Lots of Ways to Tie Up & Support Tomato Plants

tomato-plant-tying

Tomato plants need structural support. Is there a best way to tie up (hold up) tomato plants? I can tell you this: maybe there is not a ‘best’ way, but there sure are lots of ways! Just read the comments below to find out!

It may seem like no matter what you do, the weight of tomatoes hanging from randomly sprawling branches will eventually cause issues.

So the search is on for the best way (or ways) to tie up tomato plants ;)

Here are a few ways to tie up tomato plants. However lets hear from you – what are your success or failure stories for tying up your tomato plants?

How To Support Tomato Plants

Traditional Circular Tomato Cages

Tomato cages come in a variety of sizes. I have found that it’s better to get the bigger cages because they will definitely hold the tomato plant better.

With that said, my experience with standard tomato cages have resulted in leaning or tipped over cages if the cages themselves are not supported better. Especially true for a large tomato plant bearing lots of tomatoes!

Support the Tomato Cages

Tomato cages just stick into the ground. For better results, you might support each cage with a driven stake or a metal T-post. Just tie the cage to the support stake.

Another way is to tie several adjacent cages together with string. They will all help to hold each other up.

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Tomato Support with Post or Stake

 Sink a post or stake in the ground (wood or otherwise) and tie the trunk of the tomato plant as it grows taller. Use a good stout wooden stake tall enough for the eventual height of the tomato plant. Another alternative is a fence T-post (I’m using those this year).

An issue is that this method only supports the central trunk of the plant while the branches weighted with tomatoes are not supported in any way. Though you can tie them up to an extent.

I have had fair success this way, so long as the support stake is strong enough and driven deep enough into the ground.

T-posts and Wire

 Drive in several metal fence T-posts (they have ridges and attach-points) and string some galvanized wire from one to the next (etc.) at several different heights. I’ve used electric fence wire. Then you can weave and attach parts of your growing tomato plants along the row as they grow taller.

 Similarly you might use T-posts and attached fencing. Use fencing that has large enough square or rectangular openings to enable weaving the plants through them as they grow taller. This method can be used year after year – although you do have to get rid of all the dead branches in the fencing after the season is over.

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Let Them Grow ‘Wild’

Maybe you don’t do anything. I have seen (and tried) to just let them grow and bush on their own. The problem is that some tomatoes will end up lying on the ground and will rot. It’s interesting though – some will ‘bush’ with surprising results, depending on the variety. I believe there are specific tomato plants for this.

Upside Down Tomato Tower

 I actually tried this several years ago. I bought two of them just to see how well it would work. The tomatoes hang upside down (growing ‘down’, sort of…) and it worked surprisingly well. It’s a novelty of sorts and makes for an attractive practical tomato planter for one’s porch or deck. I used the top tray to grow strawberries.

Support Tomatoes with Rebar Frame

It requires some welding skills. Build a permanent trellis ‘structure’ with rebar. It will be heavy enough to stay in place. Use your imagination as to how you design / shape it – and the way the tomato plants are ultimately supported.

 
Okay, lets hear from you. How do you support your tomato plants?

Also, what’s your favorite material to tie up / support the stem & branches?

I’ve tweaked this article from its original post date back in 2016. But it’s a timeless problem, and it’s “that time of the year” again. So time for a re-post.

Continue reading: Tips for Growing Tomatoes

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44 Comments

  1. TYING UP TOMATO PLANTS (or any plant that requires support): cut the legs of worn-out pantyhose or nylon stockings into short lengths and use them for tying a plant either to tall stakes (old broom-handles do nicely, as do lengths of 1/2-inch diameter PVC pipe cut with a special PVC pipe handsaw) or to metal tomato cages. The tubular lengths of stocking are soft, and they stretch. They don’t constrict the stem. They last a long time. I’ve had great luck using them as ties for tomatoes, eggplants, cucumber vines, and other plants that get leggy in a greenhouse or indoors in a sunny window.

  2. I tried the upside down tomato planter a few years ago when a neighbor gave me one. Not as many tomatoes grew on it as on the ones I had planted in planters. But the squirrels didn’t get any of them, so I wound up with more of those than in the other planters. The upside-down planters were in too bad shape by the end of the season to save, though, so I used it only that one year. Too expensive for me.

