weather, certainly; spacing the
plants at least 24″ apart (36″ is better), watering deeply and in the morning so the leaves dry off–but two things
that are very, very important are proper staking and removing suckers.

Lots of people buy those little 3′ high tomato cages and are surprised when the plants outgrow them. Tomato
plants are generally more than 5′ high, so a 3′ cage will be pretty useless come September–the plant will grow out
of it and the whole thing may even fall over. Instead, buy or make stakes that are 7-8′ high, sink them in the
ground at least a foot (preferably when you put the plants in to avoid damaging the roots), and continue to tie the
main stem to the stake as it grows, using some kind of twine or old pantyhose.

Use a figure-8 tie to attach the plant to the stake, as the photos show:
Put the tie around the stake, cross the two ends, and then put them around the plant. Finally, tie a knot. Leave lots
of room–the stem grows fatter as the plant grows taller.

It’s also important to remove suckers, extra branches that grow between the main stem and the leaves:

Pinch them off with your fingernails or use clippers to remove them. This will result in better fruit and healthier
plants, because the plants will not become overgrown and crowded, making is easier for fungal diseases to spread.
It will also make it easier for you to see and harvest the fruit when the plants start producing. Attending to these
two chores–tieing and pinching–each week will give you a better harvest.

There’s lots of good information about growing tomatoes on the web and in books. Sites belonging to university
extensions are particularly reliable and will not be in business to sell you things you don’t need. Two good sites are
those managed by Rutgers and by the University of Missouri extension.
Check back soon for a post on watering and fertilizing tomato plants.
How to Grow Tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes—‘Sweet Cluster’

© Steve Masley...Click IMAGE to Enlarge

Order 'Sweet Cluster' Print

Tomatoes perform better when you can mimic the conditions they evolved under.

Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) evolved in the Orinoco basin. The fruit would wash down rivers, lodge in brush by
the side of the river, sprout, then ramble over the top of the brush. Tomatoes evolved with ample sun, high
temperatures and humidity, fertile soil, and plenty of water.

Grow tomatoes in the sunniest, warmest part of your garden. Cherry tomatoes can get by on 5-6 hours of sun and
still produce fruit, but larger tomatoes need 8-12 hours of sun a day for best performance.

Growing Tomatoes Thumbnail Sketch

Time to Harvest: 60-100 days

Hardiness Zones: All/Summer Annual
Planting Time: Early Summer
Optimum Growth Temp: 60-90° (15-32° C)
Germination Temp: 70-85° (21-29° C) (soil temp)
Germination Time: 6-14 days
Light Preferences: Full Sun> 6hrs
Optimal Soil pH: 6.2-6.8
Seeds or Seedlings: Seedlings
Plant Size: Det 3',Indet 8'
Plant Spacing: 18-36” (46-91cm) apart

Tomato Cold Tolerance/Season

Growing Tomatoes
Garden Preparation

Tomatoes from Seed

Tomatoes in Containers

Planting Tomatoes



Tomato Plant Care

Tomato Hornworms

Other Tomato Pests

Tomato Diseases

Companion Plants

Tips for Cool Summers

Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomatoes are summer vegetables that die at the first touch of frost. If you’re growing tomatoes, don’t make the
mistake of setting them out before the last frost date for your area.

In temperate gardens in the northern and southern hemispheres, seeds are started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last
frost date for the area, and planted outside after all danger of frost has passed.

Only in the warmest zone 9 gardens can you start tomatoes outside from seed and still get a crop, but even in this
zone, you’ll have more and better fruit growing tomatoes from seedlings, not seeds.

If you set seedlings out too early and late frost threatens, cover them with cloches or newspaper cones to protect them
until danger of frost is past.
Soil Amendments and Garden Preparation for Planting Tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes ‘Italian

Grandfather Style’ © Steve Masley

Order Tomato Spiral Print

Tomatoes thrive in soils with a lot of organic matter and a deep root zone. The best way to grow tomatoes—
especially in small gardens—is in a deep-dug or raised garden bed, and train them vertically, as in the photo at left.

If you have a lot of space and a deep, loose, loam with plenty of organic matter, they’ll do fine in widely-spaced rows.

When you’re growing tomatoes organically, you can build the fertilizers into the soil when you plant.

Soil microorganisms break down organic fertilizers at varying rates. By mixing a quick-releasing organic soil
amendment like alfalfa meal with a slow-releasing amendment like feather meal, you can provide for all your plants’
fertilizer needs at the beginning of the season.

