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I have an interesting situation. I received a lot of tomato plants as a gift. I'm not sure exactly how many, but let's say that I'm dealing with 50 for good measure. Right now they're in pots that are too small for their size with a soaker hose on a timer. If I don't give them better growing conditions soon they're not going to make it, but I don't know how to go about this. I plan on planting them in the ground in rows 50 feet long. If I do the recommended 3 feet spacing, I would need about 3 rows to plant them all.

The land isn't the issue. Supporting the plants is. From an economical standpoint, what is the best way to go about supporting them? I think cages are out of the question as 50 of them would cost hundreds of dollars. Even buying 50 stakes could get pretty pricey. My current idea is to buy a few posts and some rope/twine material and put posts at either ends of the rows, and maybe a few throughout the row and run the rope from end to end every foot vertically or so. But even though I'm looking at hundreds of feet of rope and at least a few nice posts.

Any suggestions for the method, materials to use, and where to find/buy the materials is greatly appreciated - if you come up with an idea that uses more than 3 rows that's no problem.

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You do no need 50 cages: you can plant more plants per cage.

You can use stakes. You will reuse for years. Eventually you may use bamboos. You will find people who want to get rid of them, so free stakes.

You can use few stokes and wires, or a large net.

You have many option. Start planting the tomatoes plant, and then look for a support later. Ask people. It is incredible how many good supports are trashed away (overbuy things, and then being overloaded by garden on first year, and so stopping the project). Look on construction material. Everything that has not in the name "tomatoes" or "garden" is usually better and cheaper.

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I’ve seen a market gardener use a few stakes and a lot of string. They put stakes maybe every 10-20’ along rows of tomato plants. Then at vertical intervals of a foot or so, they wove 2 strings between adjacent stakes, looping the strings one on either side of each plant and crossing the strings between plants. Viewed from above, the string pairs look like elongated sections of chain with one plant inside each link.

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Well we are now June so you have probably made your decision and that's that. For future reference, it is handy if you know someone with land where mixed deciduous trees grow. Often it is necessary to thin out maple and other poles of various sizes which can last as bean poles for about three years if treated well. They serve nicely to support not only beans but tomatoes and other crops - use the sturdiest poles to create the support structure, the longest as the horizontal supports, and the medium and thins as the intermediates. Then just tie the plants in as required.

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