First Time Tomatoer... it's a word...

secondcupMay 25, 2012

My neighbor thinks my tomato plant needs some kind of support. She called it a cage.

It's my first time growing tomatoes I hate to admit.

Do they really need some kind of support?

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

The plant may not look like it needs support today, but this is only May! Consider also that the weight of the fruit will pull the branches down, even if the fruit are only cherry- or grape-sized.

You want to get the plant off the ground for multiple reasons. First, a prostrate plant makes it easy for pests to access both the leaves and the fruit. Trust me -- you don't want to grab a tomato and discover you've grabbed a slug!

Second reason: a sprawling tomato can get so large and have so many branches you can't reach the ripe fruit in the middle, which is darned frustrating. (Branches which lie on the soil will take root so they can't be nudged out of the way to allow you to step in the middle.)

Third reason: soil is full of disease organisms; the plant will be much healthier if contact with the soil is minimized. That means not only raising the plant off the ground but also mulching beneath the plant so rain can't splash bacteria from the soil onto the leaves. [Another benefit of mulching is that soil moisture will be more consistent, which also makes for a happier plant.]

On this forum, we discuss and debate the best way to support tomato plants. Everyone has a pet method (I know I do).

At this point, because you already have such a large plant, you're a bit limited in how you can support it. Most of what are called "cages" won't work because you'd never stuff the plant inside without breaking branches.

Here's an overview of various tomato-support methods:

You can also do a Search on the first page of this forum.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 3:07PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

It would help to know roughly where you live and garden, that info is not given at your page, b/c I'm of two thoughts on whether you need to use cages or some other method of supporting a plant.

Here in the NE most of us just let our plants sprawl and of the about 3,000 plus tomato varieties I've grown to date, maybe 95% have been grown by sprawling and the rest in cages and sometime the same variety in the same season in both a cage and sprawled.

I spaced plants 3-4 ft apart in a row 250 ft long and the rows 5 ft apart. Yes, as the plants mature the vines pretty much cover the area between the rows, but I don't find that to be a problem at all since I know the traits of each variety I plant out before I ever sow the seed so have little problem following the vines out to harvest the fruits I want to save seeds from. Each season I'd put out several hundreds of plants and varieties.

The major diseases where I grow were/are the common foliage diseases that almost everyone has problems with and sometimes an occasional plant with Verticillium which is one of the soil borne systemic diseases and those plants usually grew out of it.

Yes, there is a small amount of fruit loss from fruits resting on the soil and rotting, but if you've never sprawled plants you may not realize that the majority of fruits are nestled in the foliage and never touch the ground/

Other critter problems? Not really.

However if you live in the south where it's hot and humid and have many critters that can and do eat the fruits and/or damage them, then you might want to get the plants off the ground. Continued high heat and humidity can result in leaf diseases b'c of poor airflow which is increased somewhat if the vines are supported.

So as I see it, it depends on where you garden, geographically, what space you have, if you're growing mainly indet with some det varieties, and last, but not least, how many plants you're dealing with.

No one solution for everyone. ( smile)

Carolyn, and from the picture of your plants they appear to me to be too big to now set a cage around them and try to train them to the cage. One should set out plants at perhaps 6-9 inches tall and THEN put the cage in place.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 4:15PM
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You guys are awesome. Thanks for your help. I am definitely going to work on staking them or supporting them. I was out of town all weekend and when i came back I had a nearly full grown tomato just sitting on the ground growing - woops!

I hope it's not too late to guide them upwards....

ps. I am in north Georiga if that matters

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 12:04PM
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