Tomatoes need adequate nitrogen early in the season during their most active growth, but too much nitrogen creates
excessive disease-prone foliage at the expense of fruit.
If you have access to good composted steer, dairy cow, sheep, or poultry manure, you can use a 2” (5cm) layer of
composted cow or sheep manure, or a 1” (2.5cm) layer of composted poultry manure, in lieu of the alfalfa
meal/feather meal combination. Sheep manure is particularly good for growing tomatoes because it provides
phosphorous and potassium, as well as nitrogen.

Fresh manure can be used, but it needs to be tilled into the soil 3-4 weeks before you plan to plant, or it can burn your
vegetables. Don’t just spread it on the surface, or you’ll lose most of the nitrogen.

If you use large amounts of good garden compost or the right amount of composted manure and have fertile
garden soil, you might not need to add organic soil amendments for growing tomatoes.

Growing Cherry Tomatoes—

‘Sungold’ © Steve Masley
Click IMAGE to Enlarge

I make great compost and use it abundantly in my garden, but I still add organic soil amendments every
year, because I like big, robust plants that make their own pest control and still have energy to produce bumper crops
(and great photos for my web site!).

If you’re starting a garden in a new place, or growing tomatoes in pots organically, you’ll get better results if you boost
the soil with organic soil amendments for the first 2-3 years.

Once you’re recycling kitchen scraps and yard and garden waste through a compost bin and back into the garden, you
can cut back on organic soil amendments or stop using them altogether, but for the first few years of a new garden,
here’s what I use and recommend.
Steve’s Recommended Organic Soil Amendments for Growing Tomatoes Organically:

Steve Tying Tomatoes © Steve Masley

Click IMAGE to Enlarge

A 3-4” (7-10cm) layer of good garden compost or mushroom compost.

Alfalfa Meal for early-season nitrogen (8-12lbs/100 square feet, or 2lbs per 10 feet of row), as well as some
phosphorous, potassium, and sulfur. Alfalfa meal is the best all-around fertilizer I’ve found for tomatoes and other
summer vegetables.

Feather Meal is ground-up chicken feathers, a byproduct of the poultry industry. It starts breaking down after about 8
weeks in the soil, and provides late-season nitrogen for heavy feeders like indeterminate (vining) tomatoes and
squash. It also helps boost populations of beneficial fungi, including predatory fungi that attack root-knot nematodes.
Use 1-1 ½ lbs/100 square feet (about 1 cup per 10 feet of row)

Kelp Meal for potassium, trace minerals, and growth factors that boost plant immunity. Use NO MORE than 1lb/100
square feet (a light dusting on each side of the rows)—kelp meal inhibits growth at high concentrations.

A hoe and some elbow grease—or a small tiller like a Mantis— to mix the compost, soil amendments, and topsoil
together. Organic soil amendments must be in contact with soil microbes to be broken down by them, so mix them
thoroughly into the soil.

The alfalfa meal provides for early-season growth, then the feather meal kicks in about mid-season, and supplies a
steady, slow release of nitrogen to fuel late-season growth in indeterminate and late-season tomatoes. Kelp meal
boosts resistance to diseases, which is important when growing tomatoes, especially if you’re growing heirloom

Of course, if you don't feel like going to the trouble and expense of buying multiple organic soil amendments, you can
always use a good, balanced organic fertilizer like Dr. Earth Organic Tomato, Vegetable, and Herb Fertilizer .

When growing tomatoes, you also have to pay attention to phosphorous and potassium levels. Tomatoes need
phosphorous for root, stem, and fruit formation, and potassium for flowering and resistance to diseases.

If you’ve had poor performance growing tomatoes in the past, the first thing to check is soil pH. Tomatoes grow best
in a slightly acidic soil, pH 6.2-6.8. Alkaline soils have a pH of 7.0-7.8. High pH “locks up” phosphorous, potassium,
iron, zinc, and many other minerals needed by plants.
See Changing Soil pH for ways to lower soil pH.

You can also use organic soil amendments to supplement your soil. For information on organic phosphorous sources,
click Here.

For information on organic potassium sources, click Here.

