To reduce diseases and to conserve ground space, most gardeners their stake, trellis, or cage their tomato plants.
Staked tomatoes are planted 12 to 15 inches apart in rows. A 2- by 2-inch stake, about 5 to 6 feet long, is driven into the ground beside each plant. As the plant grows upward, a soft cloth twine is used to tie the plant to the stake. Suckers or side shoots that grow out from above each leaf are removed before they reach four inches long in length.
A second way to support tomatoes is by trellising. Trellised tomatoes are supported by putting posts -- three inches or larger in diameter -- about 20 feet apart down the row. Plants are spaced 12 to 18 inches apart. A 10 to 12 gauge wire is nailed to the posts about 5 to 6 feet above the ground. A smaller wire is nailed to the posts about 10 to 12 inches from the ground. A heavy twine is tied between the top wire and bottom wire for each plant. Each plant is suckered throughout the season. As the plant grows, the stem is twisted around the upright string for support on a weekly basis. Be sure to twist the same direction each time.
The third method of supporting tomatoes is by caging. Caged plants are supported by a wire tube. Plants are spaced about three feet apart. A cage is made for each plant. To make the cage or tube, use a 5-foot long piece of concrete reinforcing mesh wire that is 4 to 5 feet high. Bend the wire around to make a tube or cage and fasten the ends together. Heavy bolt cutters are needed to cut the wire. Put a cage over each tomato plant, pressing the bottom of the cage into the ground a few inches. Do not prune the tomatoes. Instead, push the suckers back into the cage each week so that they will grow upward.
© Erv Evans, Consumer