Training Tomatoes

The best way to keep tomatoes trim and healthy is to train them onto supports and prune tall-growing kinds during the growing season. 

Fertilize Tomatoes When First Fruits Appear

Fertilize Tomatoes When First Fruits Appear

When first fruits appear, feed weekly with tomato fertilizer. Pinch out growing tip as plant reaches top of its stake.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Why train tomatoes? A stake, trellis or cage keeps fruits and foliage off the soil and allows air to circulate around the plants, reducing the likelihood of foliage blights. 

Tools and Materials

  • Tomato plants
  • Supports: 4- to 6-foot-tall 1-by-1 stakes, 8-foot bamboo stakes, or wire cages.
  • Cloth ties (staking method)
  • Twine (bamboo method)
  • Pruners

Step 1: Single stake for support.

The commonest method of trellising is a single stake 6 to 8 feel tall. Pound a 1-by-1 stake or 3/4-inch-diameter bamboo pole a foot or two into the ground. With a soft cloth tie, attach a single vine every 12 inches up the stake. Set stakes 2 to 3 feet apart, 2 feet deep, in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Single stakes are easy to set up, but they are not wind resistant, and you'll have to prune your vines heavily to keep them trained to one stake.

Step 2: Bamboo trellising.

A popular tomato trellis is the tri- or quadrapod, made up of three or four bamboo stakes set together like a miniature tepee. The 3/4-inch diameter 8-foot stakes, set 2 feet apart and leaning to the middle, are lashed together with twine near the top. Tie mature vines to the stakes, or keep them supported and climbing by loosely wrapping a piece of twine around the center vine and then attaching it to the apex of the stake.

Step 3: Cages.

A premade wire cage can also support plants. With a cage, you spend less time removing suckers, pruning, and training plants because the plants can grow naturally and support themselves on the sides of the cage. Because you don't prune them, caged tomatoes develop enough foliage to provide adequate shade for ripening fruit and to protect the fruits from sunscald. With this method, the shaded soil also retains more moisture, particularly useful in hot-summer regions.

Step 4: Pruning.

To prune determinate tomato plants to a single stem, remove the suckers (small shoots) that appear in the leaf axils of the main shoot. Three to four weeks before the first fall frost, prune out the top of the main stem above the uppermost blossom cluster to halt the upward growth and channel energy into ripening the fruit.

Tips

Keep in mind that determinate (one-crop, bushier) varieties require less support than indeterminates, and no pruning. Indeterminate (long-season, vinelike) tomatoes should be staked and pruned or pinched.

Fruit flavor is related to the amount of foliage on the plants, so avoid excessive pruning for best results.

Avoid removing more than a third of a plant's foliage at any one time, because it may shock the plant and hamper its development.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Sow and Plant Fruiting Vegetables

Large leaves, golden flowers and heavy yields make squashes, zucchini and cucumbers ideal plants for productive pots.

How to Plant Bare-Root Vegetables

Discover the best way to plant asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries in your garden.

Pruning and Training Climbing Plants

Knowing when and how to prune climbing plants is essential to remove dead stems and promote healthy growth.

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

Extend the season by ripening year-end crops indoors.

Growing and Training Wisteria

Big and beautiful, wisteria is the queen of climbers. Here, get tips for developing a beautiful plant and controlling its vigor.

Training a Climbing Rose

Climbing roses need a little different care from other types of rosebushes. Follow these steps to create a beautiful display in your garden.

Pruning and Training Wall Shrubs

Similar to climbers, wall shrubs need to be well-pruned in order to encourage flower formation and growth across a surface.

How to Sow and Plant Mediterranean-Style Vegetables

The jewel-like fruits of these decorative plants make beautiful displays in pots in a greenhouse, on a windowsill or in a sunny spot outside.

How to Grow Tomatoes in a Raised Bed

Are your tomato plants not getting enough drainage? Follow these steps on growing tomatoes in a raised bed.