    1. DaisyK

      Always wondered if you took one of those hanging pots, cut a hole in the bottom, and stuck your tomato plant in the bottom hole, if that might work……………….

      1. Anon,

        You would need some way to keep the tomato plant from falling out. I forget how they did it. It’s been a few years and my short term memory is not so good.

    2. DaisyK, and Anon, problem with those is not enough soil/water -fertilizer liquid holding capability for a thirsty,nutrition needy plant. Look at the “Gardening with Leon” channel on you tube. put in you tube search bar..” wicking pots” and the channel name . He has some beautiful tomaotes that produce well using his system… I don’t have room for it..rightnow,. but others may.He shows the how and why they do not produce in some other systems. says “plants have to eat every day that we do.”.. worth checking out , even if only to be able to pass the info on to others. Friend in south Texas is using this for tomatoes, peppers and egg plant successfully.

    3. I used a bucket with a hole cut out of the bottom. It worked very well, but the branches reached for the sun so when they had a lot of fruit on them they broke. Also the bucket itself wasn’t strong enough and came crashing down when it was loaded with fruit. I’d do it differently if I tried it again, but right now I’m working on other things.

  3. I use concrete reinforcement wire. Purchased a whole roll(150′). It will make 20-22 cages, that will last a lifetime. The tomato plants grow up in the cages and basically hold themselves up. I have had the wind blow the cages over during severe storms, so good idea to stake the cage down.

    1. We do the same. We have more than 80 cages so if we grow more than that # of tomato plants, we use t-posts and tie w/ cotton strips. That is sooo labor intensive, though!

      Large quantities of tomato cages means you have them around all year long. This may pose a problem to some people during the non-growing season so if you go this route, decide if you have some place where you can store the empty cages. We lay our cages flat in a pile against a fence and then make a very large pyramid-style structure. Works well, just don’t get yourself tangled with them! ;-)

    2. My neighbor gave me 8 of these. I have my tomatoes planted closely enough that I can tie all 8 cages together and the storm hasn’t bothered them yet.
      The ‘reach in’ holes aren’t big enough for my liking, but they work well enough if long sleeves or gloves are on your arms/hands.

    3. We also use this wire. If we have to tie up branches I use yarn. We have raised beds totally fenced in with an 8 foot top. The tomatoes grow up the cages and sometimes through the roof and we have tomatoes on top! Our winds are bad here and have never had a problem with the cages blowing over. The bottom ring is off and it just has the stakes going into the ground.

    4. two bits – Did the same thing for my plants when I lived in South Central Tenn, also fastened pieces of oak 2″ by 2″ which were about 10′ in length (free from a mill making pallets) to the free standing cages. Each year after the season I would clear out the left over mess and replace any of the oak pieces, the added benefit was the oak supports could be used to tie up the tomatoes as needed. I now live in North Central NV and the soil and region is not worth the effort to grow mators……… darn darn darn

  4. I use cattle woven wire, cut off and made into a circular cage. Stakes are a must here in the Midwest. As the tomatoes grow just work the limbs up in the cage. Woven wire can be had for free often, as many farmer have done away with fences.

  5. If and When I do get tomatoes to grow, and it has happened, I use Concrete Wire, called 6X6 #9 wire, I make the cages about 14-16″ in diameter and cut the end wire off one end, that makes a bunch of little stakes to hold the bottoms in place.

    The problem of “falling over” is solved by tying a 1/2″ rebar to the tops of the cages, from cage to cage, making one large nest. With this I just weave the vine throughout the cage. I normally just line up one or two rows 20′ long (the length of a piece of rebar) allowing enough space between rows to walk and harvest my quarter size tomatoes hehehe :-(
    NRP

  6. We use fiberglass stakes left over from an electric fence job, and twine. We tie as they grow. Always seems to work just fine.

  7. I sorta let my tunnel go where I had tomatoes last year. They are still growing and started putting out fruit again, are sorta growing all crazy, going to untangle them from the hot pepper plants but think I’ll let them go and see what happens, same with the Asian eggplant.

    They got all crazy and fell over, so cut them off, now they are all regrown and starting to flower again, never knew they would go perennial.

    1. @Kulafarmer; We also have many flowers that are supposed to be annuals, but here in Florida, they keep coming back as perennials. Keeps us from having to do much more than weed the flower beds! Just wish more of the edible crops would keep coming back as a never-ending food source.

