Its tomato season – and that means its time to start tying up tomatoes and peppers in the garden!
Whether you use tomato stakes, cages, trellis lines, or a homemade hybrid Stake-A-Cage structure like we use to support plants, it’s critical to provide a great base of strength for vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers.
Providing adequate support has a multitude of benefits for a plants health, vitality and longevity.
First, it provides protection against the forces of nature. As plants mature and fruit, they become top-heavy and can topple easily in summer storms.
Secondly, it also protects plants from disease and pests, keeping foliage and fruit off the ground and out of danger. When tomato and pepper plants are left to sprawl on the ground, they can become an easy target for pests to attack.
They also have a harder time drying out when they are not properly secured. That can make it easy for all sorts of disease to take hold, from mildew to blight.
But no matter what you choose as a support for your plants, it is important to tie them off to the support properly. And that means using the right materials, and tying off the right parts of the plant.
Tying Up Tomatoes – The Basics
What To Use
There are many materials that work well for tying up tomatoes.
The key is to use a material that is durable enough to hold plants, but still has flexibility. Materials that are too rigid can cut and damage plants as they grow or move in the wind.
Zip ties, plastic ties and even metal wire ties all fall into this category. Although they are easy to work with, they can actually cause more harm to the plants as they grow.
So what works well? Old cotton t-shirts cut into strips and pantyhose are two of the best options. Both are strong enough to hold limbs securely, but allow for growth and expansion of stems and shoots.
They also are extremely budget friendly and can usually be obtained for free. There are of course commercially available plant ties, but they can be a bit costly.
With that said, or go-to choice is a big ball of good-old 100% cotton yarn. It is inexpensive, and works incredibly well on plants for both strength and give.
For around $3, you get about 50 yards of material, perfect for tying up tomatoes and peppers. Best of all, if you purchase it in green, it is completely invisible in the garden. Product Link : 100 % Cotton Yarn (Green)
How To Tie Up Plants
When it comes to tying up tomatoes and peppers properly, it all begins with good support for the main stem.
Start at the base of plants and secure them to your supports by tying off with two tie-downs. One a few inches of the ground, and another about 6 inches off.
This will keep the plant from straying and provide support as it grows larger. Trim off any branches below this point.
For the top branches, we like to weave a few across each other and tie them together to the post or cage. This keeps the plants from going in too many directions.
It also gives additional strength to the main branches. It is one of the reasons we like our homemade stake-a-cages so well. They provide multiple tie off spots, with easy access. See : OWG DIY Homemade Stake-A-Cage.
We usually tie a few at the top in the center, and a few more on the right and left to help fill out the plant canopy. You can carefully move branches as they grow to train them to these three areas.
Once the plant has 4 or 5 tie off spots up top, it is usually strong enough to hold. For us, the remainder of the year we only tie back additional branches that may have too heavy of a fruit load.
Happy Gardening! Jim and Mary.
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