Nothing says summer like growing tomatoes. To ensure a good crop, there are 7 Rules Every Tomato Grower Should Follow, which includes using sturdy cages or trellises early in the season to avoid damaged vines and roots. The right support not only reduces disease and pest problems, but it increases yields, makes your crop easier to pick, and saves garden space. And while a simple stake hammered into the soil can work, tomato plants won’t climb on their own, and having to tie the plant every few days is rarely worth the hassle. Click through the slideshow for 10 of the best designs that make it easier to keep plants upright without a lot of fuss.
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Most trellises need to be well-anchored to keep from tipping over as the fruit gets heavy, but the three-legged design of this teepee actually gets more and more stable as the weight of the plant pulls down on it. Simply lash one end of three 8-foot bamboo canes together, spread the untied ends about 3 feet apart and equidistant from each other in a triangle over the tomato plant, and press the feet 4 to 6 inches into the soil. Then tie a length of heavy twine to the top of the teepee, making it long enough so that you have enough to tie the other end very loosely around the base of the tomato plant stem. As the season goes on, gently twist stem and the twine around each other so they grow into a spiral. Add additional lengths of twine tied to tip top of the teepee as more branches develop. Click here for more instructions.
This clever tomato cage system combines support for multiple plants with an auto-feeding system: Each factory consists of a round outer tomato cage, made from tall heavy wire fencing (make sure you use a mesh you can pull your hand through while holding a plump tomato) and a smaller inner cage you fill with compost. The compost is the secret to the factory’s success: Whenever you need to water, simply turn the hose on to a slow drip and rest it so it grips onto the top of the compost. As the water soaks down through, it turns into compost tea, a readily available source of nutrients. Just add more as the compost break downs to keep the cage full and you’ll have arms full of tomatoes in no time. Click here for more instructions.
This inexpensive and fast method of trellising tomatoes lets you tuck up the new growth of a whole row of tomatoes in just a couple of minutes a week. It is also easy to clean up in the fall as you just snip the twine and toss everything into the compost. Click here for more instructions.
This is pretty enough to showcase in any garden and sturdy enough to support a big crop. Dress it up with a fancy finial ornament on top, or build it from pine and paint it a bright (nontoxic) color to give your garden an extra bit of zing. Be sure to anchor at least two of the feet firmly, so it doesn’t tip. An easy way to do this is by hammering an 18-inch rebar most of the way into the ground next to the foot and lashing the pyramid firmly to it. Bring it in during the winter to extend its life. Click here for more instructions.
The only thing worse than not supporting vigorous tomato plants is giving them wimpy hardware store cages they will outgrow by the end of June. What seems great at first will soon have tall plants flopping over the top and then tipping the entire cage over, often pulling them out by the roots in the process. You can build this sturdy cage with a friend and some galvanized wire fencing. It takes a little work, but they’ll last for decades. Click here for more instructions.
Looking for a great tomato cage that’s ready to use? This heavy-duty professional tomato cage will last for many years and folds for off-season storage (a plus for folks who know How To Garden In Small Spaces). Go ahead and invest in the extensions, so you don’t get caught short in August.
You’ll have the classiest tomatoes in town with this powder-coated steel obelisk. But don’t let its good looks fool you: This trellis is sturdy and will last for many years. Be sure to press the legs of the trellis into the ground up to the first band so it will stand strongly all season. If you use the 5-foot model, pick a container that’s deep and heavy enough to support the part that rises above.
This clever unit means the soil moisture will stay perfect without you having to water two or three times a day in the heat of the summer, and the support is firmly attached to the pot so it won’t tip over when your crop gets heavy, The add-on risers lets it expand with your plant, and then the supports come back apart for off-season storage. It’s perfect for apartment dwellers with rooftop gardens.
This wooden design is easy to build, with no fancy cutting or joints. It is very stable if the two halves are set up at least as far from each other as they are wide. And, because it is built in two pieces, it stores very compactly in the off-season. Click here for more instructions.