Your Preferred Way of Supporting Tomato Plants

macgregor(6MA)January 7, 2012

Hi all,

I am sketching out our potager for this spring and the question came up of what we will use for our tomatoes that will be practical, good support for the plants, that is still nice to look at. Last year I crisscrossed tall stakes and tied them (3 together) and used those for supports. Then I connected the whole row with a long stake across the tops and tied them together. It was just too much work to keep everything tied up, and not good enough support (and during the hurricane effects we got was totally blown over).

What do you recommend as a solid, easy-to-use support that looks okay in a potager? (I am considering tomato cages painted to complement the garden.)

Thank you!

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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I asked this question a few years ago, and did lot of research. What I finally got was Texas Tomato Cages. You cannot beat them for support (we have hurricanes too), for neatness, and low maintainance. I plan to order six more this year. You won't be sorry.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 6:40PM
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Check out the Wally for colored tomato cages. They had them last year in a rainbow of colors. I have to say though that if your tomato vines get very large those wimpy little cages won't hold them up. If you grow vigorous tomato varieties try using a 2.5' circle of hog wire. The openings are large to take out the tomatoes through the sides and they are sturdy enough to stand up all season. Once they are covered with the vines you can't really see them at all.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 9:50PM
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I don't have very good luck with tomatoes, so I'm moving them to a new bed, on the west side of the house. We just have such short summers and cool evenings...I have lovely green tomatoes in August...and then it freezes.

What's worked best for me, so far, is a big stake and I just tie them to it. The cages I tried the first year, were a big overwhelmed by the plants, even with my short season. I can only imagine how big the plants would get, in a warmer climate :)

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 2:17PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

I have 6 Texas Tomato Cages. If I had room to store them I'd buy more. Also use a couple obelisks and for the rest of the plants 8' tall plastic coated metal stakes.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 6:55PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I pound in a couple of metal fence posts for stability, then zig zag hog wire through the bed, having each corner or zig coming close to the edge of the bed.
With 4 zigs (or zags if you will), each gives me a "wall" for a tomato plant to be tied or fastened to. That's good for 6 or so mater plants.
I usually can find those plastic hookies at the flea market, but hay bale string, nylons or the store bought green stuff to tie them up work fine too. Use your imagination!
By the time I start getting tomatoes, the plants are covering the full 4' of wire and you can't see it anyway!
Have fun! Nancy

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 9:08PM
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The best I have found are the panels of welded wire used to re-enforce concrete slabs. They are also used for managing livestock. The panels are 4' x 8', and can be cut without difficulty. They are strong enough to support large healthy plants, and the 6" space between the wires is easy to reach through. They can be stored flat in the off-season or used as a support for bird feeders in the winter. If you want to go really cheap, but equally effective, dismantle an old boxspring and attach it to some sturdy stakes... once the plants start growing they look pretty good.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 11:18AM
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I used a little bit of everything last year. I put in a 7 ft bamboo stake next to each plant, then put a cheap 4ft. high 3-sided tomato cage (K-mart) around it. The tomatoes are in a 4 ft x 10 ft raised bed. At each corner I affixed a 12 ft piece of metal conduit vertically. I strung steel wire around the conduit at the top so that I could hang ties down from that. I dont get quite enough sun, so my plants are 10-12 ft tall. It worked great, but I am an obsessive with the ties.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 8:16AM
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I use bamboo tripods, much like what MacGregor described, and they work really well for me. Maybe that's because I do more pruning, or have them fastened at the tops more strongly. We run stabilizing bamboo poles horizontally at the tops of the tripods down the rows and also across the two rows. I saw this used fairly extensively in potagers in the south of France and it seemed like a good idea. I tried it at home and I like it; it's neat and seems sturdy. Plus it makes my potager look like the ones I saw in France!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 7:41AM
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Thanks for posting everybody. It's so interesting to see the variety of ways everyone supports their tomato plants.

riverfarm, seeing your photo reminded me why I used the tripod method in the first place - it looks lovely! I need to make my poles longer though,and use some across as well.

I think I'll give this system another try this summer. As long as there are no hurricane effects it should be okay.

