Growing tomatoes vertically
I prefer to grow tomatoes in a cage or tied to a stake or trellis (rather than letting them sprawl on the ground) because:
- I have trouble with bermudagrass and it can get started all too easily in areas I can't see, such as under vines.
- Our summer weather is very humid. The fruit gets better air circulation when the plants are off the ground and the fruit rot problem is greatly reduced.
- I can plant twice as many tomatoes in the same space if I stake or cage them. (In fact, you can grow all the tomatoes you can eat in a strip that's six or eight feet long if you grow them vertically.)
I have bought tomato cages several times, so I have several different sorts. I took a good look at them yesterday and I can offer some advice about judging their quality when purchasing them. Look at how many rings they have as well as how many legs they have.
- Best: 4 legs and 4 rings
- OK: 3 legs and 4 rings
- Weaker: 3 legs and 3 rings
Even with 4 legs, I usually put a stake through the cage to help steady it as the plant inside grows. A big tomato plant with lots of fruit is heavy. When all that foliage gets soaked in heavy rain and the ground goes squishy and maybe the wind is blowing too, the tomato cage can tip to one side.
I always grow my pepper plants inside tomato cages, but I don't always use tomato cages for my tomato plants. This year, I'm going to stake the tomatoes. I have planted each tomato by a steel fence post. As the plants grow, I'll weave twine around a plant, around a post, around the next plant, around the next post, etc. If I remember to add some twine about once a week, it works well.
Steel fence posts are the ultimate tomato stake. The longest ones are five feet tall in the ground, maybe a little more. You can count on them to stand firm, no matter what the weather or the plants do. They have handy notches on one side that keeps your string from sliding down, and they're reusable for a couple decades or more.
You should also buy a fence post pounder. It's a heavy steel tube with handles, closed on one end, that slips over top of the fencepost. To drive the post, put the pounder in place and then raise it a little and let it fall to whack the post into the ground. It is vastly easier to use a fence post pounder than to drive the fenceposts with a sledge hammer.
When it's time to pull up the fence posts, they are much easier to remove when the ground is thoroughly wet. Just "wee-waw" them in all directions, and they'll come right out.
My Vegetable Garden
A Composter but not an Organic Gardener