Top of Page | Tomato Varieties | Soil Preparation | Planting

Watering | Fertilizing | Plant Care | Tomato Hornworm
Other Tomato Pests | Diseases | Companion Plants
Heirloom Tomatoes | Tomatoes in Cool-Summer Gardens
Tomatoes in Containers

Amending Soil and Planting Tomatoes (Click Any Image to Enlarge)

Amendments and Soil Preparation for Double-Dug or Raised Tomato Beds, 1st Year

If you’re growing tomatoes in a deep-dug or raised garden bed, shovel the top 8-10” (20-25cm) from ¼ of the bed onto
a tarp next to the bed. Loosen and cultivate the layer of soil below, then lay down a 1-2” (2-5cm) layer of compost, a 1”
(2.5cm) layer of composted cow or sheep manure, or a ½” (1cm) layer of composted poultry manure. Cultivate into
the soil with a hoe or small tiller.

Shovel the top layer from the next section into the hole from the first, cultivate and amend the lower layer, then repeat
the process with the last 2 sections of the bed. Shovel the soil from the tarp back onto the bed and rake it flat.

Cultivate the top layer of soil with a hoe, grape mattock, or tiller to break up lumps. Add a 1-2” (2-5cm) layer of
compost, rake it flat, and spread any organic soil amendments you’re using evenly over the surface. If you’re using
composted manure, add a 1” (2.5cm) layer of cow or sheep manure, or a ½” (1cm) layer of poultry manure. Mix the
soil amendments thoroughly into the soil.

Top of Page | Tomato Varieties | Soil Preparation | Planting

Watering | Fertilizing | Plant Care | Tomato Hornworm
Other Tomato Pests | Diseases | Companion Plants
Heirloom Tomatoes | Tomatoes in Cool-Summer Gardens
Tomatoes in Containers

Planting Tomatoes

Planting tomato plants is really the only option in temperate zones in the northern and southern hemispheres.
Growing tomatoes from seed outdoors is only possible in the warmest climates, with 4-5 months of hot summer
weather and long sunny days.

Local nurseries usually offer tomato varieties that work well in your area, but their selection may be limited to a few
old stand-bys.

For a wider range of choices, try starting tomatoes from seed. Seed catalogs offer a stunning array of heirloom and
hybrid tomato seeds to choose from, and starting your own seeds is cheaper in the long run than buying seedlings
from nurseries every year, especially if you have a big garden.

Tomato Plant Spacing

When growing tomatoes, plant spacing varies, depending on cultural technique, depth of soil preparation, and

If you’re growing tomatoes in a single-dug bed (soil dug or tilled to 1 shovel depth, 9-10”–22-25cm):

Plant Determinate (Bush) Tomatoes 14” (36cm) apart in rows 24-30” (60-75cm) apart.

Plant Indeterminate Tomatoes 24-30” (60-75cm) apart in rows 32-36”–0.8m–apart.

If you’re growing tomatoes in a deep-dug or raised garden bed (soil prepared to a depth of 20-24”–50-60cm)

Plant Determinate (Bush) Tomatoes on 16” (40cm) hexagonal centers (seedlings 16” (40cm) apart in all directions
within the bed).

Plant Indeterminate Tomatoes on 24” (60cm) hexagonal centers (24”–60cm–apart in all directions within the bed).
If you’re growing tomatoes vertically, Italian Grandfather-Style (training them to 1 or 2 main branches and pruning
out the rest of the vegetative runners) you can tighten spacing to 18-20” (45-50cm) hexagonal centers in a deep-dug or
raised garden bed.

Don’t do this if you can’t keep up with the pruning and tying. This spacing is too tight for undisciplined plants, and
crowded tomato plants are more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Planting Tomato Plants

Plant tomatoes after all danger of frost has passed, when the soil has warmed up into the 50’s (10+ C°). Invert the pot
and carefully remove the plant. Loosen the root ball by squeezing gently and wiggling your fingertips along the
bottom to loosen the roots.

If you’re going to inoculate the plants with Endo-Myccorhizae , this is the time to do it.

Tomatoes evolved with myccorhizae helping them assimilate nutrients—especially phosphorous—from the soil, and
inoculating them can improve yields 10-20% over un-inoculated plants. A fine dusting over the moist roots is all that’s

When planting tomatoes, set the seedlings a couple inches deeper in the ground than the root crown. The soil line can
be above the seed leaves (the first set of leaves on the stem).

Most plants suffer when you do this, but tomatoes—especially leggy tomatoes with long, thin stems—perform better
when planted deeper. Roots will form along the stem where it’s in contact with the soil, anchoring the plant more
firmly in the soil.

