My Name is Tom and I’m Indeterminate: Tomato Support Methods

What has Hanna learned so far this year when it comes to her tomatoes? The same thing that Hanna learned last year and swore up and down that she would not let it happen again. Let’s all say it together in singsong “Tomato cages bought at the hardware store for .69 each really, really SUCK.” *sigh*

Half my poor tomato plants are tumbling over because I put those stupid, chintzy cages around them. I just didn’t have a choice. I have more tomato plants than I do really good cages and really good cages are hard to store and even harder to make.

Now, when I talk about really good cages, I mean the ones I made from concrete reinforcement mesh. The things tower up seven feet and provide near perfect support for what ever tomato I put in it. But I only have 5 of these cages.

For as much as I love these cages, they are a bitch to make. Cutting through the wires that make up concrete mesh is really tough and I am a flabby weakling.

Plus, you have to have good wire cutters, which, despite the fact that I bought a pair and hid them safely away from my spouse, have managed to somehow end up in the toolbox my husband likes to occasionally refer to as our garage. I don’t think we can find the chainsaw out there, let alone a pair of wire cutters.

And I have to be honest, I didn’t look that hard. My hands and arms remembered the blisters and cuts from the year prior when I made the first 5 cages.

I have also discovered that concrete mesh cages also do not lend themselves to storage like the cheap cages do. They make for bizarre backyard art during the winter months.

It has become apparent that I need to do something different. I feel like my tomatoes have become an M.C. Escher drawn maze for as intertwined as they are.

I saw an interesting pic over at A Tramp in the (Organic) Garden (The third one down, below the rather luscious tomato bosom picture). It is a structure built over the bed that it looks like you tie the vines to it. That baby looks like it could support a dozen or so plants, no problem. Bonus, because the owner got her husband to build it. But I am thinking that something like that might be hard to move around the garden and I still have the problem with storage.

Then I was reading The Great Tomato Book (Looking into what to grow next year) and they recommend a method called Stringing Up. It looks much like the system that Loretta’s friend has but the method the book suggests is much less bulky. A post dug into either end of the bed and a piece of electrical conduit attached across the top. You tie strings to the base of the plants and wrap a string around each main branch and then tie the string to the conduit overhead. As the plant grows, you just untie the string, wrap the string a little more up the branch and retie above.

Sounds simple. At the end of the season, you take down the conduit, pull up the posts and you have something that is pretty easy to store.

Of course, I will have all winter to contemplate my support methods for next year. But I swear up, down, across, sideways and in a backward loop-di-loop that I will not attempt to support my precious tomato plants next year with crappy tomato cages. And this year, I really, really, really mean it.

5 thoughts on “My Name is Tom and I’m Indeterminate: Tomato Support Methods
  1. Pingback: How to String Up Tomatoes in the Garden | This Garden Is Illegal

  2. Why don’t you look into the new tomatOH! holders at tomatohelpers.com or on the site helpingyourgardengrow.com I think you might find these real interesting. It’s the old standard tomato cages re-engineered realy well. modular, stackable, buildable and powder coated to laast.

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  3. Take a few minutes and go to my site, tomatosupport.com you will find the very best tomato support you will ever find
    anywhere, any place, any time.

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  4. I live in New Jersey and just use 8 foot long 1×3 inch spruce stakes, still available at my local lumber yard for less than a dollar apiece. They last several years when stored for the winter under my deck. I buy a bundle or two of jute twine every year and tie the tomato vines to the stakes as they grow. I planted about sixty plants last year and got hundreds of tomatoes. We ate them in every fashion, gave many dozens away and preserved some; we ate the last fresh ones in early December. I can’t wait to start again!

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  5. Dave on

    What do you mean by electrical conduit when you say: “A post dug into either end of the bed and a piece of electrical conduit attached across the top. You tie strings to the base of the (tomato) plants and wrap a string around each main branch and then tie the string to the conduit overhead. As the plant grows, you just untie the string, wrap the string a little more up the branch and retie above.” Does the kind of string matter? Jute? Nylon? And I can’t quite visualize how tying is done. Does “You tie strings to the base of the (tomato) plants” mean directly onto the plants near the soil? Does “wrap a string around each main branch and then tie the string to the conduit overhead” mean each branch is strung to the conduit–if so it seems like a lot of string. As the plants grow I assume the string from their base to the conduit gets slack, but I’m not sure how you mean they are retied. I’m not new to gardening but I had a bad year this time. Big plants but poor crop–black spots, terrible support cages, few tomatoes. I blame overcrowding. And I think Dad overwatered them, too. I’m learning but Mom was the real gardener. When she died she took a lot of ways of doing things with her. I will try to read “The Great Tomato Book” for ideas.

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  6. mistermotto on

    Lets get real, Any product that is out there that is affordable, is going to have built-in obsolescence. For you to buy and buy over again otherwise these companies wouldn’t be making any money. And that is OK. Many people who are starting a garden try and may find that they do not want to continue. They haven’t risked a whole lot on expensive equipment.
    For a serious tomato grower, I would recommend Steel “T” posts for main support, and Jute twine for Lateral support. Space the T-posts about 6-8 feet appart, and tie the twine in the horizontal around the tomatoes, as they grow, add layers of twine. The Pro’s use a method similar to this. They might use a sturdier lateral support and reclaim that in the end of the season.
    The T-posts will last as long as you do if you buy the solid kind, not the folded sheet stock. Using Jute twine is my method of favor for a couple of Schools of thought.
    1. Easy to work with, easy to break if you don’t have cutters.
    2. Fairly strong in short lengths, gentle on the sensitive vines.
    3. Low cost, under a dollar for a 250′ roll or so, usually.

    A. If some or all is left in the garden over winter it tends to break down as compost, or gets carried off by local wildlife, like birds, to build their homes.
    B. Dosn’t get tangled in Tillers or mowers, like string does, and you don’t have to busy yourself collecting it at season end.
    I Like Indeterminate vines as well because bringing them indoors as cuttings to preserve as “sister” plants and growing them in my “Greenshed” (12×12′ shed with Clear lexan sheets on the south side) is very rewarding to me. Besides, it gives me a place to call my “DOG HOUSE”, you know, when I am in trouble with my wife.

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