Tired of wimpy tomato cages? In this post, I'll be sharing my tomato trellis system, as well as several other tomato trellis ideas from my homesteading blogger friends. We have trellises that are wind resistant, tall, short, funky and budget friendly. I'm sure you'll be able to find a tomato trellis that works in your garden.
I came up with our tomato trellis system after experimenting with cages made out of heavy duty fencing and wooden garden stakes. It's strong enough to stand up to our windy conditions, tall enough to accommodate 6 foot indeterminate tomatoes, and open enough to keep harvest time from being a contortionist act. Once we get trellises up and mulch down, we tie up the vines every so often as they get taller. That's it.
At the end of the season, I clip off the dead tomato plants, and wash the ties for reuse. (I untie the ties and put them in a zippered pillow case in the washing machine.) We stack the stakes and posts in the greenhouse to use again next year.
6 Reasons to Use a Tomato Trellis
Using a tomato trellis requires more effort than simply letting your tomatoes sprawl all over the place, but here's why you should trellis your tomato plants:
- More tomatoes – Growing up instead of out allows you to grow more tomatoes in less space.
- No gymnastics required for picking – fruit is easy to access on your living tomato fence. I have not so fond memories of strange stretching and balancing in my mom's garden in an attempt to reach ripe tomatoes in a vast expanse of tomato thicket.
- Less wasted fruit – Ask anyone who's been gardening for a while, and I'm sure they've found overripe tomatoes hiding in the patch. With a trellis, you can see your tomatoes to pick all your tomatoes.
- Less Disease – Trellises provide better air circulation to plants, reducing diseases that thrive in damp, crowded conditions and soil-borne diseases.
- Cleaner tomatoes – No more mud and dust covered fruit.
- Less rodent and bug damage – I'm not saying that you'll have no damage, but critters generally do less damage when fruit is harder to reach.
These tomatoes grew on the ground. You can see they are covered with grime, bruised and chewed on.
Near the end of the season, with some lower foliage removed to speed ripening. This was not a great growing season, otherwise the plants would have filled the trellis.
Tomato Trellis Idea #1 – Wind Resistant Post Combination
Right after planting, pound in three 4′ tall wooden garden stakes near each tomato. One stake goes right next to the plant, the other two go about 10-12 inches on either side. The goal is a straight wall of stakes (and tomatoes).
When the plants are around a foot tall, pound in 6′ to 7′ tall steel fence posts at roughly 5 foot intervals along the row. Turn the posts perpendicular to the row to provide a wider surface to set the top cross piece on.
Attach a wooden cross piece to the top of the steel posts using cloth strips or wires. (Alternatively, The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners includes a handy little bit of metal crafting that creates a Y-shaped top to your metal posts.)
As the tomatoes grow, tie the plants up with cloth strips or tether of your choice to the 4′ garden stakes. Prune as needed to create a “wall of tomatoes”
Once they reach the top of the 4′ posts, use cloth strips, string or twine from the top supports to continue to keep the plants going up. I use 7′ – 6′ steel posts, so this puts the tops of my tomatoes at 5′ to 6′. This is about all the higher I care to reach when gathering large quantities of fruit.
You can prune tops if needed to keep the tomatoes on the trellis, or train them sideways if you like. Most tomato varieties do not outgrow the trellis here in Wisconsin.
The video below shows off my trellis system. See if you can spot Miss Kitty.
Tomato Trellis Ideas #2 and #3 – Cattle Panels and String Trellises
Teri at Homestead Honey uses cattle panels and string trellises for the tomatoes in their garden and greenhouse, plus several other trellis ideas in Garden Vertically with Trellises.
Cattle panel tomato trellis from Homestead Honey
Tomato Trellis Idea #4 – Recycled Pallet Trellis
Heather at Green Eggs & Goats turned cast offs from her husband's work into colorful and creative trellises for her tomatoes and other garden crops in “Fun, Funky, Free Garden Trellis and Tomato Cage!“.
Tomato Trellis Idea #5 – Beautiful Trellis Archway
Master Gardener Susan was lucky enough to have her husband build her this gorgeous decorative yet sturdy arched trellis. She uses it for tomatoes and other vine crops. You can learn more at “Building a Trellis for Tomato Plants“.
If you want more tomato growing tips check out:
- Grow Tomatoes from Seed – Save Money, Get More Varieties
- How to Grow Tomatoes Organically – Plus Innovative Gardening Techniques
- 4 Reasons your Tomatoes Aren't Ripening
- 7 Steps to Stop Blossom End Rot & Get Rid of Black Bottomed Tomatoes
Originally published in 2014, updated in 2017.
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