Posted on 27 May 2010 by

The Tomato Chronicles: Supporting Your Friends

supportBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Tomatoes and people are very much alike.

During sometime of their life they need a little support.

People sometimes need financial support, sometimes moral support and sometimes physical support that only the touch of human can bring.

Tomatoes are much the same. We gardeners plant them in the best soil, feed them the best food and mulch them to keep them comfortable but after all that they still need support.

In the past years I have used many different types of supports from tomato cages, tomato stakes and a trellis last year. Each type of support had pros and cons and never really served my need.

My plants out grew my support much like human children but this year I am going to try something different. I am going to try an old chain link fence. I got this idea from a garden catalog that showcased a red plastic fence that could be used year after year.

To be honest it looked like the caution fencing used at construction sites and since I am an avid recycler I decided to try my chain link fencing as my tomato support this year. If you have interest in using this idea it is simple but if not there are some other ideas for supports below.

Chain Link Fence Support


1. Place post in ground where you want to begin and end. Roll out chain link fence and attach to post.

2. Plant on each side of fence. You can tie your plants to fence using recycled materials such as old pantyhose, towels, or t-shirts. But be careful not to tie the plant too tight. This type of support is great to plant companion plants along fence to more effectively use your garden space.

Tomato Cages

This type of support is great if planting a few plants and is reusable.


1. Plant tomatoes and gently place cage over tomato. Push cage’s legs into ground and tie as needed.

2. When season is over pull out of the ground and store.

Tomato Stakes

These are wooden stakes that are hammered in the ground but keep in mind this wood needs to be untreated. These stakes can be used over but will eventually rot. Also the tomatoes will need to be securely tied to the stakes to keep the stem from breaking off due to weight.

Tomato Trellis

The trellis I used last year was made of scrape wood but can also be made of PVC. This is great for a vertical type garden where space is limited. Tomatoes grown with this type of support need to be securely tied to the trellis to keep the stems from splitting.

Japanese Tomato Ring

If you have limited garden space but still want a lot of tomato plants this type of support is what you want to use. It allows tomatoes to be planted around it, can be left from one season to the next, and gives you another reason to compost.


1. Roll out chicken wire until it forms at least circle with a 3 foot diameter. Attach ends by weaving the wires or use zip ties to hold it together.

2. Dig up the area where you want to place the Japanese tomato ring. In this area you will need to go down at least 3 inches. This will form a compost/rainwater reservoir.

3. Place tomato ring in area and secure to ground with stakes or landscape spikes.

4. Fill ring with grass clippings, newspaper with safe ink, kitchen scrapes, and anything else you use for compost.

5. Plant around the outside of the ring. You generally can get 3 tomato plants around a 3 foot ring.

6. Tie or weave stem into tomato ring. The advantage to this is the compost will act as soil and the tomato plants will start to root into the ring.

7. Continue to add compost as needed to ring.

8. At the end of the season you can leave tomato ring up and continue to add compost or you can take down and till under the compost.

Regardless of what type of support one chooses planning is the key. Supports can come in many forms and the individual needs of your garden need to be taken into consideration. Planning through the “Tomato Chronicles” has been an underlining theme by which success and failure can be measured by some extent to how much time you spent planning and this goes back to the beginning of this blog.

Tomatoes just like children need support and it is up to all of us how much support we are willing to give. Hopefully your decision will be based on the individual needs of your vegetable garden and “family garden” and while I realize that time is precious so is the time with ones own family. So this year plan your garden carefully, map out your support system, and realize that sometimes plans have to change due to circumstances out of your control.

Also realize that what worked last year may not work this year and that there will always be that one plant that needs a little extra help but turns out to be the most beautiful and most productive of the whole garden. This probably sounds familiar to some but to just lay it straight out there tomatoes are like children.

So while you ponder my thoughts on supporting tomatoes I will see you again on “The Tomato Chronicles.” Next weeks topic is mulching. Till then remember a gardener’s chores are never done.

One Response to “The Tomato Chronicles: Supporting Your Friends”

  1. jerry lee Says:

    I have used the chainlink fencing solution for several years and it WORKS. I also use bamboo poles to form a lattice arrangement over many large (15 gallon) plastic planter pots set in a row and they support all plants with ease. The bamboo came from cuttings obtained from friends’s nuisance stands of bamboo. They were glad to let me have all I wanted. I cured them over the summer and fall before using the following spring.They seem to last forever.

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