ideas for tomato plant supports?

mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)September 8, 2011

I'm wondering what we can do differently next year for our tomatoes for support. DH plows our garden every year before planting, and we keep picking small rocks out as we find them. But when he tried to put the tomato cages he bought into the soil this year, he kept hitting more rocks which made it very difficult to insert far enough to be sturdy. He opted to not use them at all (especially since we often find they really aren't tall enough anyway as the plant grows to it's full potential)and let the plants fall where they may. Although the plants are producing nicely (most of them, anyway), it is rather a mess of branches out there and difficult to walk through, pick, and determine which plant is which! So we need to make a better plan for next year, IMO.

The year before, he put in some small posts and strung string across them. Then we rested the branches against the string. It worked pretty well, so maybe we'll at least go back to that.

What are others using to support their tomato plants that you find works well - and isn't TOO expensive?

Marj

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david52_gw

I use cattle panels - those 16 foot by 50 inches high, held up by t-posts. This pic may give an idea - I wire two of them together length-wise, for a 32 foot section, leave a foot path, then another two.

Also good for cucumbers, beans, squash, peas, anything that climbs, and they also work well for companion planting - say beets in front, runner beans up the trellis, etc.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 10:19PM
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digit(ID/WA)

Marj, I finally worked my way down to the sprawl. This year, I started back towards support with about 1/3rd of the tomatoes.

Yes, I had the same experience with the wire tomato rings. So, I'd drive a post into the ground to support them. Finally, I was driving 3 posts into the ground around them. That seemed kind of silly so I stopped using the tomato rings and just used 3 posts with baling twine in place of the wire rings.

That seemed a bit much for so many plants so I just drove a post beside each plant and tied them to the post as they grew. Next step was the sprawl. Now, I'm back to the 1 post and baling twine ties. It really works quite well even if the posts aren't very tall and the plants soon begin to over-hang and work their way back towards the ground. The fruit is usually off the ground, at least.

You can use cable ties instead of twine. Tying the twine first to the post and then around the plant works better but the cable ties are really, really quick.

Steve

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 11:24PM
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colokid(5)

I like Steve am just about to give up in a regular garden and let them sprawl. I have been there with about every method known. Last year I thought I had it made with the zigzag between steel T posts until the whole thing fell over on the ground. Large cages from concrete wire I have not done.
What I have this year on my raised beds is this, and I like it. Each plant has a 5 foot store cage UPSIDE DOWN. Over the top of them, resting on the cages is a framework of 1 inch PVC. This ties the whole thing together. The bed is 4 by 8 so the PVC frame is about 2 by 6 foot and is hooked to the water supply. The PVC has holes at the proper spacing to water the bed. Not spray, but dribble down. This seems to be a good way to water the raised bed. Since some plants are 6 foot high, I have a branch or two tied up to the frame. Sorry I am too lazy to post pictures.
Kenny

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 6:25AM
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billie_ladybug(5b)

I have used cattle panels the same way David shows, just mine are on raised beds 16' long. If you need to cut them, use bolt cutters. The other support I use and like is there is a lighter weight hog and cattle fence that comes in rolls. I cut 5 - 6 foot off and make a large wire cage. Usually I can just put these around a plant and the plant just climbs upish, just needing to be tucked in once in a while. I save the "tomato cages" for my peppers and eggplant.

Billie

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 11:23AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

It might be overkill here, but where I learned to do them right was in Sacratomato, the country's tomato capital. The old-timers taught everyone to use re-mesh with a ~5ft diameter. ~200+ day growing season there, tho.

If I had room, I'd free-stand them here & use cattle panel in a circle, or maybe CRW (although often not long enough); I think if you have a post driver you can keep T-post from falling over.

In my raised bed I have trellises and I tie parachute cord to top and bottom and twist toms up the cord. This means less production and more attention to pinching suckers, however...

Dan

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 2:32PM
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mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)

Kenny - wow, never thought to put the tomato cages UPSIDE DOWN!! Ingenious! We may try just that simple approach next year. Will also check into the lighter weight hog/cattle wire for making cages that you suggest, Billie, as well.

David - I am impressed with how neat and tidy your garden is!! Wow! Ours looked much neater last year, but not nearly as nice as yours. This year, it's a quite a tangled sprawl (as Steve described) :^D I think we should spread our rows further apart like yours, David - DH put in a pvc pipe to hook our soakers hoses to for the garden, but in order to get more rows, the connections for the hoses are too close together, I think. We could do with less rows next year, IMO, as the length is plenty enough for a good amount of plants (but may have to do some convincing for him to follow along with that ;^) ).

Thanks folks - you all have had great ideas!!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 7:36PM
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tommysmommy(Colorado)

Not using the ring type supports anymore unless it's a small determinate plant. The big indeterminates always fall over due to the weight and height they achieve by mid-August. I had to support the cages with metal fence posts, the kind that had a sort of U shape with little hooks sticking out all up and down to string deer fencing, wire, string or whatever? So next year, just using the fence posts (they're about 2" wide I think and reallly sturdy) and using fencing wire to run along the outside. Although I don't see why twine wouldn't work just as well. We'll see.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 7:29PM
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