As the summer goes on and rain continues to fall, tomatoes continue to grow. The weight of the fruiting plants can even snap bamboo stakes, bend aluminum poles, and break metal cages! But you don’t need to build the Eiffel Tower to keep your tomatoes staked. The challenge is to build a simple, sturdy structure with readily available materials which will keep the tomatoes off the ground and evenly distribute the weight of the plant.
An A-frame tent structure will maximize stability, even in a shallow location like a raised bed or container. An A-frame structure is built out of wood or plastic poles which are attached at the top in an inverted V. A small planting may only need two of these supports, forming a tent shape, while larger plantings may benefit from three or more sets of supports. Attach cross-brace poles, parallel to the ground and connecting all of the upright poles in a square or rectangle shape. Zip ties are effective in holding the poles together. The structure can be as tall as 5 or 6 feet. The photo is of a tomato bed in the Rooftop Edible Garden at Phipps, with a finished structure.
To help support the plants and distribute the weight of the plant and fruit, attach a wide-gauge mesh or plastic fencing with openings big enough to allow the branches to grow through. If you have a smaller-gauge mesh, you can also cut holes in it to let the branches through. The fencing can start at the first cross-brace, since tomatoes generally do not branch all the way to the ground. In fact, if you find that your plant needs more support, you can prune off some of the lower branches.
You’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor from a well-supported plant! Have you found a staking method that works for you? Tell us in the comments.