One more method for trellising tomatoes.

Last summer I took a series of classes from these folks, who are a great resource if you're in the Madison area.  For the tomato class, they had no less than four or five methods for trellising tomato vines.  Any or all of them work great, it's just a matter of what works for your space and budget.

For years I used oversized tomato cages which I got a bunch from a garage sale.  Of course they aren't enough support for big healthy indeterminate plants, so we always staked them with whatever we had around--t-posts, wooden stakes, etc.  But as the garden grew the number of plants did as well, and we're now hovering at about 15 tomatoes a year:  not enough cages.  And then last summer's brand new garden beds (fresh soil!) grew gargantuan tomatoes, so new measures were required.  We pulled some conduit pipe out of the garage rafters and made eight-foot stakes.  This, and a modified method from class did the trick.

This year I abandoned the cages entirely (well, the eggplants and peppers have them).  We started with the conduit, plus some tent poles we found at the Habitat ReStore:  six bucks for twelve ten-foot poles, woot!

The method I'm using is a twine weave:  Ever week or so I run twine through the rows, alternating sides.  In larger production farms they use plastic twine (for strength) and have poles (generally t-posts) every three or four plants, but for my scale I have stakes every other plant at the most, and regular sisal twine seems to be working fine.  I tie off frequently and figure if one snaps, I have redundancy on my side.

This type of trellising does require pruning, I don't think it could support a fully wild plant. Our class taught to prune to two main stems, and I'm fairly religious about this early on (once they are setting fruit well I mostly let them run free).

So far I'm pleased.  One thing I like is not having to rein in a rogue branch, I can just catch it up in the support the next week if one escapes.  This is a fairly intensive planting--I have seven vines in a 4 x 8 bed--and most years it turns into a jungle.  This year I'm keeping them mostly in line, or at least they are not strangling each other!  With diligent pruning this density of planting is just fine, especially on a very dry year like this, where disease is pretty much a non-issue.  Your mileage/climate may vary.

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1 comment:

  1. I completely understand the intensive planting. I figure there's less to weed that way :)

    Glad to learn how you do it! Any way we do, we're bound to have our arms turn green, right? But oh, if I never have to pound a stake in again I will be SO HAPPY. Clay plus drought equals ick.

    happy 4th


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