Ways to Support your Tomato Plants

Summer on a smallholding is synonymous with flourishing tomato plants, so many of us are turning our attention to how we are going to support them.
Some permaculturists are in favour of allowing the plant to grow without staking or training. They maintain that the plants become stronger, and as the plant spreads, it sends down new roots so it is hardier and produces more fruit than normal. They recommend mulch to protect tomatoes that touch the ground.
But most vegetable experts prefer to provide tomato plants with some support, particularly indeterminate varieties, which grow like a vine. Determinate varieties will grow large like a bush with their height being just over a metre.
The reasons put forward for “training” tomato plants include maximising space, making harvesting easier, improving air circulation which helps to prevent diseases and creating visual interest. Strategically placed trellises can also provide privacy screening and afternoon shade.
Having decided to give your plants support, you will discover that there different ways to do this.
The most obvious is to stake each plant by driving a wooden or metal post into the ground and tying the plant to it.
If you have a plentiful supply of bamboo poles you can construct teepees, using three or four poles tied together to form a cone around the plant. Another version of the tepee is to tie two poles together to form an A, then sink another pair about a metre away, followed by a third. Then place the last bamboo pole across the top of the structure in the “V” created where the poles meet, connecting all the teepees together. Another option is the basket weave, where the idea is to “sandwich” your plants between lengths of twine. The twine gently holds up the plants without the need for additional stakes and clips. This method is also known as the “Florida weave”, but it is not a hairstyle from the West Rand!
Then there is the T-post trellis, where you string your tomato plants vertically, from a top bar attached to two stakes. Using found items such as downed tree limbs, this method is a good one for smallholders who don’t want to spend a lot of money on materials.