      1. I know I have been paying closer attention to what grows as a perennial, IMHO just makes sense if we have the space for it, and we definitely have the space.

        I have some vining squash that just keep coming back and multiplying, choyote I think they call it, can eat the shoots and the fruits so is a good one, we call it pipinola.

        1. When I did a project in Kona 12 years ago they had pipinola growing up 40 foot tall Ohia trees. They were loaded with the fruit (squash). They were everywhere! (They had 30 plus acres.) The chickens ate them too. You would see the outer skin but all the inside was cleaned out by the chickens.

          The client’s wife made some great dishes with it. My client told me that the less you messed with them the better they grew. My kind of plant!

    2. Kulafarmer, some of my Asian eggplants did the same thing. I have some that have little eggplants growing right now. I had left them in the big containers and never got around to pulling them out. I have a few tomato plants growing out among my trees. Think the chickens spread some seeds around…

      1. We have tiny cherry tomatoes growing all over the place like that, tons of em, is kinda nice, can really go out and just scrounge up a salad if I want.

        1. @ Kulafarmer
          I like that.. “can really go out and just scrounge up a salad if I want,” How cool is that…
          NRP

  8. I bought a bunch of plastic clips on clearance a while back. They work great holding up my tomatoes, cucumbers to the wires I run horizontal and vertical on the bipods. I built them from material left over from a drop ceiling building project.

    Nothing like a warm tomato just picked and eaten out at the garden..

  9. We use 5′ welded wire fencing for cages, cutting reach in holes on various sides and various heights. We grow Amish paste variety, they’re heirlooms, and indeterminate. Being indeterminate, they’ll grow until you pull them or a frost hits, meaning they’ll grow right over the 5′ cages.

    We tried woven field fencing, but it’s not stiff enough to hold the plants without driving T-posts for each cage. With the welded wire cages we tie them together at the tops, and drive a post about every 5 cages. We get very strong winds at our location, but haven’t had any blow over yet.

    At planting we lay soaker hoses down, then cover the rows with landscape cloth. Cut X’s, then plant. We’ll tie them up to a small stake until they’re about 18″ tall, then put the cage over them. Holding off putting the cage over them at first allows us to trim the “suckers” off the lower stems to encourage growth.

  10. We just use a length of fencing down the garden. 7 fence posts hold it up well.

    I have tied tomatoes up with a variety of things. Elastic cut from old undies was the worst. All they did was stretch out more and more till the whole plant fell over.

    The best I’ve used and still use are those plastic bags your groceries come in. I cut them up the long way and they do great. By the end of the season they pretty much just pull off the fence along with the vines.

    Store bought ties (many types) are toooooo expensive. I try to re-purpose stuff from around the house and sewing room.

    At the end of the season, we roll up the fence and store it behind the shed.

  11. We use the gigantic round cages and drive a T-post inside near an edge then zip-tie the cage to the post. Worked well last year, didn’t have any tip over on us.

  12. I use cages, but drive a t-post through the rings to keep it from tipping over. Tried just a t-post and string last year on a few. It worked ok.

  13. If you use Rafia/Sea Grass/or such, to tie the plant to support, you can just snip it and work it into the ground after.. Bit easier than retrieving wires/strings/rope/etc..

  14. I tried the upside down tomato a few times. The first time I used a purchased bag made for the purpose. The seedling tomato broke in the wind. Repeatedly. I finally put a plastic garbage bag over the (new!) tomato plant, but it died shortly after anyway, strangled by the foam collar used to keep the soil from falling out.

    The 2nd time I used a big planter, cut a hole in the bottom and inserted the tomato through the hole. It grew like mad, got so heavy that the branches snapped under the weight of the fruit (yes, contrary to the beliefs of the makers of upside-down tomato bags, the tomato plants DO reach for the sun). The whole thing came down in a windstorm soon after. End of that experiment.

    So shelter it from wind, and keep the limbs trained down rather than up.

  15. I use bamboo sticks and string for tomatoes. For cucumbers, I place squares of chicken wire under the vines to keep the fruit off the soil and allows air circulation.

    I am amazed daily by the amount of life seen around the garden. I have a few bird feeders in my yard as well.