Top of Page | Tomato Varieties | Soil Preparation | Planting

Watering | Fertilizing | Plant Care | Tomato Hornworm
Other Tomato Pests | Diseases | Companion Plants
Heirloom Tomatoes | Tomatoes in Cool-Summer Gardens
Tomatoes in Containers

Care and Feeding of Tomatoes

Watering Tomatoes

Determinate (bush) tomatoes require regular watering, 1-1 ½” (2-4cm) per week. If you don’t get enough rain, or if
your soil is sandy, you’ll need to irrigate. For Indeterminate (vining) tomatoes, follow a 3-stage watering regime:
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes—‘Carmello’
© Steve Masley…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

Stage 1 Watering: Get the plants established. For the first 2 weeks after planting, water a little bit every day or every
other day if it doesn’t rain, to get the plants established. Overhead watering is best at this stage.

Stage 2 Watering: Make them stretch their roots. After the tomatoes have been in the ground for 3 weeks, when the
vines are thickening up and beginning to grow aggressively, back off on the watering. Let them dry out for a few
days. At this stage, you want to make your tomatoes work to sink their roots deeper to find water.

If it’s really hot and they’re wilting, give them some water. The point is to make them stretch, not stress them
excessively. After a few days, give them a good, deep soaking. Saturate the soil, then let it dry out again for a few
days, to make your tomatoes stretch their roots even deeper into the soil.

When you’re growing tomatoes, the deeper their root systems, the more nutrients they can pull from the soil. The
more nutrients they can pull from the soil, the larger, more vigorous, and more resilient your tomato plants will be.

Large, robust plants put off garden pests, resist diseases, and fruit more heavily.

Stage 3 Watering: Once they’re fruiting, give your tomatoes steady, even watering till they’re done producing. Once
your tomatoes start flowering and setting fruit, shift to regular watering, a little bit every day or every other day, for 1-
1 ½” (2-4cm) of water per week. Once tomatoes are thickening on the vine, the root system is about as deep as it’s
going to get, and uneven watering can produce split fruit, especially with cherry tomatoes.

This is a good time to switch on the drip system, both to automate watering, and to keep water off the foliage.

Defending leaves from pathogens becomes less of a priority once plants start flowering and setting fruit. Water on the
foliage of mature summer vegetables is an invitation to bacterial and fungal leaf diseases.

Top of Page | Tomato Varieties | Soil Preparation | Planting

Watering | Fertilizing | Plant Care | Tomato Hornworm
Other Tomato Pests | Diseases | Companion Plants
Heirloom Tomatoes | Tomatoes in Cool-Summer Gardens
Tomatoes in Containers


If you’re growing tomatoes organically and building organic fertilizers into the soil when you plant, supplemental
fertilizing usually isn’t necessary.
If you didn’t build organic fertilizer into the soil when you planted, you may need to sidedress your tomato plants at

Pull back the mulch about a foot (30cm) out from the stems on each side of the plant and lay down a 1” (2.5cm) layer
of garden compost or composted manure. You can mix in organic soil amendments if your plants need extra nitrogen
or other minerals at this time.

Lightly cultivate the soil amendments into the soil, push the mulch back over, and water thoroughly. Try not to
cultivate too close to the plants, to avoid disturbing surface feeder roots.

Tomato Plant Care

The "Tomato Temple": Tomatoes Growing Through

a Trellis of Intertwined Redwood Branches
© Steve Masley Click IMAGE to Enlarge

Order Tomato Temple Print

When growing tomatoes, providing support for the plants and dealing with pest or disease problems are the main
plant care chores.

Determinate tomatoes grow on stout plants, but still need staking or caging when they’re heavy with fruit.
Garden centers sell wire hoop cages that work well for this.
Growing Tomatoes—‘Big Beef’
© Steve Masley
Click IMAGE to Enlarge

Indeterminate tomatoes take more attention, but produce higher yields for a longer period of time. They need large
cages—4-5 feet (1.5m) high—or tall stakes (8’–2.5m) to tie them to.

I like growing tomatoes through a trellis made of intertwined windfall redwood branches. You can use any
branches you can find, and bend and wire them into different shapes.

