When it comes to growing great tomatoes, how, when, and what you use to tie up your tomato plants can make a big difference in the overall performance of your crop.
Tying up the branches of your tomato plants is vital to their long term health. As tomato plants mature and begin to produce and ripen fruit, the additional weight creates serious stress on limbs and branches.
If left unsupported, branches easily snap and crack simply from the load of the fruit. Even more, if a summer storm happens to pop up, plants become an easy target to topple over from high winds or strong rain.
Even More Reasons To Support Your Tomatoes…
In addition to protecting plants, tying up the branches of your tomato plants also has a few other major benefits. First and foremost, it allows for better air flow and light. Both of which help to keep plants healthier, and allow their fruit to ripen more quickly and evenly.
Tying up your plants also makes the common chores of watering, weeding and harvesting more manageable as well. But perhaps most important of all, keeping fruit and the branches off of the ground protects the harvest by making it harder for pests and disease to find a home.
When branches are tangled about the ground, it makes it easy for soil borne diseases to begin to take hole. And even more, allows an easy entry point for insects and pests to hp aboard.
Check out our Podcast on How To Grow Great Tomatoes!
With all of those benefits in mind, here is a look at when and how to tie up your tomato plants, along with some of the best methods and materials for doing so.
What To Tie Your Tomatoes Up With
Before we get into when, where and how to tie up tomato plants, let’s first take a look at what to and not to use for tying them up.
Selecting the wrong material to tie up your tomatoes can cause serious damage to your plants Materials that are too rigid will easily cut and damage the plants as they grow. They can also slice and rub tender shoots off in windy conditions.
Stay clear of zip ties, metal wire, and hard plastic ties. Heavy rope can also create issues as well.
So what is good to use? The key is to select materials strong enough to hold plants, but with flexibility. Here are four of our top choices:
One of the easiest and most economical choices around for tying up plants is a simple roll of yarn. And even better if it is organic cotton yarn! Cotton yarn is both strong and flexible. It allows plants to move freely, and even more importantly, expands when a stem grows thick against it.
Since it can be purchased in long rolls and cut to size, it is also one of the least expensive ways to tie up tomatoes, peppers, or nearly any plant that needs support. And you can even select it in a natural green color to blend right in with your plants!
Velcro One Wrap Tomato Supports
When it comes to tomato tie-ups on the market, the Velcro One-Wraps are one of the best. Not only are they reusable, but they go on with one of the easiest methods ever, velcro!
You simply cut off the desired length from the roll, and then wrap around the stem. The material is weather resistant, and can be re-adjusted and re-used as needed.
Jute String / Tomato Twine / Pantyhose
Tomato twine or jute string is an old-time favorite used by many gardeners to tie up tomato plants. Both are economical, although jute can sometimes be an issue rubbing into plants. And of course, we can’t forget to mention the old standby of tying up tomatoes – pantyhose!
They do work extremely well in supporting plants, and their flexible nature is easy on plants. But they can be hard to find these days, and are certainly quite expensive if purchased new.
So now that you know what to tie up your plants, here is a look at when, how and where to tie up your plants and branches:
How To Tie Up Your Tomato Plants For Success
When it comes to tying up tomatoes, it all begins with supporting the main stem as soon as possible. In fact, the best time to put your tomato supports (stakes or cages) in the ground is the day you plant! Not only can you support plants early, but it also keeps you from damaging roots and compacting the ground later as you drive them in.
Providing early stability for the main stem of your plant is critical to anchoring all of the other branches, stems and future growth.
Begin at the base of plant, tying off a few inches off the ground. Allow a bit of room for the base to grow when tying, as it will thicken as summer progresses. If your plants are tall enough, and a second tie off point 6 to 8″ above ground level.
These two tie-offs will provide the main support for the plant as it grows. As you do this, always be sure to trim off any branches below this point. (See : How To Prune Tomatoes)
Tying Plants As They Grow
For the branches above, it is all about keeping the plant under control. Begin by tying the longest branches back to the center post. If you are using a stake, you can weave branches to support each other as you tie them back.
For cages, tie these branches equally around the supports. Tying these off-shoots back to the main branch area provides much needed support as they begin to bear fruit.
Once the plant has 4 or 5 tie off spots throughout the top, it is good to go. As the season progresses, only tie back additional branches when they begin to wane from too much fruit.
Quite often, pruning wild branches is the better option than tying up for wild or excessively large branches. Cutting these back allows more energy to go to producing and ripening more fruit.
But whatever you do – keep those plants tied up and secured – and enjoy a better and more easy to perform harvest this year!
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