Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tomato Trellises - Trial and Error

I thought I'd do a quick post on my tomato trellises. Part of me wishes I had purchased those fancy folding tomato cages, but alas, I just can't justify the expense. Of course I could always make my own out of concrete enforcement wire but then there's the issue of finding a place to store all of those bulky cages during the winter months.

Last year, all of my tomatoes were trained using metal wire stretched horizontally along a series of 5 ft poles. The vines are attached to the wire using plastic clips or Velcro tape and as the vines grow, you just stretch another wire about 10 inches above the last.

The main advantage to this setup is that it's relatively simple and inexpensive. The major downside, in my experience, is that it's just not strong enough to handle the weight of beefsteak tomatoes - the wires easily sag and the poles bend over under the stain. However, it seems to hold up just fine for cherry tomatoes, which is what I'm using this method for this year.

I had two 5 ft metal poles left over from last year so I decided to rig up a different kind of trellis. I attached a length of steal conduit (also something I had lying around) to the top of each pole and will train the tomatoes with strings tied to the top and attached to the vines using plastic chips or Velcro tape. The conduit's rigidity should prevent the vines from sagging and additional strings can be applied as the vines branches off.

I wouldn't call this method revolutionary but I have feeling that it's popular among gardeners because it's simple and works relatively. The only major downside I can think of to the one I put up is that at a height of 5 ft, the poles are just not tall enough. Some of last year's vines grew over 10 ft long. I'll have to decide whether to trim the vines to a reasonable height or allow them to loop over the top.

Lastly, here's the latest trellis I built applying the string method. Standing 7 ft tall, I think this height should be adequate to handle even the most aggressive vines.

Here's a slightly different angle. I decided to plant my tomatoes in a zigzag pattern to make the most of the bed. Hopefully next year's tomato bed will be bit wider so that I can fit a double row.

And here's a close up view of the tomato clips I use. I love them. They are really sturdy and the best part about them is that they are reusable.


  1. With the string method, just leave an extra 3-5 feet at the top, when the vines reach the top, untie the string and gently lower the vine a foot or so, then re-tie the string.

    As an added bonus, the vine, now in contact with the ground, will root and increase vigor.

  2. Have you tried the Florida weave method? I did this last summer and it worked pretty well.

  3. It looks great. I do love my tomato cages though. I'm thinking in a couple of weeks they will gt out of hand though as I don't prune the tomatoes. I'll have to go through and remove a lot of foliage.

  4. I love those clips. Where did you purchase them from?

  5. So glad you shared this as I too am trying the string method but this is also against a trellis I can tie to for support when needed. The clips are great and will have a look for them up here. I wasn't sure what you were tying the string to at the bottom so thanks for that close up last shot.

    The folding tomato cages are wonderful looking but like yourself..can't justify that.

    Liked Eric's advice re lowering the plant for added vigor later.

    Healthy looking tomato plants! wow.

  6. You can buy the clips at Johnny's. Eliot Coleman uses them in his greenhouses.

  7. You could always just leave bulky tomato cages outside over the winter. I think they'll fare just fine.

  8. You could always just leave bulky tomato cages outside over the winter. I think they'll fare just fine.

  9. You could always just leave bulky tomato cages outside over the winter. I think they'll fare just fine.

  10. Eric, great idea! I was thinking the same thing but didn't know how tricky it would be since I only pull off the first 4 or 5 suckers atthe bottom and allow the rest to branch off. I guess we'll soon fine out!

    Funkbunny - you've peaked my curiosity. Now I'll have to do some googling.

    Laura - like Elizabeth said, it got them from Johnny's. They are reasonably priced and are very sturdy.

  11. I'm so glad to have found your blog. I've been gardening for just 4 yrs. & will definitely enjoy reading & seeing your garden!

  12. Nice trellises. Next year think about investing in the TTT's if these new systems leave anything to be desired, so far I am loving them for one major reason: ease of use. I think I may get more next year to use on the cukes and beans as well.

  13. I think you are going to have great success with that current setup. I did Florida Weave last year and the wind shredded my plants - although if you aren't in a hurricane/Nor'easter part of the country it might work for you.

  14. Thise are indeed some good looking (and expensive!) tomato cages in the link. I'm sure they're worth it for the smaller home gardener but with 30 tomato plants, we'd be out $500, plus shipping of at least $100... It would certainly take some time to recoup your cost.