Just stick some vertical or curved sturdy uprights into the ground every foot or so. Zigzag them so one
branch is in front, and the next branch down the line is 10-12” (25-30cm) back, staggering them along a row.
Then weave arching horizontal branches between the uprights and wire them together with twists of 16-
guage galvanized wire. Pound the twists down against the branches to avoid getting poked when you’re
tending the vines.

Tomatoes Growing Through a

Redwood Branch Trellis © Steve
Masley…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

Run some horizontals on one side, and some on the other, so you end up with a trellis like the ribcage of a large
animal. The tomatoes grow up through the “ribs”, and there’s a lot less tying. Sometimes you have to weave a leader
through the trellis, but you can often just point it the way you want it to go, and it will grow that way.

Whether you use cages or stakes, it’s best to stake or cage the plants a week or two after putting them in the
ground, just as they’re starting to grow quickly. It’s almost impossible to cage a mature plant without knocking a lot of
fruit off the vine.
Tomato cages are easy, but I personally don’t like the look of them—too much hardware, like heavy braces and a
retainer on a smile. If you can find green cages, they don’t stick out as much.

I prefer redwood branch trellises for growing tomatoes, or 8’ (2.5m) green-plastic-coated steel stakes instead.

Pruning Indeterminate Tomatoes. To get the highest yields, pinch or prune out the vegetative runners that appear at
the junction of leaves and stems. They look like little tomato plants jutting up at a 45° angle. Bend them back and forth
until they snap off, or snip them off with garden sheers, and compost them.

Pruning Indeterminate Tomatoes ©Steve Masley (Click IMAGE to Enlarge)

Make sure you know the difference between a vegetative shoot and a flowering shoot. Vegetative shoots look like
small tomato plants jutting out up from where a leaf meets the main stem. Flowering shoots emerge from the main
stem itself,between leaf junctions.

The idea is to train the vines to 1-2 leaders, and prune out side-shoots. That way, the plant concentrates more on fruit
than foliage.

Staking Tomatoes Most indeterminate tomatoes set flowers on the same side of the main stem. When staking
tomatoes, wait for the first flowers to appear, then place the stake on the opposite side of the main stem. That way
tomato clusters will form on the outside, instead of between the stake and the vine.

Sink the stake 3-4” (7-10cm) out from the stem. Push it 10-12” (25-30cm) into the soil, so it’s solid.

I like to use ½” (1cm) clear plastic tape for tying tomatoes, peppers, and other plants that need staking and tying. The
tape is strong enough to hold the plant to the stake, but stretches as the vine grows, so it doesn’t constrict growth. You
can tear it off at any length needed, and it’s unobtrusive, unlike the bright green tape that seems to jump out from the

I tried figure-8 loops last summer, but used two rolls of tape instead of one. I also had more problems with vines
slipping down the stake than I’ve had just spiraling them around the pole and tying them with a single loop and a
square knot. Tie them every 6-8” (15-20cm).
Tomato Varieties | Starting Tomatoes from Seed
Soil Preparation | Planting Tomatoes | Watering | Fertilizing
Plant Care | Tomato Hornworms | Other Tomato Pests
Diseases | Companion Plants | Heirloom Tomatoes
Tomatoes in Cool-Summer Gardens
Growing Tomatoes in Containers

How to prune tomato plants

BY A D M I N O N 3 J U LY 2 0 1 3 · A D D C O M M E N T

Vining (indeterminate) tomato plants should be pruned (i) to minimise

excess vegetation, (ii) to direct nutrients to the fruit crop and (iii) to keep the plant manageable. [It is not advisable to prune
bush (determinate) varieties.]

With an un-pruned plant:

 support is difficult;
 fruit may be fewer, smaller, difficult to access and may trail on the ground;
 excess foliage will be more prone to airborne fungal diseases due to reduced air circulation and
 excess foliage may impede ripening by reducing light levels around the fruit.
A tomato plant consists of a root, a stem, leaf branches, cordons with flowers/fruit, a growing tip, suckers and side shoots. It
may be supported by string, a frame, canes or spiral plant support. [See the article on Training Tomatoes] Pruning requires
removal of (i) the side shoots, (ii) the suckers and (iii) any diseased leaves so that nutrients and energy can be directed to
those areas of the plant that require them most i.e. the flower/fruit trusses, growing tip and the leaves.
Unpruned tomato plant
Side shoots grow from nodes i.e. between the main stem and a leaf branch and should be carefully pinched out or snapped
off as soon as you notice them. Aim to make as clean a break as possible so as to minimise the amount of plant tissue that is
exposed. Sometimes a side shoot can be mistaken for a leaf branch where a leaf branch has already broken off. In this case,
keep an eye out for an unwieldy branch that grows and grows; it will beg to stay by producing a flower truss but in the long
run it is better to remove it.
Suckers grow from the base of the plant and compete directly with the main part of the plant for nutrients and water
coming up through the roots. Remove by breaking off at the base (rather than pulling out of the ground and damaging the

Both suckers and side shoots differ from the normal leaf branches. They produce a stem, leaf branches and flower/fruit
trusses and will cause the plant to become bushy and unmanageable.

