Anytime you get torrential rainfall there’s always a chance your tomato plants will suffer. Since you can’t control Mother Nature, what’s the best way to keep them secure and safe? When it rains, it’s a good idea to stay out of the garden as much as you can, but if you simply can’t resist, limit your time and simply check to see if your tomato stakes are still holding up.
When the wind disturbs or slightly uproots your tomatoes, it’s possible that they will put all of their energy toward ripening the existing tomatoes instead of growing more. Obviously, this isn’t that big of a deal at the end of the season, but if you’ve just gotten started, you should do your best to avoid this.
That’s where using tomato stakes comes into play!
Tomato stakes aren’t a required element for the garden, but they are quite helpful. Traditionally, there are two methods of growing tomatoes; letting them grow and staking them. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two.
Let the tomatoes sprawl
There are pros and cons to everything. Whenever you use stakes, the wind will intensify problems. For this reason, many organic gardeners choose to let the tomatoes lie on the ground.
Pro: Because the tomatoes are on the ground, they’re less vulnerable to high winds.
Con: When you forgo stakes and let the tomatoes grow as they please, it takes up a lot of space. Your tomato plants will take full advantage of the wide open space. If you’d rather pack more plants and herbs into your garden, then you should consider using stakes.
Con: Tomatoes that are on the ground are a more attractive to pests. Crickets and slugs will enjoy feasting on your tomatoes if they’re on the ground so be warned. This can happen to staked tomatoes, but the chance is significantly increased when they’re on the ground.
Use your favorite staking method
If you’re new to growing tomatoes, you should know that they get very large. Using a stake that’s at least 60 inches tall will give them plenty of support. Most gardeners will leave them to their own devices and prune them only when a branch gets in the way. You can also prune them at the end of the season when the time for developing new fruits is coming to a close.
Be careful when they do start to get tall, however. If you tie the same plant to just one stake, it will get too heavy. Note that the leaves on most tomato plants get so thick that circulation becomes a problem, so shoot for three to four stakes per tomato plant. If you do invest in some good quality stakes, the good news is that you don’t have to reserve them just for tomatoes. You can also use them for pepper plants since most get to about four feet tall.
The possibilities for staking tomatoes are endless, so feel free to experiment and find what works for you. A lot of gardeners use the cylinder wire method. Using concrete reinforcing wire that comes flat, cut it to the shape you want. Use t-posts to hold the wire cylinder in place. This method takes a little bit of effort, but it’s pretty difficult to knock wire cylinders over even during heavy rain.
Another effective method for staking tomatoes is to use a utility panel. If you’ve got the room for this method, put t-posts in the ground every five to ten feet and then secure a utility panel to the posts. Plant your tomato plants every two to three feet. We recommend tying each plant to the panel once it reaches one to two feet tall.