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Growing Tomatoes Without Cages – Tips & Tricks For Best Results

While preplanning your garden, you may be thinking of tomatoes. Tomato plants are easy to grow and care for and tend to grow an abundance of produce per plant, making them a favorite for novice and experienced gardeners alike. So what do you need to grow tomato plants in your garden? Can you grow tomato plants without cages? Read on for a complete guide on growing tomato plants without cages!

Can I Grow Tomatoes Without Cages

Tomato plants can be grown without stakes or cages. While most gardeners choose to offer their tomato plants support in the form of cages or stakes, you do not need to invest in these extra efforts to grow an efficient amount of tomatoes. But what happens if you do not grow your tomato plants with cages?

If you do not offer vertical support for your tomato plants, they will sprawl across the ground of your garden. Tomato plants can vine upwards of 6-12 feet when caged or staked, so be sure that you have adequate space in your garden for your free vining tomato plant to grow.

You will want to be sure the area is clear of other plants and vegetation. Tomato plants require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day, with 8-9 hours ideal. You will want to ensure that all of your tomato plants will receive adequate sunlight when it begins to crawl.

How Do I Grow Tomatoes Without Cages

Once you have allotted enough sunny space for your cage-less tomato plants to grow, you will want to prep the area. You must apply a layer of dry mulch to the ground to prevent your tomatoes from resting directly on the soil. Straw, hay, flax, or grass trimmings all make great choices.

The layer of dry mulch keeps your tomatoes from sitting in too much moisture trapped inside the soil, leading to rot and other issues with your tomato plant’s fruit. A great option is to use wooden pallets to help keep your tomato plants elevated. If you grow your tomatoes in a greenhouse, the cage-less method works well.

The greenhouse will have a controlled environment, and with its physical barrier to the outside world, you control the soil’s moisture inside. Since your greenhouse will have dry soil, it will be easier to prevent rot and other problems caused by your tomatoes resting directly on the soil. 

Planting Your Tomatoes

You are ready to plant once you have decided where to grow your tomatoes and prepped the area appropriately! You should plant your tomato plants in mid-May after you are sure the last of the frosts have happened. Tomato plants are susceptible to cold, and fresh tomato seedlings will not survive a cold flash.

You can start your tomato seeds indoors about eight weeks before you want to move them outside. If starting your seeds indoors, place your tomato seeds in a small peat pot and place them in a south facing window to ensure they get enough sunlight.

Water your seedlings well until they begin sprouting. Once they have sprouted, you can water them every few days. If you want to use a grow light during this process, you can, especially if your home does not get enough sunlight. Once you are sure the cold nights are over, you can begin transplanting your tomato seedlings outside.

You will want to bring them outside for a few hours each day to get used to the outdoor space. If you skip this step, your plants can go into shock when transplanted, and they may not survive. Once they are ready to move outdoors full time, prep your soil.

You will want to use high-quality garden soil to plant your seedlings; once you have planted your seedlings outdoors, water regularly until your seedlings take to the soil. After two weeks of transplanting, you can begin fertilizing your plants with a proper fertilizer. Be sure to read your fertilizer’s instructions for proper execution. 

Caring For Tomatoes Without Cages 

Caring for tomatoes without cages is quite simple. Water your tomatoes twice a week, depending on the weather. Hot temperatures will require you to water more, and cooler, wet weather will allow you to skip watering for a few days.

If your plants are in a greenhouse, you will have to water them twice a week, regardless of the weather, since they are protected from the outside world with a physical barrier. Since you are growing your tomato plants without cages, you do not need to worry about arranging the growing plant into the structure.

You also do not need to worry about keeping an eye on the tomato’s growth and tying new growth onto a stake. Caring for tomatoes without cages does have a slightly different approach. You will want to be sure that your tomatoes are still sitting on their dry mulch and that the dry mulch is, indeed, dry.

Moisture is an enemy of healthy tomato fruits, so be on top of this. You will also want to ensure that your crawling tomato plants remain in the sun. Tomatoes love sunlight, so if you notice your tomato plant is growing toward a shady spot, move your vine back into the sun. 

What Are The Pros and Cons Of Growing Tomatoes Without Cages

While it is entirely possible to grow tomatoes without cages, as with all things, growing your tomato plants with this method has its own benefits and drawbacks. Below, you will find the 

Pros of Growing Tomatoes Without Cages

Growing tomatoes without cages have its own pros. Being able not to invest extra money into your garden is a big one. You also do not need to worry about staking your tomatoes as they grow. If you notice your tomato plants are heading toward shaded areas, you can easily pick up your tomato vines and move them. It also is less maintenance than caring for tomatoes with cages, but at a cost. 

Cons Of Growing Tomatoes Without Cages

Growing tomatoes without cages require a lot of space, as tomato plants can grow 6-12 feet. When you wind your tomato plants around cages or stake them, you are using vertical space, but when you let them grow freely, they will take up horizontal space, leaving very little room for other plants to be grown in your garden.

Tomatoes without cages will rest on the ground, making it easy for pests and bugs to access the fruit. The moisture in the soil can lead to fruit rot as well. If growing your tomatoes on the ground, you will need to ensure that you are on top of dry mulching and rotating your tomato fruit often to avoid issues. 

Final Thoughts

While planning your garden, it is up to you to decide if you want to grow your tomato plants with or without cages. It is possible to grow a happy, healthy, thriving, and abundant tomato plant without a cage.

This method does require its own work, but some will argue they prefer to grow their tomatoes without support. Other gardeners swear by support for their tomatoes and will continue to grow their crops with cages or stakes. How you choose to grow your tomatoes is up to you and what works for your garden space. Now you have all the information to grow your tomato plants without cages successfully!