Potato plants in my garden exploded with top growth last week. They’ve been surging up and up with mad abandon, then suddenly got tired of being upright and flopped dramatically over the sides of the container. “It’s harrrd being a potato plant,” I may have heard them moaning. What to do?
Ten containers of heirloom tomatoes have also responded to the heat and burst every which way with gonzo growth. I did catch these mostly in time, and gave myself a gold star. Here are a few staking tips to keep your garden veggies from tumbling over.
1. Tie tomatoes (and potatoes in containers) up before they flop. You will feel like a superior human being if you manage this.
2. Recycle old pantyhose to make no-cost plant ties. They’re kind to plants, as they are soft and stretchy. Cut the legs horizontally in one inch strips, keep cutting till you have a pile. Use one loop or loop more together to make a longer plant tie.
3. Tie onto the stake first, quite tightly, then wrap tie around plant firmly but gently. Don’t strangle it.
4. Get the sturdiest stakes you can find. If there are two widths of bamboo, go for the thicker one. Conduit pipe and copper pipe also make good stakes and will last forever. Plus they are easy to hammer into the soil. Wood stakes are fine too, but don’t use any pressure treated wood.
5. In a container you may need more than one stake, as the growing depth is shallower. More stakes give more stability.
6. Large sections of twigs can also be good for staking. I used several dogwood stems I pulled out of my spring planters to stake cherry tomatoes. Does the job, plus looks attractive.
7. Handle tomato plants gently, especially if they have already started flopping, as the stems can snap easily.
Getting in amongst the plants like this can be quite an enjoyable chore, if you like the pungent, green smell of tomato plants, as I do. And they always look so happy when it’s done. Once the tomatoes start forming, you may need reinforcements with your staking, so keep cutting up that pantyhose.