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.