Cup day is the official day to transplant tomato seedlings in Melbourne. Many tomato varieties grow tall and need support as they grow. This is because without support they grow closer to the ground and are more susceptible to diseases. Supporting tomato plants helps to avoid pests and diseases by keeping its leaves away from the soil and also allowing for better air circulation. But with so many options to support tomato plants it can be difficult to decide what to go with.
Choosing how to support tomato plants
Vine or Bush?
One important thing to consider first is what variety you’re growing. Determinate or bush tomato varieties grow to a specific height and produce fruit all at once. Determinate varieties don’t grow as tall so may not need as much support or at all. Indeterminate or vine tomato varieties will keep growing and producing fruit until it gets too cold. Because indeterminate varieties will keep growing they need strong tall support. I once had a tommy toe tomato plant outgrow its supporting stake. Luckily I had an unused clothesline at just the right place.
I’ve tried to review various options of tomato plant support below to help you decide what might work best for you.
Tomato stakes are the most common way to support tomatoes. It’s simple and cost effective. You can buy tomato stakes from a Home & Garden shop or reuse a left over piece of wood or bamboo. As long as it’s tall and sturdy to withstand the plants and unexpected gusts of wind it should work ok. Make sure you firmly push it into the soil before planting to avoid damaging roots. Also, don’t forget to tie the plant to the stake as it grows with a soft tie leaving room for the plant to grow. Tomato stakes don’t take much space, so they’re very convenient to store.
Tomato cages can offer more even support for the stem of the plant. It’s easier to use than stakes since the sides of the cage support both the stem and branches. You can also build your own from concrete reinforcement wire. They tend to be shorter than tomato stakes, so they are a good option for determinate varieties that don’t grow very tall, but may need to be used in combination with stakes to support taller indeterminate varieties. Some tomato cages, including ones made of concrete reinforcement wire, can be flattened for storage. The ones that don’t may be sturdier but less convenient to store.
Another option for supporting tomatoes is a tomato ladder. Tomato ladders may be the best of both worlds. They are usually as tall as tomato stakes but have a V shape with three stakes and also offer support for branches. Tomato ladders offer the ideal support for indeterminate varieties. They’re usually made of sturdy metal and are easier than stakes since you don’t have to tie the plant to it. Depending on the ladder you buy it may also allow attaching extensions if the plant outgrows it. Tomato ladders can usually be disassembled for easy storage.
In addition to the options above, you may also want to consider weaving. Weaving consists of having wooden stakes in between plants and a horizontal twine woven between stakes. As the plant grows you’ll need to continue to add more lines of twine. This can be an effective method for indeterminate varieties if you have many plants in a row.
There are many options to support tomato plants. Picking the right one for the tomato variety you’re growing will help your plant stay healthy and strong as it grows. Don’t worry too much about picking the perfect option. You can always experiment and adjust as you go.