Does Staking Tomatoes Bring More Tomato Gardening Problems Than It Helps?
When you drive by a large field with tomatoes growing in them, you never even once see stakes. So why do backyard gardeners feel they need to stake their tomato plants, if they can get plenty of tomatoes without bothering? Why do the tomato gardening tips and advice from the pros tell you to do it? As with most things there are advantages and disadvantages for using stakes or cages to solve tomato gardening problems.
One of the real advantages of staking the tomatoes or using one of those specially designed tomato cages is that it takes up much less room in your garden than if you let them spread all over the ground the way the large growers do in their fields. Stakes allow folks growing container tomatoes on their patio or deck to do so without an unruly mess. Stakes and cages work well when you do not have a garden but want just a few juicy tomatoes to put on sandwiches. Then you can fit them in around the house in your flower beds.
A second advantage of using stakes has to do with rot and disease. Tomatoes on the ground can get too moist and never have a chance to dry out, and that results in rotten tomatoes. This is especially true after a rain since where the tomato is resting on the ground; it gets too moist and moldy. You would have to keep the mulch fresh, several times a week, to prevent this. Stakes and cages get the tomatoes up off the ground where the sun can hit them. It is helpful to read more on disease up in a tomato gardening tips guide.
There is definitely an advantage when it is easier to see the tomato plant. This helps to control the unwieldy growth when they are staked or in cages. You want most of the nutrients to get to the tomato, and not the leaves, so snipping off extra leaves and pruning any unnecessary shoots will keep the vine itself stronger and the tomatoes a chance to grow juicier.
A disadvantage to using stakes is the time it takes to maintain them. You need to keep the stakes firmly anchored, the plant anchored to the stake, all the main shoots tied up. Each and every day old shoots need readjusted or tied again, new shoots will need attached. When it is dry the stakes and cages will come lose from the soil and they are hard to keep anchored in the ground.
A companion downside that goes with the first one is that the whole thing will probably fall over anyway during one of the summer thunderstorms. Even the cages can fall over if the plant gets too top heavy. Once they fall over and the vine is bent, it is tricky to get it put back up and everything tied up again and the cages anchored into a new spot.
If your backyard garden is large enough, and you have a steady supply of mulch to keep your tomatoes as dry as possible, you certainly can forgo the stakes and cages and let the vines spread on their own. Other tomato gardening tips will tell you to use a raised bed, that is easier to reach and keep it mulched Most people however need to solve their tomato gardening problems of limited space, and disease by using stakes or cages for their juicy tomato crop to flourish.