How to Make a Tomato Support


There are two basic types of tomato plants: self-topping determinates and indeterminates. Determinates are short, heavier plants with a shorter growing season. Varieties include Celebrity, Mountain Pride and Rutgers. Determinates can be staked or caged but their growth habit doesn't lend itself to trellises. Indeterminates have a more continuous growth habit that usually ends with disease or frost. Because of their continuous growth they are often trained to trellises, cages and stakes. They require heavy pruning when trellised and moderate to light pruning for cages and stakes. Varieties include Better Boy, Floradel and Big Beef.

Step 1

Identify the type of tomatoes you will plant in each location. Plants that do well with trellises should be planted closer together than for caged or staked plants. Plants that will be caged should be planted further apart than staked plants.

Step 2

Stake plants by driving a stake every 18 to 24 inches. Use 3- to 4-foot rebar hammered in with a sledge for determinate varieties and 5- to 6-foot 1-inch by 1-inch wood stakes for indeterminate varieties. Never use treated lumber. One or two plants can share a stake. Place the stake 4 inches from the base of the plant away from the first flower clusters. Place twine around the stake and tie it firmly. Loop the twine loosely around individual branches. Never tie immediately below a fruit cluster.

Step 3

Prune determinate varieties only once to remove suckers when you are staking the plant. Prune indeterminate varieties to two to three fruit-producing branches. Prune off suckers when they are smaller than 4 inches to limit shock to the plant. Indeterminate varieties will need to be pruned of suckers several times during the season.

Step 4

Build tomato cages from 10-gauge reinforced wire. Use bolt cutters to remove the bottom wire so you can insert the wire legs in the ground. Cut your fence 5 feet in length and bend it into an 18-inch circle. Wire the ends together. Press the wire feet into the soil when you surround the plant. Make cages 5 feet tall for indeterminate varieties and 3 feet tall for determinate varieties. Plant your plants 3 feet apart.

Step 5

Prune your caged plants to three or four fruit-producing branches. When branches come through the cage, turn them back inside the cage. Caged plants do not produce fruits as early but they will produce more over the season.

Step 6

Plant indeterminate tomatoes every 12 inches in a row. Build tall tomato supports or trellises over the plants. Use rebar and a sledge hammer to punch angled holes 2 feet on either side of the plant row. Drive your 1-inch by 1-inch by 6-foot wood stakes into the holes so that the tops of the wood stakes cross about 6 inches from the top. Wrap where the stakes cross with wire. Form a row of stakes over each plant. Place a piece of wood across the stakes to stabilize them from the sides. You may even want to add wires from each end to angled rebar.

Step 7

Train indeterminate tomatoes to wires suspended from the stakes. Remove all but one sucker and encourage the plant to grow through holes or loops in the wire. These plants often require additional pruning all season. They will produce early and larger fruits, but the fruits may be exposed to sun damage.

Things You'll Need

  • Rebar (3 to 4 feet long)
  • Sledge hammer
  • 1-inch by 1-inch boards
  • Wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Bolt cutters
  • Twine
  • Reinforced fencing


  • Mississippi State University: Tomatoes

Who Can Help

  • Timberglade: Tomato Stakes
Keywords: make tomato supports, build tomato supports, stakes cages trellises

About this Author

F.R.R. Mallory is a senior at UC Berkeley completing degrees in both Neuropsychology and English. She has been published since 1996 in both nonfiction and fiction, books, short stories, articles and essays. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.