There are several good options for supporting tomatoes.
If you have lots of space, want to minimize your work, and aren't too worried about the fungal pests that will come if we have another wet summer, you probably want to use the standard round metal tomato supports. With these, you don't need to do any work - just push them in around the plants and let the vines grow how they will. These will keep the plants off the ground so you can walk around them and pick the fruits easily. I've also seen people plant 3 or 4 tomato plants inside an old tire filled with good soil and a ring of metal fencing that you can get your hand through.
But if you have limited space and/or are concerned about fungi, its best to train the plant upward and prune excess growth. I have used tepees with good results for many years. To make tomato tepees, cut a 10ft 2x4 into 1x1 poles and use twine to secure groups of 4. Plant one tomato at the base of each pole and, as the plants grow, remove all sucker growth. Use commercial velcro plant ties or strips cut from plastic bags to secure the vines to the poles.
The past two years I have used a metal crosspole and twine to support my tomatoes. It seems the easiest method to me. To set up, make your end posts from wood and about 6 or 7 feet tall (you need to be able to reach the top it easily). These will support a metal cross pole. My cross poles are about 9 or 10 ft long - the length of my rows. To set up the structures, my husband pushed 3 foot metal fence supports into the ground and secured the wooden posts to these with large tie wraps. The metal pole is held in place by a hole near the top of the wood posts. To support the growing tomatoes, you just loop twin over the pole and tie it to the tomato plant - tie it to the stem at the bottom of the plant. You then wind the plant and twine as the plant grows (removing all suckers). Midway through the season, you may need to replace the twine, but mine lasted fine all year last year. I space my tomatoes plants about 12 inches, but 18 inches would be better.
Using the crosspole method, tomatoes plants are able to get lots of airflow in and around the plants. Also, the amount of sunlight each leaf gets is maximized. Tomato leaves without good sun exposure are prime candidates for fungal diseases. I'm sure hoping for a good tomato season this year!
Labels: tomato supports