The growing tip

Avoid removing the growing tip as this will inhibit the plant from growing any taller. It is easy to confuse the growing tip
with a side shoot so if in doubt, wait about a week until it grows more and the distinction will be clearer.

However, to maintain manageability, you might consider removing the growing tip once the plant has about seven fruit
trusses or reaches seven to ten feet high.

Replanting or disposing of side shoots

Sides shoots and suckers can be re-planted by simply sticking them into a pot of seed compost. In fact, if the plant is
performing badly due to cold weather, a shoot taken from it and planted may ultimately overtake and outperform it.

Otherwise, any material taken from the plant should be composted or disposed of away from the plant. Don’t be tempted to
leave cuttings around the plant as they will attract disease.

 If using secateurs, ensure they have been sterilised in advance.
 Wash your hands before pruning and especially if you have been using tobacco.
 I prefer to prune by hand and not use gloves as it can be a delicate operation requiring a light touch. However, it will
stain your hands temporarily and, because tomato leaves are toxic, you should wash your hands afterwards.
 Tomatoes are highly susceptible to potato blight so if you have been in contact with potato plants, take measures not
to cross-contaminate in advance of pruning.

Tomato side shoot for removal

Sucker growing from base of a tomato plant

Tomato side shoots for removal
T AG G E D W I T H → indeterminate • prune • pruning • tips • tomato • truss • vine

Supporting, Pruning and

Staking Tomatoes
Even the superheroes of the summer garden need support.
With a little TLC and thinking ahead, your tomatoes will
be healthy, heavy producers.

Mary Beth Shaddix


 Maintenance ,

 Pruning
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2012

Pinching suckers and stake supports with twine ties is key to initial Tomato TLC.

Getting a great crop of tasty tomatoes starts long before the spade hits the soil. Knowing the ideal
size of the tomato plant at maturity and how a little staking, support, and snipping can help keep
tomatoes in tip top shape are good first steps in producing a healthy crop of toms.

Try Growing These Delicious Heirlooms 17 photos

 View All 17 Photos

When choosing seeds to start or plants to purchase, first look at the type of tomato. The packet or
label will describe the growth habit as determinate (or bush), or indeterminate (vining). If you are
limited on space or growing in containers, plant a determinate variety that will grow smaller in
stature and flower all at once. Determinate tomatoes such as ‘Roma’ are also a great choice for
canners, as the flush of fruits matures at one convenient harvesting time. Indeterminate varieties
are known as vining types because the tomato vines will continue to grow, flower, and fruit as the
season goes on. They wander and leap as they put out more and more tomatoes. These will need
strong, large cages or trellis systems above five feet, as they can grow between 6-10 feet tall. For
gardeners really limited in space, don’t give up—grow up! A potted cherry tomato can easily be
supported on an apartment balcony railing with soft supporting ties. Or, consider tiny trailing
varieties growing down from hanging baskets.

A key step in giving great support is to plant the stems deeply—burying at least one-half or two-
thirds of the plant underneath the soil line. This ensures a healthy, stocky stem on a heavily rooted
plant. Most tomatoes, whether bush or vining, benefit from staking to keep the main stem upright.
With any luck, they’ll be covered with heavy fruit and you’ll be glad you took precautions to do so,
avoiding broken stems and broken hearts. For plants growing four feet or less, simply insert a
bamboo cane or 36-48” wooden stake ten inches into the soil, just outside the diameter of the
rootball. Do this when planted initially, as it’s easier when the tomato is young and small to avoid
damaging the roots. When the plant reaches 12” in height, loosely tie the stem to the supporting
stake using natural, degradable twine or upcycled strips of t-shirts or hosiery. As it grows, repeat
ties every 8-12” for best results.

