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Tomato Cages, Stakes or Trellis - Which Do You Prefer?

Updated on May 9, 2013
Ultomato staking system
Ultomato staking system | Source

Support For Your Tomato Plants

For any vegetable gardener whose passion includes growing tomatoes, at some point you must make a decision on the best way to support your tomatoes, especially if you are after those huge prize winning tomatoes. So one question you will resolve, which is better tomato support cages, spirals or tomato trellises.

First a quick look at why you want to see in any sort of tomato support. Depending on the type of tomato that you are growing, you will find that especially determinate tomatoes will end up sprawling all over the place. This makes it difficult to weed around the plant, to harvest the fruit when it's ripe, or to even see the fruit as it's ripening. If a tomato plant lays in contact with the soil for a while, it quickly grow roots from the stem and secure itself to the ground.

Watering is complicated by the fact that it's best to avoid splashing water on the tomato plant leaves. Getting soil splashed up on the leaves is one way soil borne disease are transmitted to the plants. With all this in mind we will look for the best support.

Finally, storage is always an issue with these supports. Large tomato cages can be a great solution, but if they don't fold up or unroll you have to find a place to store them.

Tomato Stakes

The old standby - these can be fashioned at home. Two favorite materials for tomato stakes include a 6-8 foot section of rebar, or more traditionally, a length of bamboo. In both cases, the pole or stake is driven into the ground near the main tomato plant, and the plant is tied to the stake every foot or so. In order to keep the tomato trained to the stake, it's necessary to prune the plant fairly aggressively. You can also find commercially available stakes that aren't a single pole, which allows you to prune less and have a fuller tomato bush.

There are also some stakes that are spiral shapes. These have the advantage of allowing you to train the plant into the spiral and won't need to be tied nearly as often, with the added advantage that you may not need to prune as heavily.

Tomato Cages

Many gardeners make their own cages, with reinforcing fence or chicken wire type. One other popular material to make a tomato cage from is PVC piping. The PVC can be built without gluing it up so that you can partially disassemble it for storage in the wintertime.

Some cage designs are like small fence sections that easily disconnect and will fold flat for storage. There are some designs that are circular but still can be folded flat. The typical tomato cages you see at the hardware or home improvement store can do the job, but they are cheaper for a reason. Those that have only 3 rings, and with spot welds will break quickly, and the legs bend way too easily, will rust and break off. They will get you through a season or two but they end up in the trash sooner than you would like. The thicker the wire the better, as some tomatoes will put a real load on the cage as they start to bear fruit.

Smaller cages are the best choice for some of the smaller determinate varieties like Celebrity and Carnival. Ironically, while you might expect something like a cherry tomato to do well with a small cage, they are indeterminate and get grow to 8 feet or more over a long season if properly trained.

Tomato Trellises

Trellises can work great for tomato varieties that grow very tall. These are also popular for growing other vine type vegetables like cucumbers (or even melons). One way to make a trellis is by putting a support beam or pipe overhead, and often this will stretch over more than one plant. From that pipe you can drop twine and secure it to the ground near the plant, and allow the plant to grow up the twine, and to tie it to the twine like you would a stake. You can use more than one line per plant to allow them to spread. The other alternative is to use a classic wooden trellis and tie the tomato plant on to that. Trellises are usually easier to break down and store, and will handle much larger plants if properly put together, so if you are growing larger determinate tomatoes, this can be your best choice.

Weighty Tomato Poll

What type of tomato support do you prefer to use?

See results

Do You Prefer Cages, Trellises or Stakes?

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    • Wimberlyj profile image

      Stephen John Wimberly 4 years ago from Mount Dora, Florida

      Currently using stakes, but I took a long look at the cages at Lowes over the weekend. I enjoy the pruning and tying to the stakes for now, but I lost one plant that broke off, so I am thinking about alternatives.

      Good Hub, thank you.

    • Teddletonmr profile image

      Mike Teddleton 7 years ago from Midwest USA

      Great hub, good information on supporting tomato plants.

      My 12 year old son, while working on his gardening merit badge came up with the idea to build cages using the concrete reinforcing wire.

      He discovered the ten gauge wire is a bit difficult to cut with a pair of wire cutters, and had to get a set of bolt cutters to finish his project.

      The six inch square holes work well when it comes time to pick tomatoes, and the sixty inch tall cages make for tall tomato plants.

      Thanks for the information, happy gardening and enjoy a bountiful harvest...

    • Louis Taylor profile image

      Louis Taylor 7 years ago from UK

      Great tips, I used only bamboo canes so far but it is really time consuming with 12 plants every year. Looking at your trellises tips now!

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 8 years ago

      Interesting page, might need to do this in the future. I grew mine without supports until the very last weeks when I had to support the most heavyly cropping vines with a type of cage beneath it. When I want them to rippen I chop of the odd leaf that blocks the sun. Not very conventional but I've been lucky so far.

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 8 years ago from Texas

      Pruning tomatoes is an age old practice.

    • profile image

      Jayne Ann 8 years ago

      Has anyone tried the idea of removing a lot of the leaves from the tomato plants to get more tomatoes - more air circulation, less dampness, less fungus.

      I read about it on the Web just now and it sounded scary. It was part of a posting at I think.

    • Research Analyst profile image

      Research Analyst 8 years ago

      I heard summer is the best time to raise tomatoes, hanging tomato plants are great and where I live now building my own tomato cage would be easy to do, seems to be a great solution for storage, thanks for the tips.

    • Camping Dan profile image

      Camping Dan 8 years ago

      I have done cages for years and they never let me down.

      This is a little off topic, but for my peas I actually use sunflower plants instead of a trellis. My peas can climb up them and it looks pretty as well.

    • Treasured Pasts profile image

      Treasured Pasts 8 years ago from Commerce, Texas

      Doing a week by week hub on one of those upside down tomato planters. I'm now two weeks in with the next being Tuesday.No, I don't work for the company . I just have lousy soil and want to try all possibilities. If it works, peppers are next.

    • mikethegardener profile image

      mikethegardener 8 years ago from New Jersey

      excellent article...although I prefer sticks to prop up my tomato...I can get them for free... lol :)


      author of the book "Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person" available at

    • profile image

      Nolimits Nana 8 years ago

      I've only used bamboo stakes so far, and found them a bit lacking. Think I'll make a trellis this year.