Last spring we completed my raised bed stack stone garden. It served as an incredible place for me to try my hand at growing vegetables. I planted green peppers, strawberries, onions, basil, oregano, jalapeños, and 9 tomato plants. Yup, you read that right N-I-N-E tomato plants in three different varieties. To be fair, most of the plants looked very sad and I really thought half of them would die. Much to my surprise they not only lived but they thrived to insane proportions and produced over 2 bushel, which is equivalent to over 100 lbs of tomatoes. That’s a whole lot more than I expected! I was knee deep in tomatoes and quickly taught myself how to can tomato sauce.
Last year I chose to stake the tomatoes using 5′ plastic garden stakes and garden support tape. It worked great for a little while but when the tomatoes got to a certain size, the stakes started to bend from the weight of the plants.
This year I am doing things differently to make sure my plants get the full support they need for their growing bodies ;-).
Planting and Staking Your Tomatoes
- U-Style Fence Post 6′
- Hand Shovel
- Garden Support Tape
- Tomato Plant
- Rubber Mallet
Gather your materials and decide the placement of the plants. Check the tag on your plant, some varieties of tomatoes require 2ft spacing while others require 3ft spacing.
With the plant locations determined, begin digging the hole at a depth of about 2/3 of the height of the plant. Remember tomatoes like to be buried deep to develop a healthier root system.
With the hole dug it’s time to install the U-Style fence post. Using a rubber mallet drive the fence post into the ground to a depth of at least 4 – 5 inches above the arrow shaped anchor at the bottom of the post. U-style posts are extremely sturdy and have hooks on the back side where fencing could be attached, but is also perfect for attaching garden tape and keeping the tape from slipping down the post.
Plant tomato plants about 6″ away from the stake. If you wait to install the stakes after the plants have been in the ground for a little while, you run the risk of damaging the roots. Installing stakes at the same time as planting removes this risk. At this point, additional garden soil mixture (or compost) can be added to your tomato plant hole. New soil mixture will add additional nutrients to the garden that your plant will love.
Once the tomato plant has some height, you can begin staking it to your post. Keep twists or garden tape somewhat loose to allow for growth. Staking will not only help to support your plant off of the ground, but also makes it easier to harvest your fruit; keeps your fruit clean; and helps your plant to avoid common tomato diseases.
Happy Little Tomato Tips:
Remove any leaves or stems (aka suckers) that begin to grow in the crotch between two branches - It takes a lot of energy for the plant to produces these suckers that don’t produce any fruit, so take them out!
Do not water tomatoes at night - Water on the leaves can lead to diseases that can ultimately ruin the tomato crop. To keep rain water from splashing up on the tomato leaves add mulch (or straw) to the garden. Not only will this keep mud and water from splashing up, it also works great to help hold moisture in the soil promoting growth in the plants.
Trim any leaves or stems off of the lower 7″ of the plant once the plant reaches 10 – 12″ in height. As mentioned before wet leaves can lead to diseases in your tomoatoes. Removing these lower leaves helps prevent diseases and saves energy for the tomato plant to produce more fruit.
Watch out for inconsistent watering – Tomatoes love water but inconsistent watering can cause your tomatoes to split. If the weather is dry and then suddenly very rainy, keep an eye on the tomatoes and once they get to a decent size remove them from the vine (even if they are not ripe.) The tomatoes can be brought inside and left to ripen in the kitchen. The tomatoes pictured above were photographed over a 5 day period.
Tomatoes love drip irrigation – If you are lucky enough to have an irrigation system you can easily convert regular spray heads into drip irrigation. Adapters and drip line can be installed for as little as $30.00 depending on the size of your garden. A soaker hose is a very affordable substitute.
Before you know it your garden will be producing fruit that you can eat fresh, can, and share with others! So what do you say are you ready to plant some tomatoes this year?
Do you have any other great tips for growing incredible tomatoes? Do share!
P.s. If you love tomatoes, you’ll love them on Brittany’s Grilled Corn Pesto Pizza!