How to Support Tomatoes

Tomato plants benefit from support, whether a cage, stakes, or a myriad of other creative solutions. Learn how to support tomatoes and get inspiration from our slideshow of solutions.

Stake or support tomatoes off the ground to:

  • Avoid diseases
  • Make it easier to harvest
  • Keep fruit clean
  • Make it easier to spray and monitor problems

Stakes

This simple support only requires driving a stake into the ground by each plant and tying the plant up the stake as it grows. Stakes for indeterminate varieties need to be 6 to 8 feet tall with a foot or so in the ground for stability. You can buy wooden, plastic, and bamboo tomato stakes, or you can fashion your own from pipe or other salvage materials.

Drive the stake beside the plant when you set it out. If you wait, don’t wait long, because you could hurt the roots. Tie the main stem to the stake loosely with soft ties to avoid injuring the stem. Eight-inch strips of panty hose are ideal.

  • Set stakes 2 to 4 feet apart, depending on the size of your tomato variety.
  • Stakes are easy to take up at the end of the season.

Circular Cage

Plants growing in a cage don’t need as much tying because the sides of the cage support the stems. You can buy wire tomato cages, although they are hardly big enough for indeterminate varieties.

You can make a large cage that lasts for years with 5-foot, 10-gauge concrete reinforcement wire with 6-inch openings. Cut a 4 1/4-foot length of the wire and coil it to make a circular cage about 18 inches in diameter. Cut off the bottom two levels of horizontal wire to create “legs” which you can push into the ground to hold the cage in place. In windy areas, it helps to drive a couple of sturdy stakes into the ground on opposite sides just inside the cage; fasten these to the cage for extra stability. Plant one tomato inside the cage and pull the stems through the wire as they grow for support.

  • Set cages 4 feet apart, depending on the size of your tomato variety.
  • Cages are easy to take up at the end of the season.

Wire Trellis

A wire trellis is a combination of the two techniques above. To build the trellis, sink poles or 4-inch wooden posts into the ground about 10 feet apart. Be sure that they are deep enough and properly anchored to support the weight of all the tomatoes when laden with fruit. The tops of the posts should be 5 or 6 feet high. Staple or tie concrete reinforcement wire or wire fencing with 6-inch openings to the posts. You can leave a space of about a foot from the bottom of the wire to the ground; it should be high enough that your tiller can clear underneath.

Plant the tomatoes along the length of the trellis 3 to 4 feet apart. Train the stems to wind through the trellis, tying them occasionally when needed. The trellis should last several years, but you might want to rotate the tomatoes with beans and cucumbers to avoid problems with a buildup of insects and diseases. Unlike the other two staking methods, the wire trellis is not mobile.

Permanent Trellis

Some gardeners make permanent trellises from rebar welded in a tall rectangular shape. It is heavy enough to stay in place and is sculptural even when it sits empty in the winter. These are obviously a bit of work up front, and you need welding skills and tools, but if you have them available, this is a handsome choice.

16 Comments

judith

Hi! I use all kinds of wire to make cages for my tomatoes and other plants. I put in steel fence posts at ends and 1 in middle of row. I put the toms in and place cages over them, then I run 2 strands of wire from post to post thru the cages. Makes a good support in the wind! I leave the posts in and unwire to move the cages to another row every year!

Cee McKenzie

The old farm we moved into had the round wire cages, but they kept falling over, and I’ve have to install tall stakes. Last year, I turned them upside down and pegged them with tent pegs – no more falling over! And, the legs were bent over to provide a place for netting to cover the plants when they were young.

Mary Fines

For almost 40 years we’ve used round cages made from woven wire fencing with 6-inch spaces. When we had the big market garden we tied each cage to one or two stakes. Now that I’m gardening in straw bales I use the same cages. The row of bales is set along a stockpanel fence and the cages go on top or the bales, tied to the stockpanel with baling twine.

Jerry

I used last year a 4 ft x 8ft piece of concrete reinforcement wire that`s got 4″ squares holes in it i put it across my raised beds and then plant my tomatoes or cucumbers beside it and let them climb on it and tied my tomatoes to it .

Sharon

If at all possible, could you create a detailed list for Home Depot or another store in what is needed, i.e., name, size, dimensions in order to make a good tall tomato cage or lean in tower for us dummies?

Many thanks!

Danielle Carroll

Hi Sharon,
Another great idea. If you would like to know the mature size of a tomato variety, try this tomato selector. It may help you in determining what type of cage or trellis you would like to make (or buy)!
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Bob Gibson

I am putting in a raised bed and planning on square foot gardening in it, cant do the bending for my larger past 30×30 gardens of the past. Questions are A) what types or maters grow best in close quarters, B) size or types of supports, and D) soil mix, been told 1/2 soil, 1/4 moss, 1/4 manure, but not fresh from local farms. Also when are planned ship dates to local stores in SW Iowa?

Mary Beth

Hi Bob,
I have forwarded the second half of your question to Customer Service, who will follow up with you directly on information about SW Iowa dates. For information on which tomatoes for containers or pots, use our Tomato Chooser tool to select the qualities you seek. This article (above) talks about support methods and this slideshow gives you lots of inspiration for various methods that suit your style. For soil, you will want to use potting mix – not garden soil – found in garden centers. It has a quality better suited for containers. You can top dress the soil with rotted/composted/aged manure, or create your own compost tea as a natural fertilizer, but you do not want to use fresh. Hope that helps! Good luck with your container garden. Be sure to check out our entire library on Container Gardening as you transition from a 30×30 to the new one! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Ol James

This may sound morbid…my dad got me to using the metal frames that are on funeral flowers.
They have a thick wire, about a 1/4″, are easy to stick in the ground and easy to remove.
Sometimes I have used a couple to handle the more bushy types. Check with your local florist for some that can’t be used any more.

Mei Han

We live in Clovis, NM. My back yard’s tomatos tree get more flowers and two little green one now. One big tomato getting change red color after one month. So I don’t know it is Ok on Oct. grow outdoor or not! It’s my first time grow Big boy Tomato. Thank you very much!

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Mei Han,

Your tomato plants should keep producing and ripening fruit until frost, which causes the plant to die back. You can read more about growing and harvesting tomatoes on our How to Grow Tomatoes page. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Tiffany Siok

How do you know if a round tomato cage will be enough for your tomato plant?

Kelly Smith

Hi Tiffany,

The size of the tomato support needed depends on the eventual size of your plant. Shorter determinate plants might be fine with ready-made round cages while tall indeterminate plants probably need more support, such as a cage made from concrete reinforcement mesh. If you’re not sure what height your tomato plants will grow to, you can look in two places: find your tomato varieties in our Tomato Chooser or look up the varieties on our mobile website and refer to plant height.

Happy growing!
Kelly, Bonnie Plants

CELLERSTEEN JOHNSON

How do you get rid of the insects that destroy the tomatos?

Kelly Smith

If you have questions about specific pests destroying your tomatoes, we suggest you use our free Ask an Expert service to get expert advice!

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