As you're planning your garden, consider these different methods if you're not pleased with your current one.
This is the method we were most familiar with seeing other people use. So when we started our first garden here, it's what did, too. We found old fencing and cages in an old brush pile out back and Jamey pliers-ed them into shape. Some of it was rabbit fencing which meant the openings in the bottom were smaller than up top. This made picking the lower tomatoes a bit difficult for me since my arms are (evidently) on the short side. Sometimes the stakes or cages would either blow over or fall over under the weight of the large tomato plants. Sometimes we failed to space them far enough apart (trying to save valuable garden space) and this made squeezing between the cages/plants without knocking them over a challenge. Having the tomatoes behind bars, so to speak, made pruning them difficult, so we didn't do it- which may have lead to the smaller tomatoes we grew. They became bushy but generally stayed healthy. Overall, it worked fine and we grew lots of tomatoes.
The Florida Weave
Then we heard about the Florida Weave- a method that our vegetable farmer friend uses. We were intrigued and looked it up. You can read a detailed post about how we did it here. We loved the idea of getting rid of the cages, supporting the plants better and having easier access to the fruit. Adding levels of twine as the plants grew was an added chore, but not a big deal. We used this method for a couple years and grew lots of tomatoes once again.
Last year, we read Herrick Kimball's Idea Book for Gardeners. He prefers trellising his tomato plants. This method has a lot in common with the Florida Weave in that the cages are gone and the tomatoes can be easily harvested. Instead of using twine, the plants are trained up fixed fencing- we used cattle fencing (or feedlot paneling) which is very rigid. With this technique, as the plant grows taller, the tip is gently woven in and out of the fencing. A tomato plant won't train up by itself (like peas) but helping it train keeps them well supported. Kimball also goes into detailed instructions on the proper way to prune tomatoes- something we never did much of. This opens up the plant to light and air and sends more energy to the fruit (much like any other pruning). Once again, we grew lots of tomatoes.
We were happy with this method as well and liked it a bit more than the Florida Weave because we didn't have to mess with twine (not that it's a real bother). We're planning on using this method again this year.
If you've noticed, with all of the methods we've used, we've grown lots of tomatoes. We can't help but think that mulching has something to do with this. It keeps the moisture levels more constant, something tomatoes (and all plants for that matter) enjoy.
That is, until we hear of another fun method to try:-). Pin It