Some gardeners regard tall stakes as a statement of hope for the tomato season. Nearly all gardeners have opinions concerning the best ties for growing tomato plants. Whether they combine tying with pruning or not, gardeners put considerable ingenuity into developing ties that support both fruit and vines until the harvest. Their creativity has produced varied ties that provide support while gently cradling heavy, fragile branches and stems.
Although many gardeners favor cages or trellises, the most frequent supports chosen for tomato plants are strong wooden or metal-cored stakes. Gathering a large, vigorous and spreading plant around a single stick involves both judicious trimming and gently persuasive ties. Since the plant's natural vigor pulls it toward spreading out and since its stems are fragile, broad ties with elasticity restrain stems more effectively than thin wire or twine.
Buy strips or rolls of hook-and-loop plant ties. Roughly 1/4 inch wide, these ties support heavy, fruited stems or main branches without cutting into stem tissue. Cut ties on a roll to desired lengths. The ease of fastening frees a hand to support branches in the exact position needed for securing. Nurseries sell stretchy plastic tie-tape. Use long rolls for a large tomato garden. The light, stretchy tape handles easily in long pieces, making it a good material for securing rows of tomatoes to row-long trellises.
Strips of fabric are a favorite homemade tie, such as strips of worn-out bed sheets. Strips cut from old stockings or pantyhose, tee shirts or other soft fabric work. Plastic grocery bags also make good, flexible ties.
If you are tying tomatoes to stakes, friction is important. Do not tightly restrain fragile stems. Wood stakes are naturally rough, and ties remain securely in place. Look for friction bumps on plastic-coated metal stakes. Stakes coated with smooth plastic do not offer a good hold for ties. Those with bumps or ridges keep ties secure. If making tomato trellises with vertical twine supports, increase stability for ties by randomly knotting the twine, and then attaching it to the trellis.
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