Here is a reader question that I received this week:
I’ve been taking your advice about planning my vegetable garden. I have always grown tomatoes but they seem to fall over and lay on the ground once the fruit starts to form. I have used the little cheap cages from Home Depot in the past but my tomatoes always grow twice as big as the cage. I want to be organized this year and hope that you can give me some suggestions before the tomatoes are on the plants.
Frank (Fredericksburg, VA)
Hi Frank. I feel your pain regarding staking tomatoes. There is nothing more frustrating than starting your maters from seed, growing them in the house, hardening them off, watching them get 4′ tall and just when you’re ready to harvest that first one, they fall over. That is like the plot line from a tragic movie in my opinion.
My husband, gardening buddies (Sean and Anna) and I were determined to not let that happen again last year. We invested in a large roll of concrete wire mesh and used them for our cages with great success. In case you don’t know, concrete wire mesh is used to reinforce concrete of all things and has beautiful 6″ square holes in it…the perfect size for pulling those prized tomatoes out. It is made from a heavy weight wire that will last many many years in the garden. The only problem with them is figuring out where to store them in the off season. The garden itself is working well this winter. We had some cages that were made out of typical wire fencing and we used them as well…waste not, want not. We had to cut holes in the wire so that we could get our tomato-stained hands in there to harvest, but they worked well nonetheless.
There is another method of staking tomatoes that fascinates me. It’s known as the Florida Weave and is often used by commercial growers. While I’m not a fan of growing plants in perfect rows, I’m tempted to do just that so I can try this method. I will fully admit that I’ve never tried it but it seems so easy and simple. Here is a video that I found of it in action by a market grower named Jay Sleichter of High Farming in Kansas.
Now ain’t that nifty? Look how much space you can save and how many plants you can fit in a small space. I highly recommend that you read all of High Farming’s blog posts if you have any interest in veggies at all. They have so much practical advice that you can use. Frank, I hope that one of these two methods can help you in your garden…or better yet, try both and see which one works best for you. For the rest of my readers out there, let me know how you stake your tomatoes by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy gardening!