Passing On Garden Wisdom: Tomato Staking Made Easy

By Laura Miller | May 18, 2020
Image by RonBailey
by Laura Miller
May 18, 2020

Being of Italian heritage, a garden wouldn’t seem complete without rows of staked paste tomatoes. As the star ingredient in marinara, growing and canning tomatoes for sauce is a long-standing family tradition. Yet, as we pass these traditions from one generation to the next, we sometimes learn tidbits of gardening wisdom which makes the job easier. This is the case with the time-consuming task of staking and tying tomatoes.

First, one has to pull the multitude of tomato stakes out of storage, then hunt for a hammer for driving the stakes into the ground. Once the stakes are set, the garden scissors and twine must be coaxed from their hiding spots and used to painstakingly tie the stems to the stakes. This little activity can represent hours of time spent staking and tying tomato plants.

Tomato Staking Made Easy

There has to be an easier way. And, thankfully, there is!

Years ago, I stumbled upon a gardening tip which makes staking large numbers of tomato plants much easier. I’m big on recycling, reusing and repurposing. So when I finished building a new fence for my horses, I realized I had bits and pieces of heavy-duty fencing material left over.

Most of this fencing material was too small to span the 12-foot (3.7 m.) gaps between fence posts. Others were sections of mangled fencing I had removed. (Thanks to an overambitious horse who believed the grass on the other side of the fence was greener.)

The following spring, I used the heavy-duty fence sections to stake my tomatoes in the garden. An 8-foot (2.4 m.) fence section only required 2 stakes, one at either end, for support. Yet, I could plant five tomato plants, spaced 24 inches (61 cm.) apart, along an 8-foot section. Five plants, two stakes. Math doesn’t lie – this would definitely save time.

What I later discovered was even more amazing. Instead of tying the tomato plants to the upright rods of the fence, I could weave the flexible growing tips in and out the spaces between the weave of the fence. I used livestock panels, but this method would work equally well with heavy-duty welded wire or chain-link fencing.

Only when I missed a few days did the tomato plants grow too much. Then, the stems became too rigid to bend. So, I would have to pull out the scissors and twine and go at it the old-fashioned way.

Now, if what goes up must come down, then what gets pounded into the garden must eventually be pulled out. The true blessing with this gardening trick came at the end of the growing season. I had far fewer tomato stakes to wiggle, pull or dig from the ground. This made cleaning off the garden in the fall much easier and faster.

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  • Barbara Esposito
    Comment added June 7, 2021Reply

    I love the idea of the fence for staking tomatoes. My problem is supporting the tomato laden branches. What do you do to support the branches on both sides of the tomato plant? Thanks!

  • Derek
    Comment added June 6, 2021Reply

    I have a lined trough I built for the purpose that holds 8 x 12inch square pots, there's a post screwed to the end and at 5 feet up there is a hole through it where an 8 foot long ally tube fits right across the trough, I then use twine down to the toms and as they grow twist the twine around the tip, it's not tied tight to the plant but being twisted around the plant holds it firmly in any gale. just remember to leave a long length spare at the top because as you twist around the plant it gets used up and you will need to loosen it a bit. my trough has an outlet in the bottom that I can stop, so when I water I just fill the trough and let it soak for an hour before letting the excess out.

  • Gail King
    Comment added June 14, 2020Reply

    Another way of staking tomatoes is to have a pole at the beginning, middle, and end of tomato row. Starting near the bottom of the pole, run twine from one pole to the other twice (on each side of the pole). This will give a gap through the plants can grow. Just repeat the rows of twine as the plants grow. The plants are supported on each side by the twine. At the end of season only three poles need to be removed and the twine can be used next season. I have used pvc pipes, wooden poles - whatever I have on hand. They should be at least six feet tall so that they can be driven into the ground to be sturdy.

  • Mel McBane
    Comment added June 3, 2020Reply

    A photo would be a Lovely help!!! Plus, do you end up having to leave the fence in the same spot?? Makes garden rotation difficult.

  • Diana Fraley
    Comment added June 3, 2020Reply

    I have done this. It works very well.

  • Richard
    Comment added May 21, 2020Reply

    Hello Laura, I really enjoyed reading your article about tomato staking, I found it very helpful. Thank you, Richard

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