There are almost as many options for a tomato plant support as there are tomato varieties to choose from. If you are new to growing tomatoes, finding proper tomato plant supports can be daunting. The one thing to remember is there really is no right or wrong solution for a tomato plant support system- which ever system that you are comfortable with and what works best for your situation.
The first thing to consider when choosing what type of tomato plant support to use for your tomatoes is finding out what type of tomatoes you are growing. Essentially, tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate.
Determinate or Indeterminate?
Determinate tomato plants grow to a particular height when mature, set fruit pretty much all at once, and then begin to diminish after the fruit has set. Determinates are sometimes also referred to as “bush” tomatoes. ‘Big Boy Bush‘ is a popular variety of determinate tomatoes.
Indeterminate tomatoes will continually grow and produce fruit throughout the growing season until killed off by frost. Indeterminates can become very large (6 – 10 feet tall) and heavy. They are also called vining tomatoes.
Choosing a Tomato Plant Support
It has become fairly common knowledge among gardeners that supporting tomato plants is the best practice for growing these delicious fruits. By letting the plants lay on the ground unsupported, they can produce smaller yields, become more susceptible to disease, and loss of fruit due to rot can occur. Not supporting your tomato plants also makes it very difficult to harvest the tomatoes when ripe.
Tomato stakes are probably the most common tomato supports used by home gardeners. Stakes can be very economical and install in seconds. They can be made out of many different materials, and can be store-purchased or homemade from extra materials you may already have. Fence posts, scrap lumber, concrete reinforcement bar (or rebar), bamboo, and small diameter pipes can all be used as functional tomato stakes. Get creative with using materials for stakes to save on your gardening budget. Stakes can be used with determinate or indeterminate tomatoes.
Tomato cages are also widely used to support tomatoes. Cages do a terrific job of supporting the tomato stem, but also supports the branches of the plant as well. Tomato cages can be purchased at most home improvement stores or garden centers. You can build your own tomato cages from concrete reinforcement wire. The store bought tomato cages work best for determinate tomatoes. They will work for indeterminate, but may not be strong enough once the tomato plants becomes fully grown.
You can also use a combination of stakes and a cage for your tomatoes. Using both of these methods will ensure that your plants will be well supported. It might be a little more work and some extra costs, but it is well worth the time and money. The picture below demonstrates a quality support system for your tomatoes.
Tomato Ladders and Other Tomato Plant Support Systems
Another support option for growing tomatoes is using tomato ladders. The tomato ladder can also be homemade. The tomato ladder is very similar to the tomato stake, but the ladder concept is two-sided giving large tomato plants more support. This is ideal for indeterminate tomato varieties. The ladders are a bit more costly compared to using stakes.
Tomato TeePees are superb for growing determinate tomatoes, and help provide the plants heat during cooler weather in the spring or fall. The tomato teepees wrap around the tomato plants, supporting them off the ground. They also contain cells that you fill with water. The water will heat up during the day, keeping the plants warm during cool night temperatures. This warming action will promote quicker growth and better tomato yields.
There are a wide range of solutions for supporting your beautiful tomato plants available, these are just a few of those. Use trail and error to figure out what works best for supporting your tomatoes. The most important thing to remember when supporting tomatoes is that they are supported off the ground. Supporting the plants will ensure a productive and healthy crop all season long.