TOMATOES - TO STAKE OR NOT TO STAKE
There are probably more methods for growing tomatoes than any other vegetable. Tomatoes can be trained to a trellis, caged, allowed to sprawl over the ground, tied to stakes or grown in hanging baskets and containers. Each method has advantages and disadvantages.
Sprawling Your Tomato Plants
If you have space, this is the easiest method for growing tomatoes and plants grown this way often produce the greatest number of fruits. However, the fruits are in contact with the ground, so the chances for fruit rot and damage by slugs and snails increases. Applying a layer of mulch under the tomato plants will reduce the risks of disease and fruit damage.
Caging Your Tomato Plants
Determinate varieties need cages about 3 feet high and indeterminate varieties do better with taller cages. With cages, plants are off the ground and fruits are easy to pick.
Staking Your Tomato Plants
Set stakes when you set out your tomato transplants, and keep in mind that your tomato plant will get quite tall. Stakes should be 6 to 8 feet tall and no thinner than 1" x 2" for support. Drive them deeply into the ground as your tomato plant will get heavy as it grows and bears fruit. As your plant grows, train the vine to the stake by tying the main stem loosely to the support.
Training to a Trellis
This method is similar to staking. There are many ways to create a tomato trellis, but perhaps the easiest is with stakes and some heavy-duty twine. Simply set tall stakes 6 to 8 feet tall at each end of a row of tomatoes. Starting low when the plants are small, tie one end of the twine to a stake and weave back and forth between plants, tying ff at the other end of the stake. As the tomato plants grow, start a little higher from the other end, weaving back and forth the opposite from the previous string. Continue this as the tomato plants grow, about every 12 to 15 inches. If your row is long, you may have to add a center stake for support. This is a neat and tidy way to grow tomato plants.
Hanging Baskets for Your Tomato Plants
When you don't have garden space, this is a great way to enjoy fresh tomatoes. Baskets can be hung from porch rafters, from hangers attached to the sides of buildings or from tall posts driven into the ground. The key to success with this method of growing tomatoes is to choose the dwarf or patio type varieties that have a compact, bushy habit. Tomatoes grown in baskets will need more frequent watering than those grown in the garden.