Tomato support ideas?

This year I plan to have over 250 tomato plants. I have made lots of raised beds, 3X6 feet. Last year I put groups of two plants every 2 feet (12 to a bed) so that two plants could share a single cage and a single drip emitter. This year I think I will stagger them in a zig-zag every foot, to get more in each bed, two rows to a bed, watered down the middle of each row with one of those 1/4" tubes with holes punched every 6 inches.
Does anyone have any creative and not-too-difficult idea for how to support these plants? Would some structure down the center of the bed work, or should I put something on the outsides of the beds, or use individual cages spaced every few feet and let the tomatoes just find them? I obviously don't want to purchase 250 cages, but I also don't want these plants trailing all over the ground. (Last year my tomatoes got up to about ten feet.)
Any interesting suggestions will be appreciated. --S.
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The folks at the Seed Saver's exchange headquarters in Decorah Iowa do this: 6-foot (I think) Metal T-posts are driven in a row every 8 or 10 feet, with mesh fencing attached. Tomato plants are on either side of this every few feet, and trellised to the fencing. I tried a simplified version last year- wood slats and baling twine- and it worked pretty well.
Gary Woods AKA K2AHC- PGP key on request, or at home.earthlink.net/~garygarlic Zone 5/6 in upstate New York, 1420' elevation. NY WO G
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Suzanne D. wrote:

The way that I have seen it done on a commercial scale is a tensioned trellis. You have heavy braced posts at each end of each row and 4 or 5 (or more) tensioned gal wires between them. In between thin stakes (like traditional tomato stakes) are interpolated about every 1 1/2 m (5ft) and wired to the horizontal wires to prevent sagging. The tomatoes are tied to the horizontal wires with cheap string that will last a season. Once erected the effort of tying them up is much less than with individual stakes as the ties don't slip, you just work along a row with a bunch of cut string in your belt tying up to the next wire as they get tall enough. This uses less material than cages or a stake for every plant and it won't blow over. You run the rows north-south (or south-north if you are in the other hemisphere).
David
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On Tue, 9 Mar 2010 12:09:53 -0700, "Suzanne D."

Much like Gary recommends..
T-posts, cattle panels and lots of jute twine. I use 6 foot posts and wire the five foot panels a foot off the ground, in order to easily mulch, etc. around the plants. The panels and posts are quick to set up, dismantle in fall and store and don't take much storage space. My brother-in-law sandwiches his plants between two rows of panels.
I like cattle panels because of their durability and large openings, making it easy to reach thru, tie to, etc.
Charlie
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wow, what do you do with all the tomatoes, literally a ton I'd imagine
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In article

I am growing 60 tomato plants just for me, myself and I. For no one else! It takes 56 pounds of tomatoes to make 7 quarts of juice. Plus I want to preserve salsa, whole tomatoes, dice tomatoes, sauce and vegetable soup. This is just for one years use. For a large family, 250 plants is just about right. Tomatoes are basic staple in my life. Homemade vine ripe tomato juice is just delightful. I might even try to make my own ketchup this year :)
Not all plants will take. What does the organic gardner say. Plant one for the mouse, one for the bugs, one for the animals and one for yourself. I think that is how it goes. If I run out of canning jars and lids the extra makes good compost.
Enjoy Life... Dan
--
Garden in Zone 5 South East Michigan.

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wrote:

wow, what do you do with all the tomatoes, literally a ton I'd imagine ________________
What the kids don't eat (and with 60 plants last year, there wasn't much left over, if that gives you an idea of how much they love tomatoes!) will get made into sauce. And of course the neighbors will get some! --S.
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My Dad used this based on the idea YEARS ago,
http://www.ehow.com/how_4905570_tomato-cages-using-scrap-materials.html
Hope this helps, but with 250 you need to be nuts about toms.(as I am)
Will you let me know your eventual solution please? I grow about 40 plants each year and never have enough tomatoes and also don't have enough time or room to experiment.
Marq
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