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How You Should Stake Your Tomato Plants

By Lee Shafer_

Some tomato plants really don’t need staking, due to being bush type or determinate plants. However, when you grow some of the mid to late season heirloom tomatoes, which are, quite often, indeterminate or semi-determinate, you’ll find that the plants will grow to amazing heights and begin to sprawl all over the place.

So in order to keep those precious tomatoes up off the ground, we need to stake them up and train them to grow where we want them to. There are many reasons for staking and of those, first and foremost, is that it keeps your tomatoes in a smaller space rather than sprawling all over the ground. Another very important reason is that while keeping your tomatoes up off the ground, this keeps them cleaner and ground critters (wood lice, pill bugs, as well as rodents) are less apt to nibble on them. It also prevents your tomato plants from retaining water beneath them and rotting the fruit before ripening. The other very important reason for staking is that when your tomatoes grow, they become heavy. Higher tomatoes can break branches from the plant. So if they are resting on or tied up to another support rather than your plant itself, you don’t run the risk of losing those prized tomatoes.

There are a number of ways to do this, so I’ll give you some ideas on the different methods.

If you have decided to use tomato cages, you will need to stabilize them as the indeterminate plants grow in size. The easiest method to do this is to weave wood stakes, rebar or cut conduit through the rungs of the cage, down into the soil. This will keep the cage from tipping over as the plant gets large on the top.

Weave or coax/train your tomato plants through the wire rings of the tomato cages, as they grow. This may need to be done on a daily basis as the temperatures warm out of doors.

Wood or Metal Poles

Slat material is another staking method I use, if I have neglected my tomato plants for too long. Sometimes cages cannot be used, so slats can be used instead. They can also be used with tomato cages. But if your tomatoes have grown beyond safely coaxing or training them through the rings of the cage, simply tie them to the rings of the cage or use slat material woven through the rings, in order to stake the sprawling branches. Slat material can be purchased for approximately $25 per 100 pieces, so it’s quite cost effective.

If you use this method, the branches will need to be tied to the stakes. Clips can also be used if you are using bamboo or round stakes. It’s nice to tie them with torn strips of cotton draped around the stalk and tied around the slat or stake.

To avoid damage to the branches, I like to use strips of either cotton sheets, torn into 1 inch strips. You can also use 1 inch strips of torn cotton T-Shirt material. Either choice works well and depending on what I have around the house factors in which I use.

When tying the branches to the stake, always make sure the branch is only wrapped with the cotton strip, loosely and not a complete wrap. Then take the ends and wrap each end around the stake and tie on the opposing side of the tomato branch.

Concrete Reinforcing Wire or Ranch Fencing Tomato Cages

You can also use Ranch Fencing or concrete reinforcing wire, to build your own tomato cages. Just remember to find fencing that has large enough holes to get your tomatoes through. It comes in heights of 48 inches as well as taller and to use it, simply cut a piece about 37 – 40 inches long. This will make about a 12 inch circle to fit over your plant. Twist the cut ends together and create a circle. Place around your tomato plants. You’ll probably need some reinforcing sticks or bars to keep them upright, but they do work quite well and help to keep larger critters from munching on your precious tomatoes.

Wood Ladder Style Frames

Wood ladder folding style Tomato frames are unique. They actually form an A frame over the top of the tomato. They can be folded up at the end of the season and stored in a very small area. Mother Earth News has a nice how to on building them.

Looking to find the best deal on heirloom tomatoes, then visit to find the best advice on stake tomato plants for you.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Shafer_, Lee "How You Should Stake Your Tomato Plants." How You Should Stake Your Tomato Plants. 9 Jul. 2010. 16 Sep 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Shafer_, L (2010, July 9). How You Should Stake Your Tomato Plants. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Shafer_, Lee "How You Should Stake Your Tomato Plants"

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