I was always told that all tomato plants needed to be staked when I was growing up. When I asked the question why I was told that this is the way it has always been done. After I grew up, I decided that I was going to see for myself what happens if I don't stake them?
I had always thought that the fruits would rot on the ground if stakes were not used. I must admit that I was not successful on the first try. What I learned was that if I spread a fresh layer of mulch I didn't have to worry about rot. The snails and slugs stayed away as well due to the mulch. It seemed to me that I had more fruit than I had ever seen on staked plants. Some problems I encountered were that the plants grew very thick and the fruit was difficult to harvest.
I must say I was more than a little surprised to see how well the tomatoes fared on the ground. I was very vigilant about harvesting these fruits as soon as they turned orange.
There are several different types of stakes that can be used. I prefer to "stake" my plants to a cage. Most cages are circular and only 3 feet tall. I have made my own wire mesh cages. These were about six feet tall.
The fruit was not on the ground, but it was very challenging to harvest because it grew towards the center of the plant.
I am torn as to whether I will use my large mesh cage again or not. Storing this behemoth has not been pleasant as well. i have very little storage left in my shed and have not been able to sell it.
The stakes I used when I was young were only three feet tall. Nowadays people are using them that are six to eight feet tall. I like to place two of them close together and then grow a plant in between them. Ensure that you drive them deep into the ground to give a solid foundation.
This method is very labor intensive because you must continuously tie the stalks to the stakes throughout the season. Advantages are that these stakes don't take much space to store.
I certainly have had a good time with my experiments about growing better tomatoes. The wire mesh cage was my most inventive idea, but the good old fashioned stakes seemed to work just as well. I believe that there is beauty in simplicity. I was certainly most surprised to learn that the fruits will grow well on the ground.
After all I have learned I believe that next year I am going to grow my crop on traditional stakes, albeit they will be eight feet tall! However, this does not mean that I am going to be giving up on my experiments.
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