Tomato Plant Branch Protection

Tomato Plant Branch Protection

An idea for protecting your tomato plant branches by repurposing Styrofoam drinking cups.

Tomato plant branch protection

Tomato Plant Branch Protection

Keeping a tomato plant supported while it grows has been trial and error for me. My husband drives stakes in the ground next to the plant. I then wrap string or twine around the plant and then tie it to the stake for vertical support.  I have also cut strips from pantyhose I could no longer use for tying up tomato plants.

We’ve also tried tomato cages. Stakes are needed to support those as well because they are not stout enough on their own to hold up a tomato plant. Plus, you really need to be consistent about checking the growth of the tomato plant when using a cage.

The leafy branches need to be guided through the openings of the cage as they grow. If they get too long, it’s very easy to break them when trying to feed them through an opening. They’re very fragile. I’ve also found that some of the ripe tomatoes are difficult to access and harvest through a cage.

I prefer not to use cages.

Styrofoam Cups to Protect Tomato Plant Branches

I’ve not found the ideal material to use for wrapping around tomato plants to support them. They all rub the stems too much. Pantyhose works better than anything else I’ve used, but I don’t have many of those anymore.  I know there is garden plant tape that can be purchased for tying plants to the stakes, but I’m all about repurposing.

There had to be some way to protect the stems from the string or twine I use; something that had some cushion to it. After thinking about it, I decided to try something I already had on hand.

Styrofoam cups.

How to Use Styrofoam Cups to Protect Your Tomato Plant

If you would like to give this a try, here is what I did:

Cut a Styrofoam cup in half lengthwise and then cut the bottoms out of each half.

Cut the halves in two pieces.

Poke holes on each side of the Styrofoam piece for string to be fed through.

I use the nylon string that my husband cuts off of large round bales of hay before he feeds it to the cattle.  (I find that string useful for a lot of things.) But twine or jute would work fine for this.

The string I use, frays at the end though, and sometimes it’s difficult to feed through that little hole. A piece of wire about six inches long fixed that problem. Fold the wire in half and push the folded end through the hole.

Cut the needed length of string and feed one end of it through the wire loop.

Pull the wire back through the hole and the wire loop will pull the string with it. For you who sew, it works like a needle threader.

Repeat the same process for the other hole.

The photo below shows what it needs to look like when the string is threaded through both holes. The number of these you will need to make will of course depend upon how many tomato plants you have. I usually need about five or six per plant. Making them is something I do sometimes while sitting on my back porch on a nice spring day.

Styrofoam Piece Wrapped Around Tomato Plant

Place the Styrofoam piece around the plant right above a branch.  (This keeps the Styrofoam from sliding down the plant.) Make a slight tie in the string close to the Styrofoam and gently tighten to pull the foam around the stem. When the Styrofoam ‘hugs’ the branch a little, tie the ends of the string to the stake.

Padded Protection for Tomato Plant Branch

Now the branch has padded protection from the string when the wind makes the plant sway back and forth.

Hope this helps you with your tomato plants. I’d love to hear from you if you have gardening tips to share.

Happy gardening!

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