Training tomato plants to grow up a stake or in a wire cage supports the plant, keeping the fruit and foliage off the ground. Trained plants have less problems with disease and rot because of improved air circulation and moisture control. Trained tomato plants produce better quality fruit and are easier to care for.
Tomato plants can be trained to a variety of systems. The two most popular are staking and caging. Staked tomatoes produce earlier, but are more susceptible to sun scald and blossom end rot. Caging is less work and usually produces a larger crop.
Training Tomatoes in a Wire Cage
Construct a wire cage out of woven wire fencing material or concrete reinforcing wire. Make sure the openings in the fencing or wire are large enough to harvest the tomatoes through without bruising.
Form the cage into a barrel shape with a diameter of about 20 to 24 inches. Attach the ends of the cage with wire to securely close the circle.
Remove the bottom wire from the fencing using wire clippers, leaving the vertical wires exposed on the bottom.
Push the exposed wires at the bottom of the cage into the ground around the tomato. Try to center the cage over the plant.
Hammer one or two short stakes into the ground next to the cage and attach the cage to the stakes.
Allow the tomato plant to grow up through the cage, with arms extending out through the openings in the cage.
Training Tomatoes to a Single Stake
Insert a single 8-foot long stake into the ground approximately 3 to 4 inches from the tomato. Drive about 2 feet of the stake into the ground for good support.
Tie the main tomato stem loosely to the stake with a strip of cloth about every 12 inches up the stem. Wrap the cloth strip around the tomato stem, then around the stake, forming a figure 8.
Pinch off side shoots or suckers that form, keeping the plant to a single stem.
Continue tying the plant as it grows, approximately every 12 inches.
About this Author
Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.