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Train tomatoes – No Stakes Required

Avoid tomato stakes


Train Tomatoes no stakes

  • Are your tomato plants a crazy tangled mess of branches that spread across the garden bed?
  • Are you sick of constantly trying to secure your tomatoes to stakes?
  • Do you have broken stakes? Warped or rusted ones?

The thing that I enjoy least about growing tomatoes is the yearly trip to the nursery to purchase new garden stakes to support them.  Well….no more as they are not required. There is an alternate way to train tomato plants. They can be trained to grow on strings. 

My Mother-in-law grows her tomato plants on string and this year she has shown me how to set them up.  I have long admired her tall, thin, beautifully laden tomato plants! Last year I learned how to remove laterals from the plants to ensure that the growth is focused on fruit production rather than leaf production. Now I am ready to string them up!  If you want to learn more about removing laterals you can read the post I wrote about it here.

My Mother-in-law tells me that commercial growers in New Zealand use this method for training their tomato plants.

The main benefits of this method of training the plants include:

  • It is low cost – it is cheaper to use string than to purchase large stakes
  • There is less risk of damaging the plant by inserting the stake into the roots or using the wrong ties to secure the plant
  • It is time effective – plants do not require the use of additional ties to secure them to a stake
  • It is neat 


It is important to note that you need to follow the tips for growing tomatoes in this previous post I wrote to grow tomatoes in this manner otherwise the bushes will be too heavy to twist and control on a string.

You will require some type of frame to secure and run the line of string above the tomatoes. You will see from the picture of my Mother-in-laws garden below that hers are being grown in a green house. Mine are being grown between two raised garden beds that have a metal frame on each side. I used that frame to run the string across.

  1. Establish a line of string above your plants running horizontally across the garden bed
  2. Secure a line of string to the string above first and ensure there is enough length to reach the ground
  3. Tie the line of string that is secured above to the base of each tomato plant. Ensure that the string is taut.  *Do not tie it too tightly to the base of the plant, or use a knot that can be loosened as required, to allow for growth in diameter of the stem
  4. Twist the plant gently around the string – to the right the first twist and then to the left etc so that it is self supporting.
  5. As the plant grows continue to remove the laterals and weave it around the string to continue to support
  6. If the plant grows to the top of the string it may then be threaded across the top of the horizontal line 

I remove laterals from my plants numerous times per week to keep them growing tall and straight. If you do happen to have a plant that has more than one main stem  (as happened with a few of my plants by mistake) you can add another string and use two to support the plant (one per stem) however, this is not ideal.

Train TomatoesThe picture above shows my Mother-in-laws plants.

Tomato stringsTwo of my plants have reached the top of the string and are now being threaded back across the top

How do you keep your tomatoes under control? 


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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Lizzy (Good Things) January 21, 2014, 4:30 pm

    Ah, what a great post. I don’t keep my tomatoes under control. Simple. Every year I get more and more exasperated as we try stakes and triangles and various other paraphernalia. Sadly this year the fruit has virtually cooked on the vine, thanks to 40 degree days! Thanks for sharing a great innovation.

    • Kyrstie Barcak January 22, 2014, 9:16 pm

      They are a challenge I agree Lizzy. I feel like this year I have it almost sorted, if only it were not for the extreme weather days that you have described. That is part of the reward though isn’t it? It makes the fruit and vegetables that you get even sweeter and the appreciation for our farmers greater.

  • JJ - 84thand3rd January 21, 2014, 11:58 pm

    What great information! One day I’ll have a garden… one day!

  • e / dig in hobart January 22, 2014, 8:58 am

    my dad uses a version of this! he has two outer stakes for each plant then employs the string. i was quite amazed – it does look gentler to the plant and much less work for the human 🙂
    i have much to learn about tomatoes – i just can’t seem to get my head around all the work required, not matter how many times my father patiently shows me. i just don’t have tomato brain!!

    • Kyrstie Barcak January 22, 2014, 9:17 pm

      I would love to see a pic of your dad’s version! Your garden is fabulous and we all have our favorites, tomatoes are mine 🙂

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