Monday, July 5, 2010

Trellised Tomatoes

Like most gardeners who grow vegetables, I reserve a decent amount of space for growing tomatoes. This year in my garden I am growing many different varieties: Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Roma, Cherokee Purple, Yellow Pear, and Super Sweet 100. Last year I used spiral tomato cages from Veggie Cages and while they worked very well and kept the garden looking attractive, I felt that there was still too much space taken up by my tomato plants.

This year, when installing my expanded garden I wanted to maximize the space my tomatoes use, so I decided to go more vertical. Last year I grew a few plants and my peas on a vertical trellis made of conduit and nylon trellis netting. This year I decided that anything that needed trellising was going to use this set up.

Conduit is inexpensive and comes in 10' lengths. For around $20 you can get a conduit cutter that makes cutting them to length super easy.

I picked up corner connectors(I prefer the ones that use a screw to tighten) as well as some rebar to anchor the trellises to the ground.  Bury the rebar at least a foot into the ground and slip the conduit over the exposed part.  It holds up amazing well to high winds, I have yet to have one bend or collapse.

Here is what they look like early in the season installed for my cucumbers (forgive the wonky angle, it was taken with my cell phone):


Because the trellis netting was longer than I needed, I just worked my way back up from the bottom while tying it onto the conduit.

This method works wonders for vining plants like peas, cucumbers and melons and works surprisingly well for tomatoes.  Here is what my tomatoes look like this morning:

Tomato Trellis Back (Small)

The trick with trellis tomatoes (and most everything else) with this method is to check on the garden nearly every day.  As the plants grow, gently weave the stems in and out of the trellis netting, adjusting as necessary.  There are often a few tomato branches that escape my notice until they are bigger, but I just tuck them in where I can without breaking them.  No ties are necessary and the fruit is easily accessible from both the front and the back.  If the plant grows higher than the trellis (like those on the right), gently train the tomatoes to go over the trellis and back down the other side.  Sometimes this may take some time, but if you catch them when they are still fairly flexible, it's an easy matter to encourage it to go the way you want.

So far, this is my favorite way to support tomatoes.  How do you grow and support yours?  If there is a better, more interesting, or more attractive way, I'd like to hear about it.

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