I was recently perusing several gardening Web pages, when I came across an article titled "15 Fun Ideas for Growing Tomatoes." The article mainly focused on different ways to keep your tomatoes up off the ground. The ideas ranged from tomato cages to individual stakes to tepees to using metal spirals. Keeping your tomatoes up off the ground is an important thing to consider when planning a garden.
Tomatoes are technically a vine. They will happily grow along the ground, but this creates more soil to fruit contact and less air circulation. Both of these circumstances increase the likelihood of fungal diseases. In addition, it is much easier to maintain and harvest a tomato plant from a standing position than it is on your hands and knees!
But, before you decide how you are going to keep your tomato vines upright, it is important to understand what type of tomato plant you have in your garden.
Some tomatoes are known as indeterminate. As long as the weather is warm, these plants will continue to grow in height. As they grow, the plant will set new flowers so there are always tomatoes in varying degrees of ripeness on the vine.
Other tomatoes are what we call determinate plants. These tomatoes only grow to a certain height. All of the flowers are produced at about the same time and therefore, all of the plant's fruit ripens within a short time period.
The typical tomato cages sold at hardware stores and garden centers work well for determinate tomato varieties, but are typically too short for indeterminate varieties that can easily grow five feet tall in good soil and weather conditions. Alternatively, six-foot tall stakes, fence panels, or tepees aren't really necessary for a tomato that is only going to reach a height of four feet no matter how good the soil or growing conditions are that year.