Tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum) are part of the nightshade family, and their fruits, tomatoes, were once believed to be poisonous. Fortunately, nothing could be further for the truth. A one-half cup serving of fresh tomatoes provides 15 percent of your daily vitamin A and 20 percent of your daily vitamin C requirements, with no fat and only 15 calories. If you don't have much space for a garden, you can still grow tomatoes in containers. Stake your tomato plants with either wood or bamboo stakes.
Benefits of Stakes
The primary reason for staking tomato plants is to prevent fruit loss. Depending on the tomato plant variety, tomato fruits can be too heavy for the plant's branches or vines to support. Left unsupported, the fruits can sag to the ground, where they can touch soil and rot. A secondary reason for staking is to conserve space. Staked tomato plants require less space between plants than non-staked plants, and staking provides easier access to the tomato fruits. A variety of materials can be used to stake tomato plants, including wood and bamboo.
How strong your tomato stakes need to be depends on the kind of tomato plants the stakes will support. Varieties that produce large, heavy fruits, such as beefsteak varieties, need stakes with greater strength than varieties that produce smaller fruits, such as grape tomatoes. When it comes to strength, it's hard to beat bamboo. It's stronger than brick, concrete or wood, according to a 1996 Discover magazine article. Little data is available on the strength of wood stakes because they often are made from scrap materials from a variety of wood sources.
Wood stakes are the most common choice for tomato growers, according to the Harvest to Table website. Although you can buy both wood and bamboo stakes from many lumber yards, garden centers and hardware stores, you could make your own wood stakes from scrap lumber or even tree branches from your back yard. A wood stake needs to be at least 1 inch square, but the taller the stake, the larger its dimensions should be. Bamboo stakes start at about 5/8-inch diameter, but a 1-inch diameter is better for lengths more than 7 feet.
Both wood and bamboo are renewable, biodegradable materials, although bamboo is less likely to be treated with chemicals than wood stakes made from scrap lumber. Each kind of stake can provide adequate support for your tomato plants, although you can typically get away with using smaller-diameter bamboo stakes due to bamboo's greater strength. Wood stakes may be more readily available and less expensive than bamboo, particularly if you have some old scrap lumber you can use to make your own wood stakes. Whether you choose bamboo or wood stakes for your tomato plants really comes down to your own preference.
- Master Gardeners Santa Clara County: Tomato Staking Techniques Evaluation
- Harvest to Table: Growing Tomatoes on Stakes
- Bonnie Plants: How to Support Tomatoes
- MSUCares.com, Mississippi State University: Staking and Training Tomatoes
- Discover: The Bamboo Solution
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Household Commodity Fact Sheet -- Tomatoes
- Photo Credit David Oldfield/Digital Vision/Getty Images