Should I cage, stake or trellis my tomato plants?
I recommend that you decide on one of these methods to support the plants, to keep them up off the ground, for best health. There and pros and cons to each style.
- Staked plants will ripen faster crops of generally larger fruit. Stakes must be at least 1 inch thick and 6 feet high, inserted a foot into the ground. Remember: Staked plants require a commitment to ongoing pruning, keeping the plant to one or two main stems of vine-like, not bush, habit. All small suckers that develop in the crotches between the leaves and the main stem must be removed. I do not have the energy for this, so I cage my plants, but here’s the encyclopedia of tomato-pruning if you wish to stake (or trellis) and prune.
- Caged plants are easier to care for, and in the longterm may produce heavier yields (because they have more branches and stems). I bought myself a set of lifetime cages that also fold; you can make excellent cages from concrete reinforcing wire (6 feet of it makes a 22-inch cage). Stabilize each cage with a stake and twist-ties, unless the cage has inground legs.
- Another advantage of cages: You can use them as mini-greenhouses should late or early frosts come, by having clamps and reusable pieces of clear, heavy plastic cut to wrap each cage. Some expert growers always put the plastic on in the first weeks to reduce negative effects of wind on young plants.