When you support tomato plants and pepper plants properly, good things happen in the garden!

Keeping your tomato and pepper plants off the ground plays a big role in the overall success of your crop. In fact, for as much effort as most gardeners put into having good soil and healthy plants, it can all be for not if plants are not supported properly. 

support tomato plants
Tomato stakes can be difficult to tie off branches.

First off, when you support tomato plants properly, it allows them to withstand the forces of Mother Nature. Nothing is more disheartening than watching a promising harvest ruined by a mid-summer storm. Heavy wind and rain can easily topple weakly supported plants loaded with ripening produce. 

In addition, the added light and air flow that comes from proper support prevents disease and pest problems. By having tomato and pepper crops up off the ground, air and light more easily circulate through plants. This promotes ripening, and helps keep mildew and other diseases at bay. As for pests, keeping plants off the ground makes it harder for them to reach and damage foliage. See : How To Prune Tomatoes For A Great Crop

So what is the best way to support tomato plants and pepper plants? A stake? A tomato cage? Well, we happen to think it’s a combination of both. Even better, you can make them at home and save big!  

Our Easy and Inexpensive DIY Answer To Support Tomato Plants: The Stake-A-Cage

Although tomato stakes and cages offer some support to plants, they both have disadvantages. First and foremost, they each can be incredibly expensive for the home gardener. Good quality stakes or cages can range from $5 to $20 or more! They also can both be hard to work with.

support tomato plants
Our homemade Stake A Cages in the ground and ready to go!

With stakes, it can be extremely difficult to tie off branches. Twine or rope can easily slip and fall, and large branches are hard to tie off to a single post.

Cages can provide a little more all-around support, but their closed-in style makes it difficult to reach the plant. That makes it hard to both tie off, and to eventually harvest your crop. In addition, many commercially available cages have limited strength, and easily grow right out of the soil with the plant.

So a few years back, we created our own homemade version that combined the strength of a stake, with the broader support of a partial cage. By making a  homemade 2 x 2 stake from inexpensive framing lumber, and securing an 18″ wide x 30″ section of rolled fencing to it with fencing nails, you end up with an incredible open-sided stake and cage.

It simply works wonders in keeping plants strong and healthy, and making it easy to harvest. Best of all, you can make them for about $2 to $3 a piece! Here’s how:

Tools / Materials

Stakes, Rolled Fencing Wire, Wire Cutters, Fencing Nails (U-nails), Hammer, Jig Saw

Stakes

support tomato plants
One of our well-worn, 4 year old stake a cages still going strong

To make the stakes, use inexpensive untreated 2x framing lumber.  Most home improvement stores carry 2 x 2 furring strips that can be cut in half to form two, 4′ stakes. You can also purchase 2 x 4’s and run them through a table saw lengthwise to make 2×2’s. A standard 2 x 4 x 8′ can make four stakes using this method.

To create a sharp point on the stakes, use a jig saw to cut angled points on one side. 

Rolled Fencing Wire:

For the open cage portion, we use 30″ high welded wire galvanized fencing rolls with a 2″ x 4″ mesh grid. A 50′ roll will make about 32 cages for tomatoes, or 50 for peppers. Most farm and home improvement stores will carry 10′, 25′ and 50′ rolls. If you really want to go strong, you can also use heavier grade cattle panels. They are extremely durable and will last forever, but they are more expensive.  Product link :  50′ Roll of Welded Wire Fencing

Assembling The Stake A Cage

Roll out the galvanized welded wire roll, and using wire cutters, cut off 18″ wide sections for tomatoes, or 12″ wide sections for peppers.

Center the wire grid on the stake, leaving 14″ at the bottom of the stake open.  This allows the stake to be driven in to the ground up to 14″, providing plenty of strength as plants grow. If you make smaller stakes for peppers, you can leave about 10″ at the bottom.

Once you have the fencing section in place, attach 3 fencing nails. One at the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom will secure the wire to the stake. And your tomato Stake-A-Cage is complete!

Happy Gardening, and Tomato Growing! – Jim and Mary. If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, you can sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.  This article may contain affiliate links.


12 thoughts on “How To Support Tomato Plants Easily – And Why It’s So Important!

  • May 29, 2017 at 10:32 am
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    Do not pull through, the plant may break. Tie them, but not tightly as to damage the stems. Use something sort of soft, like 8″ lengths of old pantyhose, sheets or other fabric strips. Or just about any home gardening center sells rolls of flexible coated wire you can cut to your own choice of lengths with wire snips, scissors, or pruners.

  • May 26, 2017 at 7:57 am
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    Every year I grow tomatoes with support and others left to grow on the ground for my chickens to eat. Every year the ones I leave to grow on the ground out produce the supported ones by a wide margin. If it were not for my bad back I would let them all grow on the ground. Good article on how you support yours….

    • May 26, 2017 at 5:04 pm
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      In fact, Steven, many have bought the practice of laying the plant horizontal and letting it grow across the garden soil–oh, to have that much space. Right now, they are in a raised bed, so no horizontal but I will try that some day.

  • May 25, 2017 at 8:02 pm
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    I just use a T Post (under $4 each at Tractor Supply) and tie the plants to it. VERY sturdy and the hooks and holes in the T Post are perfect for looping rope/string onto/into once it’s around the stem of the plant. I’ve had the same T Posts for several years and they’re in great condition. They’re also versatile for other projects around the garden–like if I need to temporarily fence off a section of the garden (like around the green beans so the bunnies don’t eat the seedlings). Just set the T Posts in place and run some chicken wire around them. I also use them to mark new berry starters until they get large enough to actually see so they don’t get run over by the lawnmower or trimmer. Have a sapling that needs a bit of first year support? A T Post to the rescue!

  • May 25, 2017 at 1:17 pm
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    Hi Jim and Mary!

    Thank you so much for all of the wonderful information you provide for us! I ordered your book and cannot wait for it to arrive! We also followed your advice and instruction and made 8 beautiful potato crates for this year, I can’t wait to see how they work out.

    I have a quick question for you- Do you plant your tomatoes before or after you put the Stake-A-Cage in the ground? We are constructing them right now and will be planting soon so I was curious as to what you find works best?

    Thank you again for all of the help and for sharing!

    • May 25, 2017 at 1:24 pm
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      Allie, so glad you find our site so useful! And thanks for purchasing our book as well! We put our stake a cages in first and then use a post hole digger to plant right in front of each one easily. Hope that helps, and good luck with your garden! Jim and Mary

      • May 27, 2017 at 12:32 pm
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        Thank you so much! That helps a bunch!

  • May 25, 2017 at 12:59 pm
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    Why not just use a Florida weave? Makes more sense especially considering your bed system

  • May 25, 2017 at 12:23 pm
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    Do you only grow determinate tomato varieties?

    • May 25, 2017 at 12:35 pm
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      No, we grow both. We grow about 80 percent indeterminate, and 20 percent determinate

  • May 25, 2017 at 9:41 am
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    Great ideal I use this same wire system for claiming vine flowers let them grow up the fence type way making it wider with four stakes in the same manor and it also makes a desirable appealing look to it for a back ground as the flowers grow and bloom most of the whole growing season I will try this with my tomato plants thanks for the great ideal chase at chas6161@yahoo.com

  • May 25, 2017 at 9:34 am
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    Yes, but I don’t understand how the tomato plant attaches to the stake/cage. Do you tie them? Do you pull branches through the wire?

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