Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How can I support my tomato plants?

Tomato vines can be either staked or grown in cages. To stake, drive the stakes at or before planting time, as driving a stake into the soil near an established tomato plant damages its root system. As the plant grows, side branches or suckers develop at the points where the leaves join the stem. Remove these suckers before they are more than 3 inches long. If you want to develop two or more stems, leave one or more side branches near the base of the plant. Break off all side branches from these stems as they grow upwards. Tie the stems to the stake with soft string or a cloth strip. Wrap the material around the stake twice so it will not slide down, and pass it around the stem below a leaf or flower cluster. Plants you stake and prune to a single stem will produce fewer but earlier and larger tomatoes. However, they will be more likely to crack or split than those produced by plants with two or more stems.

Another method of supporting tomatoes is to use cages. Use 6 inch space-concrete reinforcing wire, five feet high and 2 feet in diameter. Cut with a bolt cutter, and remove the bottom wire. This will leave 6" spikes to stabilize in the ground. Do not prune tomatoes using this method. Some gardeners use cages about 40 inches in diameter and plant four tomatoes around the outside. Place compost materials inside the cage, as these help hold moisture and slowly release nutrients to the plants.