How Martha Stewart Uses Bamboo For Stronger, Healthier Tomato Plants In The Garden

Martha Stewart has built a nearly blemish-free reputation for perfection in almost everything she does, and her tomato crops are yet another picture of success. She and her team of gardeners designed a bamboo support system to discourage diseases by keeping their fruit off the ground. Staking tomatoes is common practice not just for keeping fruit pest-free but also for maximizing the harvest.

There are scores of ways to support your tomato plants, but Stewart's creation wins extra points for appearance. Her attractive structure — as seen on her blog — is made of bamboo held together with jute twine: two natural materials that fit beautifully into an outdoor space. With two rows of 10-foot-long bamboo cuts leaning toward each other, the rig looks a bit like a tent and is well-secured in the ground and with jute ties. The design is practical as well as pretty; its height and width can accommodate someone walking between the rows to tend the plants or harvest fruit. Give your tomatoes a leg up — or a stake up — by trying this technique yourself.

Why choose this bamboo design to support your tomatoes?

Bamboo is a miracle material. Its fast-growing stalks are made into a wealth of products for a more sustainable home. Bamboo's amazing versatility and eco-friendliness are just a jumping-off point. It is naturally pest-resistant and very strong, two qualities we look for in gardening materials. It's not particularly expensive if you purchase it in bulk, and bamboo is resilient enough to reuse for many seasons. 

Martha Stewart's project makes the most of a small amount of materials while helping her tomatoes stay vertical under the weight of heavy fruit. With one 10-foot bamboo pole per plant and some additional smaller pieces to use as supports, it requires less material and cutting than the more traditional tepee-style trellis that gardeners often use. Experts advise that tomato supports should be 6 to 8 feet tall, with one end sunk at least 1 foot into the ground. The extra height in Martha's design is ideal for taller gardeners to walk down the center path as they maintain their plants.

How to pull off Martha's design yourself

Get ready to grow the best tomatoes in your garden this year with a bit of help from Martha Stewart. Her structure supports two rows of evenly spaced tomatoes with plants placed at the same intervals in each row. Each plant will have its own stake that leans toward its neighbor's stake. Because of this, it's best to plan your planting around this structure. Once your plants are in place, sink two 10-foot poles between the two planted rows at both ends of the rows. Tie a line of jute twine between the poles as a guide for where the tops of the supports will touch. Following the guideline down the rows, work one 10-foot pole per plant about 12 inches into the soil. Angle the two neighboring poles so that their tops touch in a triangular form and tie them together with twine. Continue until you've attached a triangular support for every two plants down the rows.

Your structure will need horizontal bracing, so at about 2 feet above the soil at each triangular support, tie a bamboo cutting between the two poles. You will need to add more supports as the plants grow higher against the existing supports. Lastly, let your creation do what you built it for: supporting your plants. Tie each plant's main stem gently to its own pole. Stewart suggests using a figure-eight knot that is gentle on the plant and won't crush its stem.