Tying tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants is a necessary measure to ensure the health of both plants and fruits. These three plants belong to the Solanaceae family and are among the most common crops in home gardens, especially during the summer season. Due to their vigorous growth, these plants require proper support to develop in a healthy and lush manner. Establishing a correct tying system is also essential to prevent damage caused by adverse weather conditions. Wind and heavy rain, particularly during certain seasons, can seriously jeopardize the success of our crops.
Tying tomatoes is certainly one of the most delicate tasks that home gardeners have to tackle. However, not only tomatoes require this attention; peppers and eggplants also need proper care. Nonetheless, there isn’t a single tying technique. In this article, we will present the method that we find to be the most reliable and simple to implement.
Why Tie Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplants
As mentioned, tying tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants with proper support is essential for a successful harvest. These plants have extensive vegetative growth, both in height and width.
Many tomato varieties, especially those used for salads, have indeterminate growth. In essence, they grow and develop as long as they have favorable conditions and space available. The best way to support their growth is to provide semi-rigid structures for vertical support. Without support, they would crawl along the ground, facing greater risks of damage. They could be stepped on and would be more susceptible to attacks from pests like aphids and bugs. Tomatoes, if in contact with the ground, could easily rot or even go unnoticed during harvesting.
However, not all tomato varieties have this requirement. The classic San Marzano tomato, for instance, is usually left untied and without supports. This is because it has a determinate bush-like growth.
Another reason for tying tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants is to optimize the available space in our garden. By tying the plants, we prevent them from spreading too much. Therefore, with adequate support, we can plant more rows of these crops. Additionally, an organized layout allows for easy movement between the plants.
Lastly, let’s not forget the potential damage caused by adverse weather conditions. A plant without ties is more susceptible to wind, which in extreme cases could break the plant itself.
Materials Needed for Plant Tying
Before delving into the various steps of tying tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, let’s understand the necessary materials to establish a simple yet effective support system.
Our technique requires only a few materials and tools, specifically:
- Wooden stakes;
- Nylon twine;
- Raffia for tying;
- Hammer for pounding;
- Protective gloves;
Wooden stakes form the framework of our tying system. In agriculture, chestnut stakes are commonly used due to their strength, straightness, and easy availability in rural areas. Next is the nylon twine, which we’ll use to secure the plants. This material can be easily found at agricultural supply stores. Nylon twine comes in various thicknesses; for vegetables, we recommend the “500” grade. Raffia is used to fasten the ties (available here).
Many gardeners prefer to use bamboo canes instead of nylon twine and raffia. If you opt for this method, you can find them here. In any case, we prefer using nylon twine and raffia because they are more affordable materials and can be reused over time. Lastly, a sturdy hammer for pounding and protective gloves for your hands are essential for setting up the supports.
How to Tie Tomatoes
Now let’s delve into how to tie tomatoes, the most common plants in the garden and also the trickiest to support.
Firstly, we need tall and sturdy stakes, with a minimum height of 2.10 meters. These stakes should be placed along the row of plants, with a maximum distance of 2 meters between each stake. If we plant our tomatoes every 40 cm, this roughly corresponds to 5 plants. To support the weight of the plants’ growth, the stake should be inserted into the ground to a depth of at least 40 cm. To facilitate this process, it’s beneficial for the stakes to have pointed ends, which is usually the case when purchased. This task requires two people—one person holds the stake steady while the other safely pounds it into the ground. This operation should be carried out when the plants are tall enough, about 30 cm. Another tip is to angle the top and bottom stakes outward. Over time, the weight will cause them to straighten out.
The Nylon Twine
Once the stakes are in place, you can proceed with tying the plants using nylon twine. Working together, start by tying the twine to the top stake at a height that reaches the middle of the plant. Then, the person holding the twine moves forward, while the person behind keeps the twine taut, adjusting the tie’s height to avoid damaging the flower clusters.
The nylon twine is wound around each stake along the row until the entire row is complete. Upon reaching the end, after wrapping the twine around the last stake, start going back in the opposite direction. On the return journey, the twine should run parallel to the original tie. Finally, cut the twine and secure it with a knot.
At this point, your plants are sandwiched between two parallel nylon twine lines. This alone will help keep them balanced and prevent them from drooping onto the ground.
To perfect the tie, use raffia to fasten the two parallel twine lines. Place a small piece of raffia between two plants.
The photo sequence below will make these steps clearer.
Photo Sequence of Tomato Tying
It’s important to note that tying tomatoes is a repetitive task that needs to be done as the plants grow. Roughly every 30-40 cm, it’s recommended to perform a tying loop.
Moreover, tying facilitates the process of tomato pruning (removing side shoots), as it allows for vertical pruning. Don’t forget that with tomato side shoots, you can prepare an excellent natural macerate for use as an insect repellent.
Tying Peppers and Eggplants
Tying peppers and eggplants is similar to tying tomatoes, but much simpler. Firstly, there’s no strict need for tall stakes; stakes around 1 meter in height will suffice. Place them about 2 meters apart. Secondly, pepper and eggplant plants can stand on their own. Tying is only necessary to prevent branch breakage and protect against adverse weather.
The weight of the fruits can sometimes cause branches to snap, especially in eggplants, despite their sturdy, almost woody stems.In contrast, pepper stems and branches are more tender. Support prevents the plants from drooping or, worse, breaking.
Another difference from tomatoes is that pepper and eggplant plants grow more slowly, giving you more time to tie them. You can wait until the plants are around 50 cm tall before tying. At that point, proceed with the initial tie.
This tie should be positioned at about half the plant’s height, roughly 25-30 cm from the ground. The tying process is similar to what we’ve seen for tomatoes—use nylon twine and raffia to secure the tie.
Tying peppers and eggplants will need at most a second round of tying, perhaps in August. By this time, the plants will likely have grown enough to require additional support.