Tomatoe stake question

Does anyone have some practical advice on what to use to stake up tomatoes? Last year I used some 3 foot steel fencing, but my tomatoes grew an easy 6-7 feet tall. It was a mess, one of the clusters fell over lol.
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"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

Don't use stakes. Buy 5 or 6 foot high fence wire and make cages, as shown in the pictures below. Two stakes/posts per cage. The branches grow out the holes, and that's what supports the plants. Much of the fruit grows inside the cages, so you have to cut a few holes to reach into for harvesting. Other fruit may grow outside the cage and threaten to snap the branches, so you might have to tie the branches to the cage occasionally. I've been using these cages for 25 years. Correctly set up, they'll withstand 60 mph winds.
http://s27.photobucket.com/albums/c197/ancientangler/?
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I love that first picture, with branches sticking out all over.. That is what mine looked like, only worse, and there was 6 plants close to each other doing the same thing. The entire mess fell over from the weight of the branches.
Do you prune your tomatoes, or just let the suckers grow?
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"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

I let them grow. I'd probably have better results if I pruned, but I never seem to get around to it. And, the branches sticking out provide support. Last summer, the deer pruned the branches and one of the plants collapsed completely into the cage.
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I made similar cages as shown in Joe's pictures but used concrete reinforcing wire; six foot high with 4" x 4" squares. You can buy it by the yard at most building supply places. I cut 4ft lengths leaving one side with the 4" long horizontal piece free. I then bend the long wires securely back around the vertical wire to form the cage cylinder. If you cut the bottom piece of horizontal piece of wire you'll have 4" spikes to jab into the ground when you set it.
When planting the tomato I first take an empty gallon milk jug, using a heated ice pick I poke 3 holes on opposite sides of the bottom of the jug just where it bends to form side to bottom. I bury the milk jug so about 4 inches of the top is exposed, I then plant two tomatoes, one on each pierced side of the jug, then place the wire cage around the whole deal. I use one of those long necked funnels (get it at the auto parts store) to pour in water soluble fertilizer or just put the end of the hose in to fill the jug when watering. Keeps water off the leaves and fruit and you don't loose any to evaporation. The water stays deep where the roots can use it and the plant doesn't stress from drying out. Even during the hottest part of summer I don't water more than two, rarely sometimes three times a week.
I've been using the same cages for over 20 years, the 4 inch sized squares of the 'fencing' are easy to reach into for pruning and harvest. I used 2 lengths of 5 ft rebar pounded next to each cage and zip tied it to the wires. They've never blown over no matter how strong the winds, I have huge yields of tomatoes and the initial investment divided by 20+ years makes them about the cheapest and best tomatoes cages you can get.
In the winter I just clip the zip ties, pull the whole works out of the ground, lean the rebar stakes in a corner of the garage and hang the cylinder cages from the rafters till it's time to plant in the spring.
I plant early and during the colder days and nights of the spring and fall I wrap a sheet of heavy plastic around the cage and clothes pin it in place and pile some soil around the bottom. In the morning I open the top and close it back up in the early evening to hold the heat. I can stretch the season by about a month on either end of the growing season. During the summer I just fold and roll the dry plastic sheets and keep them in a large mesh onion bag.
Val
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Just in case the previous picture link doesn't work, here are separate links for each of 3 tomato cage photos:
http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c197/ancientangler/TomatoGiant.jpg
http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c197/ancientangler/TomatoCage_03.jpg
http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c197/ancientangler/TomatoCage_04.jpg
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I make mine out of cement reinforcing. It is 5 ft and strong to last. I cut off the bottom ring so I can stick the stays in the ground then I put a steel post at both ends and run a wire to keep them from falling over. IT WORKS GREAT. The holes are big enough to get the tomatoes out.
From Mel & Donnie in Bluebird Valley
http://community.webtv.net/MelKelly/TheKids
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In article "Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> says...

Just to give you ideas, here's a pic of my free standing cages used for tomatoes grown in containers.
http://www.brandylion.com/images/tomato-cages.jpg
These cages were made entirely out of scrap wood that I had lying around.
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Nice. I have a lot of branches left over from a tree I removed. Maybe I can do something like that.
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On Fri, 9 Mar 2007 23:32:38 -0800, "Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote:

If you have the space lay down a 2" layer of straw and let the tomato vine onto the ground. Staking conserves space and may decrease yield. For best results remove the suckers. You can use branches, poles, tomato cages, fencing, etc. I have used 3-pole T-Pees which are very stable and strong. Three feet is just not tall enough.
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I use 4' fencing, but cut at 7' long or any dimension you want, the 7' dimension will by the height. For the fencing I use the type with wires every use 4" grid or so. Then I tie the 4' edges to form a cylinder approximately 1' in diameter by 7' long. Then place the cylinder over the growing tomato plant and stake or otherwise secure in place.
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"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

I always stake my tomatoes and always snip off suckers. I always plant 4 pounders and 4 cherry. I have way too many too eat and always give the extras away. but they look so beautiful while growing. I have decided this year to use drip irrigation to better serve me and my plants. These stakes are made of 8 foot x 2inch x 1/2inch and I use screws to hold them together.
http://www.medical-user.com/Pictures/101_1199.JPG
Peace
Michael
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Very nice. Do you use the fence behind them to support them or otherwise hold them up?
I'd use drip irrigation, but for a garden my size it would cost way too much. I'm on a well and don't really have a shortage of water, so I just use a set of impact sprinklers around the edge of the garden. Takes most of the day to water it all, but the cost of running my well pump is minimal.
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Ook wrote:

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I had always used stakes with good results, but over the years I have added so much organic material to my soil that it will no longer support the stakes.
Since I had the stakes, I built some triangular frames for the end of each row, connected by a ridgepole, with a stake by each plant tied to the ridgepole. This has worked well for two years.
The commercial farmers around here put a heavy layer of straw down to prevent the fruits from contacting the ground, then let the vines grow unstaked. I'm pretty sure they get more tomatoes from a given area than I do, but they tend to grow a variety that is average sized and good for packing. Mine are more likely to be pampered to the point of perfection.
Ook wrote:

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