07/08/2011 11:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How To Stake a Tomato in 5 Easy Steps

I have admired and coveted the staking skills of my friend Pat Corpora for decades. He is Sicilian, so I think his blood is made of tomato sauce. I finally got him to come to my mess of a garden and do a tomato-staking intervention. Watch the video for the full details. But in case you need a step-by-step breakdown, here is what you need to do:

1. Plant your tomato seedling deeply (up to where the leaves start), and at the same time, drive a bamboo stake into the ground right next to it, 8 to 12 inches deep in the ground. If you've already got crazy tomato growth, just put the bamboo stake in place right next to the plant.

2. Tie the stem to the bamboo pole with twine. Tie it all the way to the top of the main vine.

3. Be brutal about pruning the stems and "suckers" so that you only have the strongest, best stems to grow the biggest, best tomatoes. Pat says you will get more and better tomatoes that way. I believe him. (Suckers are not a derogatory term, they are the little stems that grow out of the intersection of the main stem and other stems--see the video for more detail.)

4. Keep adding more ties as the tomatoes grow.

5. Add a crossbar of bamboo between two tomato stakes to strengthen the staking, and allow the tomatoes to spread out. There are two types of tomato plants, determinate and indeterminate. Determinate will only grow to a certain size and bear their tomatoes all at once. Indeterminate will keep on growing and keep on bearing. If you have indeterminate tomatoes, you can keep on adding taller and taller stakes, and keep on tying!

Bamboo and twine are both biodegradable and compostable products. So when you are done staking, you have delicious tomatoes and leave nothing behind except a full belly.

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