For plants growing four feet or larger, it’s a safe bet to support with a sturdy cage or trellis. Create
circular cages with rolls of livestock fencing or concrete reinforcing wire cut into six foot lengths,
bending the cut wires together to securely fasten the cylindrical shape. Place this over the young
tomato plant, securing with two wooden stakes driven into the soil and tied to the cage. Also, for
row crops, consider a method using twine and posts nicknamed the “Florida Weave,” popular for its
ease of installation and adaptability. Drive a 4-5’ stake between every other plant in a row, then
tightly tie twine to the first stake about 12” from the soil line. Run the length of twine by the first
tomato, in-between the two plants, then around the second stake in a figure eight pattern. Tie off
the twine when returning to the first stake so that there is good tension for supporting the plants.
As the plants grow, twine is added at 12 -18” intervals up the stakes. Tuck in wayward stems to keep
them tidily behind twine. No matter your method, the key is keeping the branches off of the ground
and upright, supporting the weight of the fruit.

Another key step in tomato TLC begins with a few snips. Remove any branches or foliage from the
main stem below the first flower cluster. This is usually the first 10” above the soil and is good
maintenance for clean, healthy foliage. Soil splashing onto the leaves can quickly transfer deadly
diseases and fungus. Keep clean garden shears, dipping in a weak bleach water solution as you
work from plant to plant.

As your plant grows, it’s also a good idea to remove suckers — those vigorous stems sprouting in-
between a “V” of the stem and side branch. This will keep the plant open and airy, allowing better air
circulation and focusing the plant’s energy on key growth areas.

Lastly, for clean garden space and to prevent the spread of fungus or diseases, prune foliage that
shows signs of potential issues. I readily snip leaves that show brown or yellow discoloration and
clean my garden snip blades in a mild bleach solution between each cut. The idea is to stave off
spreading of disease, not help it! Dispose of these affected leaves in a plastic garbage bag in your
household trash—not the compost pile.

Simply planning ahead to create the right environment for a bush or vining tomato—and a few key
snips early in the planting stage—will set it up for success and a bumper crop.

Tomato Growing Tips

- See more at:

How to Tie up Tomatoes

 3 Editors

 Edited 49 weeks ago

Two Methods:Traditional MethodModern Method

Tomato plants that are staked up and tied will grow and produce better tomatoes that
are easier to pick. Untied plants will grow along the ground, causing the plants to
tangle and the tomatoes to rot, and can lead to disease. Keep in mind, there are over
25,000 different varieties of tomato, and the appropriate gardening method may
depend on your variety of tomato plant.
Method 1 of 2: Traditional Method


Choose an appropriate stake. Some people use a narrow piece of wood, at least 6 feet
(180 cm) tall for indeterminate varieties or 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120 cm) for determinate
varieties, and at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) square, pointed on one end so that it will easily
stick in the ground. Others prefer dowel rods, metal stakes or even plastic piping. Still
others prefer to set up a trellis or wire mesh cages.


Insert the stake immediately after planting. It is best to insert the stake 3 to 6 (7.5 to
15 cm) north of the base.

Choose your ties. Cloth knit material, such as yarn or old panty hose legs, make very
good ties. Cut or rip the material into strips that are about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm)

Wait until the first flowers appear so that the main stem will be strong enough.

Carefully tie your plant.

 Begin by tying the tomato stalk loosely to the stake close to the ground.
Do not pull the material too tightly, but be sure your knot is strong.
 Place another tie about 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) up the stake. Because
you must continue to tie the leader shoot (the main shoot of the plant) in this manner
as it grows, the traditional method can be time consuming. You may need to add ties if
your tomato vines become heavily loaded with tomatoes.
 Remember, tomato plants break easily, so always treat them gently.
Method 2 of 2: Modern Method


Drive metal fence posts into the ground between the tomato plants, about 5 (150 cm)
to 6 feet (180 cm) apart. Make sure they are stably fixed into the ground.

String several lines of heavy wire or twine between the fence posts above the
plants. The first line of twine should be about 1 foot (30 cm) from the ground, and
there should be about 1 foot (30 cm) between the layers, weaving between the plants.

Attach the tomato vines to the heavy wire or twine using cloth ties or plastic
clips. Continue to tie the vines to the wire or twine as the tomato plants grow. Be very
careful when handling the vines.

 Note: Sometimes ties and clips are unnecessary in the modern method,
because the wire or twine is sufficient to keep the plants upright.