This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, chickens, and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

tomato supports

tomatoes at community garden

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!

tomato 1 tom's tomatoes
garden tomato plants tomatoes



Blogger Thomas said...

Great info Kathy. I think I'm gonna try Veggie Gardening Tips' method this year. Here's the link:

Good luck with your tomatoes this year!

May 24, 2010 9:21 AM

Blogger kathy said...

That looks like a good method too. Thanks.

May 24, 2010 10:07 AM

Blogger Kristin said...

Kathy, thank you so much for this post! This is really helpful, plus now I have a really good visual for my husband to build one for me :). Now, let's just hope for a good tomato growing summer this year!!!

May 25, 2010 12:51 PM

Blogger kathy said...

I'm certainly hoping!

May 25, 2010 1:03 PM

Blogger Emily said...

I'm experimenting with a similar twine strategy this year. I think I'm going to tie the twine to a stake at the bottom of each tomato plant. How do you prevent the plant from getting hurt by the twine tied around the base?

May 25, 2010 9:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't tie it around the base, tie it to a metal peg or one of those u shaped things they have at the hardware store. Wind around the plant and push into the ground!

May 29, 2010 9:29 AM

Blogger kathy said...

Great - thanks Betsy! I will do this.

May 30, 2010 10:01 PM

Anonymous takaekokaz said...

Hi, I live in Japan and rent a 250sqf community garden plot near to my house.
It's a first try to grow tomatoes and are wondering how to get good tips.Your blog is so practical.Happy to find your blog.

We have a rainy season starting mid June to mid July in Japan.I have to prepare rain cover for protection against rain.

June 08, 2010 12:35 AM

Blogger kathy said...

Good luck growing tomatoes! You can read through this link: tomatoes: for tips. The best tips on my blog are usually in the comment people leave me.

The tomatoes will probably like the rain. If you make a cover, make sure the plants get plenty of airflow and can dry out between rains. Tomatoes are very susceptible to fungal diseases in damp conditions.

June 08, 2010 2:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I used the tee pee method that I read about on your site this past season. It worked well but I was wanting to try the twine method in 2011. How does the twine support the whole plant? Do you have to tie the branches to the twine like on the tee pees? I guess I'm making it too hard to understand.


December 02, 2010 11:36 PM

Blogger kathy said...

Paul, After a few years of using the twine method, I am planning next year to just tie the twine to the base of the plant. You then wrap the twine around the plant as it grows. Its harder to describe than to do it. It'll be obvious how it works once you get started. Just twist the growing tip end of the plants around the twine loop as the plant grows. Mid season, you may want to replace the twine or add another loop of twine when the plants are big. That way you can wind it around the plant before tying and catch all the branches that escaped.

I've tried all sorts of ways to tie the twine down at the base, stakes and poles, thy come loose. It doesn't hurt the plant to tie it to the base of the stem. I'll use this method next year.

Good luck. - The planing is fun!

December 03, 2010 12:00 PM


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