To stake or to cage, that is the pressing question at the moment.
In just a couple of weeks I’ll be setting out quite a few tomato plants. They are doing marvelously under grow lights in the basement and I’ve been working on hardening them off for the last couple of days. Honestly, I’m a little bit surprised that they have done so well! I’ve never had much success starting tomatoes from seed, but for some reason this year, they are going gangbusters and I couldn’t be more pleased.
I’ve always caged my tomatoes and had a variety of success using that method. Sometimes I have a really, really good tomato year and the tomato plants (and fruits!) get so big and so heavy they overtop and topple over the cages. I’ve remedied this by tying the cage to a T-post sunk deeply next to the cage, but that still doesn’t solve the overtopping issue. When those indeterminate plants decide to really take off, they REALLY take off! I’ve almost always gotten a really big crop of tomatoes by using cages. Well, except for last year when all the chickens managed to get to the ripened fruits before I could. This year, I’ll have a fence around the garden to prevent the little thieves from having free-range in my food!
This year I’m seriously considering staking my tomatoes instead of caging them. At this point I’ll need to buy at least 15 more tomato cages and to get the ones I want (the tall, heavy duty variety) would involve a significant monetary investment. Which would kind of defeat the idea of growing food to save (and maybe earn) money.
But, I have a big stack of unused 6′ metal fence posts that would be easy to use to stake tomato plants. However, the other thing I’m trying to decide at the moment is whether or not staking would be more beneficial. Staked plants require more water because they tend to be more exposed to hot sun and drying winds than caged plants are.
They also require quite a bit more pruning, which, in the end means bigger, but fewer, tomatoes simply due to the fact that you are pruning out vines that could be producing tomatoes so the plant can be staked.
Bigger but fewer tomatoes, more water and more work with staked plants.
Or more expensive on the front end by having to purchase more tomato cages?
Oh, the conundrum!