Growing tomatoes in a garden with limited space is a challenge, since the plants get tall, unwieldy and flop all over once the tomatoes start weighing them down. Keeping the plants off the ground is important, too, so your tomatoes aren’t in the dirt where they rot more easily or get eaten by slugs or snails. I used to buy tomato cages — open-ended, circular wire cages—to secure the plants — but they were never strong enough once the tomato plants got taller than 4 feet. The cages would slowly collapse, taking the plants with them, which was worse than if I hadn’t used anything.
Last summer I happened upon a simple, yet effective device to keep the tomato jungle under control: the cedar stake. Cedar stakes come in various lengths and can be found at any home-improvement or garden store. They are inexpensive, especially compared to tomato cages. I bought 6-foot stakes, one for each plant, and some stretchy vinyl tie that expands with the growth of plants. I jammed the stakes deep into my raised beds and loosely tied the tomato plants to them. As the plants grew, I would tie up the new growth. The stakes never once threatened to fall over, and even the bushiest, tallest tomato plants stayed in their allotted space.
This year I’ll be reusing the cedar stakes. They are naturally insect- and rot-resistant, so even though I left them in the ground much longer in the fall than I should have, they are as good as new.