Thanks again all - I appreciate the effort you made to help me out.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 4:55PM
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Riverfarm- Beautiful garden! Your tomatoes look lovely and very much like a potager :)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 5:01PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Riverfarm, that is gorgeous! I don't prune, so it wouldn't work for me.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 12:43PM
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Thanks! I love the way the tripods look, and since almost all of my tomatoes are French varieties they feel right at home on them. Of course, some years my garden looks better than others, but I really enjoy mixing flowers and veggies and then sitting on that patio and watching the birds hunt for treats among the vegetation.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 9:36AM
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do you have any more potager photos to share?

macgregor zones5/6

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Macgregor, yes. I love to photograph my potager! Shall I post them on the photo thread?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 4:22PM
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Yes, you absolutely should post them on the photo thread.
Everyone will enjoy seeing them. Thank you!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 5:31PM
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Here's what I did last year. I used closet pole supports screwed to the fence posts and electrical conduit as the cross bar. I just twisted the stems around the twine as they grew and pruned suckers. It worked well as a support. Unfortunately, I was overrun by chipmunks eating the tomatoes before I could!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 1:12PM
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I didn't know chipmunks ate tomatoes! We have some problems with turtles munching on the lower fruits, but they can't do much once the tomatoes ripen on the higher sections of the plants.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 7:55AM
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I wasn't sure if it was squirrels or chipmunks until I caught one in the act one morning. What a mess they made.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:17PM
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Hopefully this photo will work. I tie the stems to the poles as they grow. Occasionally they slip down a little, but it's not usually a problem. I'd tried other methods and they never seemed heavy duty enough. While on vacation in France one year I visited a hotel/restaurant/potager, looking for attractive gardening ideas. I'm very happy with this method.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 11:31PM
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I was just thinking about how to arrange my own potager for this coming year (yes a bit early maybe to be thinking that far ahead, but oh well) and i have really been impressed with my 4' tall 18" square cages home made from rebar. they are pretty chunky and definitely don't collapse under the weight of the tomatoes, weather really nicely on their own or can be painted. and you can make them to fit your needs. i will never go back to those cheap store bought ones.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 10:55PM
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I am new to this forum (just learned last week that there was actually a name for what I have doing for the last few years - "potaging")...anyway I make tall bamboo cages from material that comes from the hedge of bamboo that protects my garden on the windward side (you can see the hedge in the distance). It takes a few hours and some twine to build these things but after that, it doesn't take much work and they support pounds of tomatoes, plus they look cool.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 11:02AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

DS those are cool! How far apart are the 2 rows of bamboo supporting the tomatoes? (If I'm seeing that right).
I did this after visiting the Kendal Jackson gardens (my favorite inspirational place to go several x per year!), but used metal fence posts and wire.(I wasn't very interested in the looks of the garden then)
I just got a new batch of bamboo from freecycle and was wondering how to use it! I might give this another try! Nancy

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 9:14PM
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Nancy, my beds are 4 ft by 10 ft and I plant one row of tomato plants which are about 2.5 to 3 ft wide when mature so I make the frames about 2 to 2.5 ft wide by 4.5 ft high. I plant the remaining portions of the bed with smaller plants such as eggplants, basil, or peppers. The structures actually take a lot of bamboo (at least 100 feet by my crude calculations), but I have a lot of bamboo! Good luck! David. PS, don't know about Kendal Jackson gardens but I will google it.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 4:35PM
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I'm envious of the lush open gardens! The critters in my area are numerous and love a nice salad bar, so hard earned experience has caused me to build Fort Knox... pic attached. I have wire on the floor and plastic deer fence on the walls and roof... I wish I could say it's overkill, but again I did learn it was necessary the hard way! No crop damage at all anymore. And to the reason for my reply here... the fence on the roof allows me to put bamboo stakes wherever I want them. I just poke them up through the mesh and they are well supported. The poles are 12' tall, and my indeterminate tomatoes grow right to the top and then back down again... I do need a stepladder by season's end, but I love the look of the vigorous towering plants.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 8:52AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country) have earned your name! LOL That is amazing! LOL
Oh! too many LOLs here! LOL
I have neither deer or rabbits, but there have been a few turkeys spotted near-by!
My neighbors have seen me maniacally running down the driveway screaming " TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY"
Anyway, back on task..... Pigwire zigzagged and connected to a t pole at each end of the raised bed. The t-posts keep things sturdy, as does the wire and you can easily reach through the wire to pick your maters!
I don't know how to post pics or I would. Nancy

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 9:16PM
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cheleinri(z6 RI)

I wish I had a picture without the tomatoes on it..we have structures made out of furring strips.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 5:06PM
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cheleinri, those are some huge tomato plants! What size strips did you use?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 10:42PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

riverfarm- May I ask where you got your little bistro set? It's just what I've been looking for! Nancy

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 9:23PM
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cheleinri(z6 RI)

kevn- I believe they are 2 inch. We followed the instructions in a magazine. You can probably find it by searching for Cottage Living tomato trellis and see it better (and a little more decoratively made). The trellis is very sturdy- we had a hurricane not long after the picture was taken and the tomatoes were still standing. The sunflowers were toast though.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 8:31AM
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