Building a Trellis for Tomato Plants Will Provide the Support Your Plants Need
It’s generally recommended that tomato plants be staked to keep them up off of the ground and to provide good air circulation. In addition, staking allows plants to be grown closer together than if the plants were grown sprawling on the ground. But I have not been satisfied with using tomato stakes – what I needed was a trellis for my tomato plants.
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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.
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.
To Build a Tomato Trellis
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.
The trellis has worked wonderfully for us. The plants need to be tied when they are young, but as they grow, they tend to fall into and over the trellis. The trellis provides great support. And on the hottest day, it stays relatively cool under the trellis making harvest a more pleasant job.
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Recommended Reading: The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit by Amy Goldman
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