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Old 09-06-2006, 04:49 PM posted to rec.gardens
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Default Staking tomatoes - first time

JoeSpareBedroom wrote:
"Mike S." wrote in message

I'm growing tomatoes in pots and need some advice. The plants are now
about 12-18 inches high and I think it's time to stake them (probably
should've done that weeks ago). I don't want to damage the roots and I
don't want to spend a lot of money for something elaborate. I'd rather
just use tree limbs/sticks then to buy cages at the store.

How would I go about staking them with sticks (heavy, non breakable
ones of course)? Should I use some sort of teepee setup? I've never
done that before so any advice would be great.

I can't explain why, but intuitively, I think caging would make for more
balanced weight, so the pots would be more stable. When I chop down tomato
plants in the fall, I'm always amazed at the sheer weight of all that
vegetation. Unless your pots are enormous, the plants will weigh enough to
topple them with enough wind.

Never buy cages in the store unless they're a type I've never seen for sale
in 35 years of gardening. The type is called "big enough, and of the right
shape". You're better off to make your own out of plastic covered metal
fence wire, the kind with the 2x3 inch holes. Form them into a cylinder
shape that's sized correctly for your pot. You'll still need stakes - one
for each side of the cylinder. This cylindrical cage will give the plant
loads of room and support. Grown this way, most of the fruit will also be
protected from the sun, which is a reason (but not the main reason) for
cracked skin.

Let me know if you'd like to see pictures of this cage idea.

I've seen something like that used to trap snakes. They put a piglet in
the cage, the snake crawls in and swallows the piglet, then cannot get
back out because the piglet in its belly won't fit through the holes.

I'm pretty sure my hand won't fit through a 2x3 inch opening, and if I
could jam it through I couldnt get it back out holding a tomato. In
fact, any decent sized tomato won't fit through such an opening. Do you
dismantle the cage each time you want to pick a tomato, or are you
growing a very small variety?

I have one plant I grow in a half whiskey barrel, which is heavy enough
to resist the wind. I use an old cage I inherited, but I also put in a
stake as the plant outgrows the cage.

I have ten plants in my garden, but from years of rototilling and adding
organic matter, my soil has become too soft to hold the weight of a
staked plant, so now I build triangular towers at each end of the row
and run some old stakes from tower top to tower top, then stake each
plant and tie the top of the stake to the ridge pole. Were I growing
tomatoes in pots, I would put the pots in a row and build towers at the
end of each row, with a ridgepole and a stake in each pot fastened to
it. I buy cotton clothesline and use it for tying up the structures and
plants, and it seems to work well and last, but I run it through the
washer at the end of each season to minimize the possibility of carrying
over disease.

The commercial tomato farms I have seen don't stake at all, they just
let the vines run on the ground, which might be an option with pots,
depending where they are. I stake mine because we have a lot of slugs
here and its harder for them to get to the fruit on a staked plant than
a prostrate one.