Part 3 of 4
University of Maryland Extension
Support: You can allow your tomato plants to sprawl on the ground if you have plenty of room and thick organic mulch covering the ground. Most gardeners prefer staking, trellising, or caging tomatoes because it requires less space, reduces fruit rots, makes harvesting easier, and increases yields per area of garden space. There are many methods for supporting or trellising tomato plants. When selecting the method best suited to you and your garden, consider the types and spacing of your tomato plants, and the expense and labor you are willing to invest. Staking and caging are the two most common methods:
Staking requires wooden or steel stakes 6- to 8-feet long and 1½- to 2-inches wide. Drive them one foot into the soil about 4 to 6 inches from the plant soon after transplanting. As the plants grow, pull the stems toward the stakes and tie them loosely with twine. You can also grow 3-4 plants between steel fenceposts by connecting the posts with 4-5 horizontal strands of wire spaced 12-18 inches apart and tying tomato stems to the wires as they grow upward.
Caging allows the plant to grow in its natural manner, but it keeps the fruit and leaves off the ground. Using wire cages requires a larger initial expenditure and a large storage area, but many gardeners feel that the freedom from pruning and staking is worth it. Use 5-foot wide fencing with a 6-inch mesh to allow easy hand harvest. Pruning may still be necessary to avoid excessive growth of foliage. Space cages at least 4-feet apart and secure cages to the ground with stakes to prevent tipping by summer storms.