Building a Trellis for Tomato Plants

Building a Trellis for Tomato Plants Will Provide the Support Your Plants Need
How to build a garden trellis @learningandyearning

“Husband,” I said. “I need a trellis for tomato plants.” And this is what he built! It’s generally recommended that tomato plants be staked to keep them up off of the ground and to provide good air circulation. Another benefit is that staking allows plants to be grown closer together than if the plants were grown sprawling on the ground.

Determinate varieties of tomatoes generally grow from 3 – 5 feet tall. All of the tomatoes ripen at approximately the same time, and the plant dies. A wooden tomato stake is about all that is needed to keep these plants upright so that they receive good air circulation. Metal, store bought, tomato cages would generally be adequate, as well, for determinate varieties of tomatoes.

The trellis before the plants began to grow up it.

The trellis before the plants began to grow up it.

Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes continue to grow and bear fruit until killed by a frost (or disease) and may grow as tall as 8 – 10 feet or more. These plants require sturdy support. A simple wooden stake is often not adequate; the plants become quite heavy as they bear fruit. I have even seen the plants slide right down the stake into a heap because of the weight of the plant. An arbor or trellis is much more suitable for these types of tomato plants. Here’s how my husband built ours (he was inspired by this fantastic post):

Newly planted tomato plants (with lettuce in front)

Newly planted tomato plants (with lettuce in front)

Our trellis runs between two – 20 foot long raised beds. Five metal, 7′ long T-posts were each driven 2′ into the ground and spaced 5′ apart next to each bed (so 10 posts in all). 3″ wide cedar boards were drilled and attached horizontally to the T-posts -one near the top and one near the bottom. Another strip of cedar, 1 and 1/2″ wide was attached in between the 3″ board. Our beds are on a slight hill, so the side of the arbor near the lower bed needed one more horizontal board attached.

To build the arch, we used UHMW plastic strips which are 1/2″ thick, 4 ” wide, and 6′ long. These were screwed to the top 3″ cedar plank. If UHMW plastic is unavailable, an alternative would be PVC pipe attached with U-bolts. Lastly, 1 and 1/2″ strips of cedar the length of the arbor were attached to the top of the 5 plastic arches. These were spaced 8″ apart.

8' tall tomato plants covering the trellis

8′ tall tomato plants covering the trellis

 

Picking tomatoes from underneath the arch

Picking tomatoes from underneath the arch. (That’s a tromboncino squash growing in the background).

300 x 250To learn how to build a garden that builds healthy soil, be sure to check out my eBook The Art of Gardening: Building Your SoilYou really can become a better gardener, and you really can grow healthy, nourishing produce. It’s all about the soil! Click here to buy now.

 

Recommended Reading: The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit by Amy Goldman

Shared at: Homestead Barnhop

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow. I wish I had one of those! At the moment, though, we rent an apartment so I’ll be growing tomatoes on our balcony and in a plot in the apartment community garden. Do you have any suggestions for trellises in these situations? Last year I went the wooden stake route which was not wildly successful, but that was at least partly due the the fact that I didn’t prune the plants at all so they just grew all over the place. I’m still very much a beginner. :) This year I’m hoping for slightly more order, though…

    • Susan says

      Well, truthfully, I don’t prune mine either. But, in your case, that may be wise because of limited space. One option would be to use a “topsy turvy” planter where the tomatoes are hanging. There are also smaller varieties of tomatoes for growing in pots and staking should work fine for them. Many of these varieties will likely be determinate tomatoes as opposed to indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes only grow to a certain height, generally around 3′. They stop growing and produce all of their tomatoes at just about the same time. Indeterminate tomatoes just keep growing and keep producing new tomatoes until the end of the season. They are generally a much larger plant.

      This video has a nice idea for staking in pots: http://video.about.com/containergardening/DIY-Bamboo-Tomato-Plant-Cage.htm

    • Susan says

      Oh, my. I’ve never been good at keeping track of that type of thing. Basket full after basket full is all I can say!