  16. I use 6″ square galvanised cattle panel 5′ x 16′. I put a panel on each side of my tomato row at the base of the plants, angle the top away and use 2″ x 2″ x 6′ stakes to hold it at that angle. Then as the tomatoes grow I put 4′ long wood stakes through the cattle guard from one side to the other to support plants as necessary like jinga in reverse. easy to put up and take down to reuse next year in different location. Already harvesting tomatoes, zucchini, peas, asparagus and jalepenos.

  17. We bought and were given a couple of antenna towers and cut them into 4 foot sections . Then just pound them in soft tilled soil after setting out plants . I wish we had cut some 5 feet after planting some of the heirloom breeds though . Had them about twenty years now and they still work well.

  18. Robert,
    Yup, some of those indeterminate heirlooms will grow 7,8,10’ some keep going, had one in the greenhouse that they ended up being about 12’ from where they entered the buckets they were growing in.

  19. My circular tomato supports fell over every year, no matter how many extra supports I tied to them. This year I bought some extra-heavy-duty square supports. I will let you know if they work. Plants are still pretty small (Usually can’t plant until after Memorial day — our late last-frost date. )

  20. Metal fence post and pot holder loops. Many years ago I thought there had to be an easier way to tie up 120 tomato plants. Potholder loops. Soft, degradable, easy and cheap. They can be looped together into longer lengths. Do not know how to explain that in words, would need a diagram.
    Found in craft stores or craft depts. of wally etc.
    Consider cleaning any cage before storage to rid of any diseases.

  21. I plant indeterminant tomatoes (new girl). They have one main stalk. I clip them to vertical strings which are tied to a wire running along the row and staked down at the bottom. The seeds and clips are from Johnny’s selected seeds. It works really well. I also snip off the bottom six inches of leaves.
    Stay frosty.

  22. Like some folks have mentioned above, we use concrete reinforcement wire that we bought in 7′ x 5′ pieces at the local lumber yard. I do cut it to a 6′ length which gives me a 2′ diameter cage. The holes are large enough to reach through and pick tomatoes easily. They are sturdy and not tippy.

  23. I set T posts every 8 feet and wire 4’X16′ stock panels to them. Then plant tomatoes every 3′. Tie them with the wider plastic that comes on feed sacks when you pull the string at the top of the bag. Save the wider plastic strips off of these feed sacks and have bundles of wide ( over 1″ wide strips to tie tomatoes to the stock panels.) Easy to pick tomatoes ( or cucumbers) with this system. T posts can be moved to new locations each spring to rotate tomatoes area in the garden. Easy to tear down and store and no posts that rot off or cages that fall over in wind or take up room to store over winter.

  24. I use cages made from fencing, and yes give them extra support by using stakes. Saw a neat method at Jefferson’s Monticello. They made teepees out of 3 or 4 branches and attached the tomato plants to the branches.

  25. – I’m with several others above. I found (in the bar ditch on a country road) a roll of concrete reinforcing wire (6 x6 remesh). No one ever claimed it from the newspaper ad, so I began cutting it into squares and rolling them into large circles. (this was twenty years ago) They have room enough for one plant each and have held up surprisingly well, to include one batch of six standing up after a tornado came through. I did have to remove a few stray boards and some corrugated metal scraps from them and straighten out a few bends when I took them down that fall. I have used both cutting off the bottom ring and allowing the wires sticking down to act as stakes and also T-posts wired to them to stabilize the cages. I prefer the T-posts, although they are a little bit more work. And yes, I have had a few try to climb out the top of their cage. Generally I just break them off and have more tomatoes than I know what to do with…

    – Papa S.

  26. I use the generally available 4-legged 54″ tall tomato cages. I stake them in place with some 1/2″ 304 stainless rod. I burn the cages and rods with a roofing torch each fall and spring.

    I plant them 72″ on center. Offset grid pattern (like a chess board). I keep the first foot of the stalk bare, water by hand without getting the leaves wet. I manage the foliage with weekly pruning.

    I also burn the garden in the spring and fall with the propane roofing torch. I still have blight every year. If I don’t keep the plants dry the fruit rots before it ripens. If I place the plants too ose together it happens even faster.

  27. Good tomatoes support ideas. Please remember that tomato (Nightshade) blight lives in the soil so move your tomatoes/potatoes/peppers/eggplants every year to allow the Blight to die off a bit. Some recommend removing all old plant material and burning it if blight is noticed as it lasts quite a while in a typical cold compost pile.

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