Stake Tomato Plants

 There are several advantages to staking tomatoes. Since the plants grow upward rather than outward, they are forced to produce more pounds of tomatoes from a given area of ground than unstaked plants. The fruits of a staked tomato plant ripen earlier and are larger (though fewer) than fruits of the same variety trained to a sprawling habit. 


ratings key


step 1

Project artPlant the stake. Do not be misled by the puniness of a tomato transplant. Each plant needs a sturdy support. Use rough-cut wooden stakes that are six to eight feet long, no narrower than one by two inches, and pointed at the bottom. To avoid root damage later on, set stakes at the same time you set out transplants.

Pound a stake into the ground about three inches from a plant on its north side so that the tiny plant will not be shaded. Sink the stake one to two feet into the ground -- you may need to start the hole with a crowbar. This depth provides enough stability to keep gusts of wind from toppling the plant when it is laden with fruit.


Tie the Plants. Tying is necessary because a tomato plant has no natural way to hold itself up. Material for ties should be strong enough to last the whole season and bulky enough not to cut into the stems. Coarse twine will do, but I prefer cotton rags torn into inch-wide strips, 18 inches long. They weaken enough by season's end that I can simply pull spent plants off their stakes, and any ties left will decompose on the soil or compost pile. First tie a square knot around the stake tight enough to prevent downward slippage, then use the free ends of the rag strip or twine to tie a square knot loosely around the tomato plant's stem. As the plant grows, anchor the stem to the stake every 12 to 18 inches.with bright, gushy annuals, add whimsy, humor and spark to your garden.


Prune. A staked tomato is best confined to a single stem. In each leaf axil -- the point where a leafstalk joins the main stem -- is a lateral bud that can grow into a shoot just like the main stem. These shoots must be removed, ideally before they are an inch long. Use your fingers to snap off each one, thus avoiding the danger of transmitting disease with the blade of a knife or pruning shears. Remember that tomatoes have compound leaves; do not mistake the junction of a leaflet and a leafstalk for a leaf axil

As you prune, occasionally step back and refocus on the plant as a whole. Shoots that made two feet of growth, especially those emerging near ground level, are easily overlooked.



Repair artPinch the Top. Once a plant reaches the top of its stake, pinch out the growing point of the shoot and continue to remove any new leaves or flowers that form. Pinching directs a plant's energy into the fruits that have already set, hastening their ripening and increasing their size. If your growing season is long, you may wish to delay pinching so as to allow more fruits to set and ripen.

and keep in mind

A staked plant needs a healthy leaf cover or fruits will get sunscald. Fruits on staked plants are also vulnerable to blossom-end rot, so pay special attention to proper nourishment (particularly calcium), and see that the plants get an even supply of moisture







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