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What Happens If You Don’t Stake Tomatoes – Concerns & Tips

Tomatoes come across as a good starter plant when beginning a gardening journey. After diving in fast and beginning to grow them, you may quickly realize that they aren’t necessarily thriving the way you planned. That could be for one particular reason; staking. Now, what happens if you don’t stake tomatoes?

It is nearly impossible for tomatoes to live without being supported by stakes. They will slowly deteriorate and lose their life. There are several reasons tomatoes need to be staked, but the main reasons are to keep the leaves and fruit off of the ground, to allow air and sun to nourish the plants fully, and to prevent rotting and sickness. 

Continue reading to learn all about why and how tomato plants are staked. 

Is It Okay For Tomatoes To Touch The Ground?

As tomato plants grow, they become heavier, and their limbs grow longer. Without proper staking methods, they would entirely fall onto the ground. Tomato plants do not thrive from being grown on the ground.

They are physically incapable of staying alive while completely exposed to the soil. Creatures such as rodents and insects typically stay very low to the ground. A juicy tomato, leaves, and plant limbs are all a source of food for them.

With parts of the plant being constantly eaten away as nourishment to another life, tomato plants will surely lose their own life. With other creatures also come sicknesses and diseases. Tomato plants are more vulnerable to these while lying on the ground. They can rot and deteriorate. 

Can Tomato Plants Grow Without Support?

There is only one exception to growing tomatoes without staking support, and that is determinate tomatoes. Rather than growing vertically, determinate tomatoes grow wider and in a bush form.

They also only grow to a certain size, and as they mature, they remain that size for the length of their life. They typically only produce fruit for a short amount of time, such as 14 days. After they produce fruit once, they tend to not produce again. They slowly begin to dry up and eventually die off. 

Benefits To Growing Tomatoes Vertically

  • Growing vertically is very aesthetically satisfying. Of course, looks aren’t everything, but I’m sure most gardeners like to keep their crops clean and organized. Seeing tomato plants in nice rows appropriately staked is a very pleasant sight. 
  • The plants won’t waste their energy on producing offshoots and other unnecessary limbs. With vertical growth, the plant is able to solely focus on growing taller, stronger, and producing the healthiest fruit. 
  • There’s no chance of tomato plants surviving on the ground. They will slowly deteriorate. As I’ve mentioned previously in this article, tomato plants do not thrive from falling over and being fully exposed to soil. They will rot, become sick and then completely lose their life. 
  • Tomatoes are closer to the sun when they are grown vertically. Just like humans need Vitamin D, tomato plants do too. With a vertical growth structure, every aspect of the plant is better exposed to the sun, giving it optimal strength for growth and producing delicious fruit. 

Is it Easier to Harvest Tomatoes When They are Staked?

Yes, the process of harvesting fresh tomatoes from a plant is a lot more straightforward when the plants are staked. The entire plant is exposed when it is grown vertically, making the ripe fruit easier to pick. Also, it is way easier to access plants when they are tall, vertical, and grown in neat rows, rather than having to search through wide and messy bushes that will mostly be dead.

Having easier access to fruit picking will make it more pleasurable, which will surely encourage you to pick ripe fruit regularly. What better way to fully optimize your garden and growing efforts. 

How Do You Train Tomatoes Vertically Through Staking?

  1. Pick out materials to use as stakes for your tomato plants. Stakes must be strong to withstand the plant’s weight and uncontrollable weather conditions. Wood and metal materials will most likely be the best contenders. Make sure the end of the stake is pointed enough to break through the ground and to be good support. Also, make sure the stake is tall enough to live up to the plant’s full growth potential. The last thing you want is to have to go back later and re-stake your tomato plant. 
  2. Make sure you place your tomato plants in the ground neatly in rows with preferably 24 inches between each one. 
  3. Grab a mallet or a hammer of some kind to hit the top of the stake into the ground slowly. Make sure the stake is close enough to the plant that the limbs can be fastened to it, but be positive that it isn’t damaging the plant. The stakes should be about 10 inches below the ground for optimal support and strength. 
  4. Gather your fasteners that will connect the plant’s limbs to the stake. Usually, a fabric cut into strips or a rope of some kind will be the best option. Make sure that you find enough material to have several fasteners for each tomato plant. You will most likely use more than you’d think. 
  5. Begin to intricately choose limbs that will benefit from being fastened to the stake. Tie your chosen materials around the limbs and the stakes, molding them to one another. Continue this process from the base of the plant to the top until you feel like your tomato plant is well supported by the stake.
  6. As your tomato plant grows upwardly, make sure to continue fastening the newly developed limbs to the stakes. It is a tedious process, but it’s well worth it in the end. 

Is There an Alternative to Staking?

Many people prefer caging their tomato plants rather than staking them. Caging is the process of surrounding the plant with metal fencing that the tomato limbs can attach to. Just like staking, the caging method allows the plants to grow vertically.

There are some common downfalls in caging, which is why most people still choose the staking method. Caging is expensive, and it takes up a lot more space. It’s harder to maximize your garden space and fit as many plants as you can. Also, harvesting the fruit is more difficult due to a lack of access to the plant. 

Conclusive Thoughts

My final thoughts conclude that staking is necessary when growing tomatoes. It is pretty much impossible for a tomato plant to thrive and produce fruit without growing vertically. Being grown on the ground will kill a tomato plant.

The ground exposes the plants to creatures that will eat them, along with disease and sickness. The plants flourish in an upright position with more access to the sun and better air nourishment. There is an alternative to staking, and that is caging, but based on the facts I found, staking is typically the better route to take.

Dani

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

Lovely article my sweet friend, but I have to disagree. We have a property in the subtropics with extensive food gardens and we don't stake our tomatoes. Our everglades tomatoes volunteer all over and they are never staked and we've had them live two years during mild winters. Same with our tropic sweet canning tomatoes. They thrive and produce abundantly. They are grown in a heavily mulched, chop and drop system but otherwise left to their own devices. Plants are amazing and capable of incredible things.