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How to Tie Up Tomatoes

by @ 8:31 pm on June 15, 2012.

This method of tying up tomatoes is based on a method Ern’s family learned from WVU. It’s been modified slightly based on practical experience and has worked great for Ern’s family for years. They used to raise around 800 tomatoes each year to sell at their produce stand so you know this method is proven as efficient and effective. Here’s a picture of our garden as it stands right now:

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The first step is to set posts. (This can be done before or after setting the plants.) We use wooden fence posts. These are available at Tractor Supply and are not much more expensive than steel posts. Either will work if set correctly. Wood posts should be set in holes approximately 2′ deep. If the holes are dug by hand, make sure to tamp the dirt as you refill around the post. If you only tamp once after you’ve entirely refilled the hole the posts will not be sturdy enough to hold straight when you tighten the wire (I’ll get to that in a minute). Steel posts don’t need to be driven in as far, but they are not as sturdy and the end posts will need to be braced to keep from caving in toward each other. We shoot for 7 plants between each set of posts.

Once the posts are set it’s time to run the wire. We use high tinsel. Wrap the wire twice around one end post, wrap the end around itself, and staple like so:

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Run the wire across the top of each post on the row, using a fence staple to guide it. These staples should not be tight – the wire should slide through easily.

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Using fence pliers, pull the wire as tight as you can get it. Secure it to the opposite end post the same way you did on the first end (pictures above). If your end posts bow in toward each other either your holes weren’t deep enough or you didn’t tamp enough as you filled back in.

Once you have that up, you can tie the tomatoes as they are ready. We use bailer twine. Measure from the ground to the height of the wire, double it, and add about 18″ or so. You will need one string of this length for each plant.

To tie up a plant, loop the string around the stem near the ground:

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Gently loop one side of the twine around the main stem. Do not wrap tightly and be careful not to scrape the twine across the vine.

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Run the remaining twine up to the wire and tie it with a slip knot. The twine should be on the loose side of gently snug. Do not try to pull the plant upright – it will straighten on its own if needed.

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This is a critical part. Remove all sucker vines EXCEPT for the one immediately below the first bloom. If there isn’t a bloom yet, just wait and don’t remove any suckers until there is.

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Once the sucker you left is big enough, wrap the twine around it and tie it up just like you did the main stem. As the plant grows you will periodically need to untie the twine, wrap it around more of the plant and tie it back to the wire in the same fashion you did initially. Continue to remove all suckers except the one supported by the twine.

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If you only have a handful of tomato plants a different suggestion would be to use a 2×4 instead of wire to tie the string to. All the same principles apply, but you have the bonus of the 2×4 keeping the end posts from bowing in. If you use this method, we suggest putting 2×4 on end, making it stronger in relation to the tomato plants pulling down on it.

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