One of the most important things you can do to keep your tomato plants healthy, productive and safe is to provide support for the branches that hold an ever growing supply of ripening tomatoes – and that means tying up your tomato plants for maximum support!
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 plant’s 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. By keeping foliage and fruit off the ground and out of danger, it makes it harder for both to attack the plants.
When tomato and pepper plants are left to sprawl on the ground, they can become an easy target for pests to attack. Soil borne diseases can easily take hold – and insects have an easy path to destruction.
Finally, when you tie up your tomato plants, it makes it easy to manage, maintain and harvest them. Good air circulation and light are vital in helping plants ripen their fruit. And there is no better way to provide both than to have your plants tied up.
How To Tie Up Your Tomato Plants – The Basics
Tying up your plants is obviously important. But so is tying them up with the right materials and in the right method. In fact, it can make a big difference between plant success, or plant failure!
Over the years, we have tried and trialed a myriad of methods and products for tying up our plants. And even though there are many that work well enough, as you will see below, there in one that we love most of all.
Not only is it easy to use and effective – it also happens to be very inexpensive!
What Not To Use – How To Tie Up Tomato Plants With Ease
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. All of these may hold the plants up with plenty of support, but they easily slice into the tender skin of plants.
So what works well? For many, old cotton t-shirts cut into strips and pantyhose are two of the favorites. Both are strong enough to hold limbs securely, but allow for growth and expansion of stems and shoots.
The only problem is that it can be hard to continually source. In addition, a myriad of colorful shirts can often make a garden look a bit unsightly as well. So what is the ultimate material for tying up plants? For us, it happens to be yarn!
Using Yarn To Tie Up Tomato Plants
For years now, our go-to choice for tying up tomato plants has been a big ball of inexpensive, 100% all-natural cotton yarn. Not only it extremely cost effective, it works incredibly well on plants for both strength and give.
For under $3, you can get 100 yards of material. And it is perfect for tying up tomato and pepper plants as well. Best of all, if you purchase it in green, it is completely invisible in the garden. Product Link : Green Cotton Yarn
The yarn is both strong and flexible. As the plants grow, it allows plenty of movement to keep them safe from rubbing or damaging limbs. And it is also extremely easy to cut and tie off – unlike many commercial ties can be.
Check out our Podcast On Growing Tomatoes!
And we simply love using the green yarn because most visitors to our garden don’t even know our tomatoes are tied up! With that said – here is a quick tutorial for the best ways to tie up your tomatoes as they grow.
How To Tie Up Tomato Plants
When it comes to tying up tomatoes and peppers properly, good support for the main stem is vital. Of course, pruning your tomatoes at the bottom is the first step to success. See : How To Prune Tomatoes and Pepper Plants
Once your plants have been pruned, 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.
In addition it gives even more 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: The Best Way To Stake Tomatoes Ever!
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.
Here is to tying up your tomato plants for big success this year! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary
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