My grandfather owned a greenhouse and he passed down all his tricks and tips to my mom. One of those amazing, inexpensive tricks was the best garden plant ties! Learn how to make them with what you have around the house.

Once the gardening season progresses, you’ll find that you need to tie some of your plants to stakes or trellises. What you choose can really have an effect on the health of your plants. It’s important to choose wisely.

How can garden plant ties affect my plants negatively?

The difficult part of choosing a garden plant tie is that those tender plants cannot have something firm pressing into them. It can cut the stem and kill the plant.

Another reason it cannot have a firm tie is that the stems thicken over time. Because of that, the tie that is used needs to have some give to it so that the stem can get thicker without something cutting into it.

Have you ever seen a tree with a rope swing tied around it and the tree begins to grow around the rope and swallow it up? That’s sort of what happens in this case, but the main stem is what carries all the nutrients to the plant. So if that is cut off, the plant is compromised and can die.

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What kind of ties should I use in my garden?

Since firm ties – like twine or string – can hurt your plants, there has to be another answer. Lots of people buy garden plant ties like these that don’t hurt their plants. That is a viable option.

But I prefer to make my own. Remember my grandpa who owned the greenhouse? This was one of his tricks and I love it so much!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Homesteaders are known for using what they have laying around to solve their problems. They are sort of like the McGuyver of the current day.

I am a homesteader at heart and want to make sure I’m being responsible with the things I have in my home. Looking for ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle things I would normally discard is really important to me. Not only does it save money, but it reduces the amount of waste I’m sending to the land fill.

t-shirts cut up and ready to make into garden ties

How do I use what I have around to make garden plant ties?

Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I try to plan throughout the year. As I’m sorting through clothing to donate, I always find shirts or athletic shorts with stains that cannot really be given to someone else.

When I find those, instead of throwing them away, I put them in my gardening area in the basement. When it’s getting close to gardening season and I’m itching to get growing, this is a project I love to do to get me into the spring feeling.

Cutting the T-shirts

I’ll normally sit down with an audio book or podcast. I gather all the clothing I’ve set aside throughout the year. I grab my trusty sewing scissors and begin to cut close to all the seams and hems in order to leave me with big pieces of the stretchy fabric.

cutting hem off t-shirt
cut up shirts for garden ties

Once have these big pieces cut out, I lay them flat and cut long strips (about 1/2″ wide). Depending on how long those strips are, I cut them into lengths of about 5-8″.

garden plant ties

Why cut both shorter and longer ones?

I tend to use shorter strips for my pepper plants and tomato plants and pole beans. I utilize the longer strips for tying my zucchini to a post to grow it vertically.

This year I even used very small strips to tie my seedlings to a skewer. I’ve never had to do this before. The soil mixture I made this year for my soil blocks made my seedlings go crazy!! See how I start my seedlings indoors here!

seedlings tied to stakes

Storing garden plant ties:

When I finish cutting up the ties, I store them in a basket or bag that is easy to transport into the garden. Sometimes, I even put them in a small rubber tote that I store right in my garden. This way I can pull one out whenever I need it!

How do I make garden plant ties?

  1. Collect unusable t-shirts or athletic shorts, or other clothing that is soft and stretchy that would otherwise be discarded.
  2. Use fabric scissors to cut close to the seams and hems.
  3. Once you have big chunks of the stretchy fabric, cut them into long, 1/2″ strips.
  4. Cut the long strips into ties – about 5-8″ long.
  5. Store in a basket or rubber tote.
  6. Use in the garden to secure plants to stakes!

Do I still need to be careful when I use these homemade garden ties?

Absolutely! Any time you tie a stem to a stake, you can cause damage to your plants. Just tie them securely, but not tightly. You want to make sure there is enough room for the stem to thicken, so leave a little space.

DO NOT pull tightly and stretch the fabric as you’re tying it. Instead, tie it more loosely so that the fabric still has stretch left in it. That keeps it tied more loosely to the plant and prevents damage.

tomato plant tied with garden plant ties

Will these t-shirt ties make my garden look bad?

That depends. I know everyone has a different garden aesthetic. I use what I have around and I feel like there is so much lush greenery in my garden that I never notice the color of the ties.

However, if that sort of thing bothers you, it can be easily fixed. Instead of using shirts you have laying around the house, you can buy green t-shirts at garage sales and resale shops.

In that way, you’re still using something that would be discarded, and you’re not spending much money at all. Plus, it doesn’t draw attention away from the beauty you’re looking for! Win-win.


What plants need to be tied up in the vegetable garden?

I use these ties on a lot of plants in my vegetable garden!

  1. Pepper plants tend to get top heavy once they start producing fruit. I often put a bamboo stick next to the plant when I put them in the garden. I simply keep them tied to that stake in order to prevent them from flopping over.
  2. My biggest use of garden plant ties is for my tomato plants. I use a combination stake/cage in order to keep my tomato plants contained. Because of that, I utilize a ton of these plant ties on my tomato plants each year.
  3. I grow my zucchini vertically because it saves so much space. Additionally, it allows me to prune the plant quickly and easily see the fruit. In order to tie the thick zucchini stem to the T Post, I use these strong but flexible plant ties.
  4. Occasionally I’ll use the ties to secure the pole beans to the green bean teepee.
zucchini tied to post

If you try these out, let me know how they work for you!

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6 Replies to “How to Make The Best, Cheap Garden Plant Ties”

  1. If I’m reading this article, a little late, and my plants have already began to grow. Is it too late to stake near your growing plant and try to tie them up?

    1. I think you should be ok. I’ve done it that way in the past and while it’s best to stake them at planting, it works to stake them later. Just be gentle putting the stake in to minimize root damage. Good luck!!

  2. I am a quilter with many quilting friends. I save the selvage edges from all my fabrics & many of my friends save theirs for me through the year also, so my accumulation grows til garden time. Love the strength yet gentleness of the fabrics & the colors & designs of the strips remind me of many projects & friends

    1. Oh that’s such a good idea! I love to reuse things – especially when it works better than the store bought counterpart!

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