Aw tomato season. The days are longer, the sun is hotter, and for a lot of us around the world it feels like we are all living in a greenhouse or hothouse. Tomatoes just love summer, and by now all the little tomato plants should be looking… Well they should be looking like they are about to fall over from all the wait of new growing tomatoes or from new growing leaves that are weighing the plant down. Then again maybe their not, and that’s the question I get a lot this time of year, “should I stake my tomato plant.” First it depends on the tomato plant you have so let’s start there.
Question 1. Do I need to stake my tomato plant?
Answer: Yes and no. It really depends of what kind of tomato plant you have. Don’t worry though there are only types of tomato plants.
Determinate and Indeterminate Tomato Plants
There are two type of tomatoes. While there are many kind of tomato plants there are really only two types. There are determinate and indeterminate tomatoes plants. Determinate tomato plants are bush like and don’t need to be staked, while indeterminate tomato plants are more like a vine and need to be staked. Now every now and again you will get a weak determinate plant that needs to be staked or a very strong indeterminate plant that doesn’t need to be staked but that’s rare and really depends on growing conditions and the plant may not always survive. Here’s a short list of common plants from both verities.
Bush Early Girly
Fried Green Tomato
Giant Beef Stake
Kentucky Beef Stake
Queen of Hearts
Question 2. When do I stake my tomato?
Answer: People will tell you to stake your tomato plant when it gets to be about 12 inches tall and while that’s good advice that’s not the advice I would give you and here is why. It really depends on the tomato plant. I have a lot of different tomato plants that all need different things. Some of them can grow two feet before needing to be staked and some need to be staked at 3 inches. I have one tomato plant that didn’t need to be staked until it started to grow tomatoes, and my green giant has a thick steam and looks like a little tree. It will most likely never need to be staked, but it might need a trellis because it will have really big fruit. So my advice would be if your tomato plant starts to lean or almost fall over when you water it it needs to be staked. Likewise if the steam looks thin and weak it needs to be staked, and most importantly if you are worried it is going to fall over it needs to be staked.
Question 3. How do I stake my tomato plant?
Answer: The best way to stake a tomato is before it grows to many roots. If you wait to long to put the stake in then you could accidentally hit roots and end up killing or shocking your tomato plant. For this reason you should place and bury your stake when you transplant your tomato plant. Try to get it as close as you can. Then once your tomato plant starts to grow bigger you can lightly tie it to the stake with some string to train it to grow straight. Tomato plants sometimes like to grow crooked so training then to grow straight early can make all the difference later.