Something to Lean On: Cages and Stakes for Seedlings

Seedlings, just like children, can experience growing pains. And just like their human counterparts, sometimes what they need most is a good support system.

In the seedlings’ case - a variety of which Vego Garden recently launched - the support systems are physical structures, usually cages or stakes, that keep the plants from leaning or collapsing as they grow. 

Cucumbers are heavy and do well with a trellis | Vego Garden

The need for these structures depends on what kinds of vegetables and flowers you want in your garden. Some tend to get weighed down by dense foliage, fruit, or vegetables, which causes their stems to fold. This is often the case with vining vegetables like tomato plants, cucumbers, and some varieties of peas and beans. 

Tall and top-heavy, sunflowers can benefit from a support system | Vego Garden

As for flowers, some of the tall and top-heavy varieties that can benefit from support structures include peonies, delphiniums, some varieties of dahlia, hollyhocks, and sunflowers.

We recommend researching the flowers and vegetables you’re considering for your garden to see if support will be needed. If it will be, the sooner you provide it the better, Vego Garden Horticulturist Sydney Fiene said. In fact, the ideal time to set up support is when you’re transplanting seedlings to your garden.

Even if it's not happening yet, any plant that needs support will eventually start to lean,” Fiene said. “It's just easier to provide it early on, rather than waiting for it to tip over and possibly break.”

Cages or stakes?

Once you know your seedlings will need support, the question becomes what kind of structure is best, cages or stakes?

Vego Garden's new self-water tomato planters | Vego Garden

“I like to ask myself how many branches are on the plant’s main stem,” Fiene said. A tomato plant gets very large, and it needs a of support in different spots. That's where a cage or a tomato trellis would come in handy. A pepper, on the other hand, has one stem and it doesn’t get as tall so it may be easier just to tie it to a stake.”

Additional factors to consider are the look you want for your garden and how much time you have to accommodate plants’ support needs as they get bigger, Fiene added.

“Stakes are a cleaner look, but the plant will need to be tied to the stake multiple times as it grows, often every other week, just to fully support it, and there still can be some leaning,” she said. “That method might also result in less airflow for the plant.”

Cages or trellises offer multiple levels and spots that plants can rest on and attach to as they grow, so they’re a bit less labor-intensive. And they are less likely to restrict airflow.

Installation basics

The good news is, whether you opt for cages, stakes, or both, installing them is fairly easy.

“For a cage, just center it around the plant and press it down as firmly as you can to set the legs into the soil as deep as possible,” Fiene said. 

To help you get those cage legs in the ground—and reduce the risk of the cage tipping over—tap the top with a mallet or hammer.

In the case of a stake, place it in the ground about 2-3 inches from the plant’s main stem. Using a mallet or the palm of your hand, gently insert the stake into the soil. Push it deep enough to provide stability. 

Soft garden twine also helps plants growth | Vego Garden


From there, use soft garden twine or plant ties to secure your plant to the stake. The tie should be about two-thirds up the height of the plant. Be careful not to tie the plant too tightly, though. Ties that are too constricting can damage the plant's stems, restricting the flow of nutrients and water.

Another option is to use gardening tape, which holds plants in place without the need to tie, or plant clips, which are easy to use and can be adjusted as a plant grows.

A final tip from Fiene: “I always suggest choosing a stake or a cage that’s a lot taller than the plant you have now just to ensure room to grow. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

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