Tomatoes are an easy to grow vegetable no matter what level of gardening experience you have. Whether planted in the ground or in containers, tomato plants require support to keep the fruit off the soil where it could rot. The support feature should be installed immediately after planting the tomato seedlings. The tomato support method you choose may be affected by the amount of space available for installing the support and for storing the support when the growing season is complete.
Garden centers offer assembled wire cages to support tomato plants. The cages may be cylindrical or square and will fit over the plant. The spacing between the vertical and horizontal wires of the cage is large enough for you to reach your hand through. Wire, typically used for fencing or in concrete construction applications and available at home improvement centers, can also be used to create a cage about 5 feet high and diameter of your choosing (usually 18 to 24 inches). Using cages requires more room between tomato plants so you will be able to walk around the cage to collect the tomatoes and to weed. Wire cages may be be left outdoors or stored indoors after the growing season is complete.
A sturdy 6-foot metal or wooden stake about 2 inches square and hammered into the ground 10 to 12 inches can be used for support. Tomato plants held up by a stake can be planted closer together than plants supported by wire cages because the stake takes up less room than a cage. Moistening the soil and cutting a 45-degree angle on the end of the stake can help when hammering the stake into the ground. Use soft ties, like strips of an old T-shirt or panty hose, to secure the plant to the stake at 12-inch intervals. Wood stakes can be rinsed and stored indoors at the end of the growing season to help reduce the chance of them rotting if left outdoors year round.
A wood or vinyl trellis with a grid of equally spaced horizontal and vertical slats can be used to secure tomato plants, one on each side. A vertical trellis can be left in the ground. Another type of trellis is the tepee, or obelisk, made from three poles secured together at the top and set over the tomato plant like a tripod. Cord spiraling around and up the perimeter of the poles creates support for the tomatoes.
Planting tomatoes along a fence provides for an instant support mechanism. The fence should be open, like a picket or wire-mesh fence, to allow air flow and sunlight. Secure the plant to the fence at about 10-inch intervals using soft ties like rags strips.