  2. says

    Fabulous! I tried the Florida weave last year on upruned vines. The plastic baling twine was not up to the task. I am still undecided on how to support my climbers this year, but I am adding your post to my list of ideas. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. says

    It’s absolutely gorgeous! I didn’t notice if you said how much it set you back? I bet you could grow beans, peas or pumpkins on it too!

  4. Ddu says

    What orientation did you use for the trellis? North south? Is one side shady and one sunny? How did that affect yields? Best wishes!

    • Susan says

      The trellis runs east to west. Tomatoes are planted in the northern most bed and shorter plants like peppers or eggplant grow on the southern most side, so nothing is being shaded.

  5. says

    wow! absolutely gorgeous trellis!
    I do love vertical gardening, so much better for space saving. do you crop rotate your tomatoes in that location or rotate it with other vertical growing plants?

    • Susan says

      At this point, we are not rotating the tomatoes. The way we manage our soil, we are adding so much organic matter each year that we are building the soil. If we find that we have a year with disease, we will then plant the tomatoes elsewhere the following year.

  6. says

    Susan,

    Did you go with the plastic strips and cedar instead of the wire because of cost or aesthetics?

    This is so great! Trying to figure out costs so I can get the hubs to build it for me :)

    • Susan says

      The wire would have been less expensive, I would think. My husband was given the plastic, so he went with that. But he preferred the cedar because he thought it would last longer than just wire, and we are in a suburban neighborhood, so he wanted it to please the neighbors, as well.

  7. says

    That is truly a fabulous trellis!
    It kind of reminds me that we (me… or just people in general) sometimes get stuck in a rut, because I never would’ve thought of doing an arbor-like trellis for tomatoes. But that definitely works, and I absolutely love the design and functionality.
    What a sweet, handy husband you have. :)

    • Susan says

      Thanks! I had so much trouble with just stakes that we had to come up with another solution! And I agree, I’ve been blessed with an awesome husband – he’s remodeling our kitchen this summer and he even built the cabinets.

  8. Laura t says

    This is like a dream come true to find!! Love this!
    How big of an isle do you have here? Space between boxes?
    Thanks!

  9. says

    What a loving husband. :)

    The trellis looks fabulous, and from your description it doesn’t sound too difficult to make – a definite plus! It looks like it provides the support needed for your indeterminate tomato plants.

    What I also like about the trellis is its versatility. I could see something like this being used year-round. For instance, I bet it would look gorgeous with a bunch of white Christmas lights on it in the winter. :)

    • Susan says

      Thanks, Holly. I have often imagined the trellis decorated for Christmas, but alas, it’s never happened. It does look beautiful with snow on it!

  10. Jackie says

    This is GREAT – exactly what I was looking for! I tried to find the UHMW plastic strips but could not on a google search. Could you let me know where you found them, and also – how do you keep birds from eating your tomatoes??? I am in Houston, and I usually end up feeding the birds at least 50% of the tomatoes.
    Thanks,
    Jackie

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      Hi Jackie, my husband works at a place that manufactures the UHMW and he used scraps they were discarding. Knowing it would be difficult to obtain, he suggested the PVC pipe.

  11. cj says

    This is great, we just built a cover for our turkeys from all purpose livestock wire and 4×4′s and this would work great, to plant edibles and provide shade cover and greens for the birds.

  12. Lala t says

    Getting ready to try Makin this. One more question. I see you have squash on one side and tomatoes on the other… Which side are they on?(n or s) I’m thinking the squash are on the north? Did they do okay or are you changing it up?

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      Hi Lala! The tomatoes are on the north and the squash are on the southwest. It seems to be a good setup.

  13. Laura t says

    Back with a question. Hubby made 1 side of this today and I love love!
    How far apart do you do your tomatoes when growing vertically like this? Also – my plan last year had been to use those clips to keep up tomatoes but the clips don’t fit around the wood… What do you tie your plants with?

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      Hi Laura. Yay for hubby!!! I generally plant my tomatoes 18″ apart. I tear strips from an old t-shirt to use to tie them; I’ve been doing that for years. Since they are 100% cotton, they go into the compost at the end of the year.

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