As tomato fruit matures, it weighs down the vine.
image by Suzanne Lansford: Sxc.hu
Tomatoes are one of the easiest garden fruits to grow. Each plant produces an abundant array of tomatoes for use fresh or preserved. Tomato plants grow upward of 3 feet tall. The fruit itself is too heavy for the stems to support well and will droop toward the ground. Tomatoes that rest on the ground are prone to rot and disease, which may spread to the rest of the plant. Staking or caging helps support the fruit for the plant. Caging is simpler than staking, and cages are readily available at garden centers and nurseries.
Choose cages with large enough spaces between the wires for the tomatoes to pass through. Check the top of the cone to make sure the opening is large enough for the plant to grow through if it becomes that tall.
Set the cage over the tomato plant when it is still small and hasn't yet set fruit. Center it so the plant is in the middle of the caged area.
Tamp the spikes around the bottom edge of the cage into the ground with a rubber mallet, if applicable. Otherwise, arrange plastic garden stakes every 4 inches around the base of the cage, and tamp in place with the mallet so the hooked top of the stake catches the rim of the cage.
Pull the branches through the holes in the cage as the tomato plant grows. As fruit sets, check for drooping branches inside the cage, and pull them through the holes.
Loosely tie heavy branches that try to slip back through the holes to the wire of the cage with plant ties.