Trellising Tomatoes

Has any tomato cage ever truly worked?  I’ve tried them all and each has sagged, broken, been outgrown, or simply fallen-over by the time the plants are full and laden with fruit.  Last year, we put a T-post next to each cage, but even then, it was more fail than success.

This year I decided to try growing them on a cattle panel.  So far, I LOVE this method of supporting them!  Early in spring, BOF and I placed a 16′ cattle panel (supported by a T-post at each end) down the center of the of the two rows dedicated to tomatoes.  I spaced the plants just 3′ apart on alternating sides of the panel.  In other words, there is only 18″ between each plant!

Why I love it:
1) Easy #1.  If you have a helper, one cattle panel and two T-posts is far faster and easier than 10+ cages, supporting guy wires and props, etc.
2) Cheap. Used T-posts and cattle panel are fine for this and almost free.
3) Stable.  Oh so stable.  The wire is far thicker than any commercial cage and T-posts (pounded 2-feet into the soil) far more firmly fixed than any cage’s shorter, flimsier wires.
4) Easy #2:  It’s easier to access the plants from either side.  (Looks nice too.)
5) Can’t be outgrown.  No matter how long the branches, there’s always someplace to weave the new growth into the trellis.
6) Super romatic.  My trellis writes me personal notes, occasionally sends flowers for no reason, and turns down the bed each night.  No, that’s a lie; HWA does those things.  No, that’s a lie too.

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As the plants grow, I “train” the branches through the rectangles in the panel, which isn’t difficult as long as I don’t let any branch get so long that it has to be significantly bent to get it through.  And, so far, the panels are doing a superb job of supporting the plants – even on our windiest days.  The 18″ spacing may be to close — I’ll let you know.

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So…. it is early in the season yet, but I feel I’ve finally found a solution to supporting tomatoes.  And if it also allows me to grow more plants in the space, it is a win-win-win.

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3 thoughts on “Trellising Tomatoes

  1. Pingback: Labeling Tomatoes | Self-Sufficiency and Assorted Hijinks

  2. Hi…just found you. Enjoy your blog–very down to earth. Trellising tomatoes…In the past I’ve used cages then tried the spirals. Things were in the ground, but I had problems with deer & rabbits. And squirrel. Lol…stinkers would leap into my plants and wound up breaking several of them. Didn’t have a garden last year due to family issues–had a commute to help my inlaws. This year I am using cages because I went to container gardening. I have the space to put plants in the ground, but have a fenced area to keep out perpetrators and the dogs won’t dig in the containers 🙂 Anyways… I agree. Cages are a PITA. Next year I am planning on using the ‘Rain-Gutter-Growing-System’ and going to try to set up the Florida Weave system. You might want to give it a look-see. I found this interesting… I live 2.5 miles outside of the town I am near. I’ve been here for 17 years. On the way into town there is a couple that rents a house on a couple of acres. He has a lockbox–it’s on the honor system–prices are posted for the produce–you drop your payment into the box. He has a dedicated area where he has primarily grown tomatoes for all these years–this year he expanded and is growing more produce to sell. In the past I’ve seen cages, t-posts with fencing around the plants, and just letting the tomato plants ‘go.’ This year, I noticed they went with the Florida Weave. His garden is very, very tidy looking and he has a ton of room…which is probably why he opted to grow more things to sell. So…give it a shot. See what you think.

    • Thanks so much for the info Rena – I am always ready to learn something new and had never heard of the Florida Weave. I googled it and watched a couple of videos on YouTube, but think for now I’ll stick with the trellis as it seems easier and needs less equipment and time than the weave 🙂 My tomato plants are now much taller than they were when I wrote this post – many are about the height of the top of the cattle panel now but they remain easy to access, look terrific and are well supported in our winds. It has hardly taken any of MY time to get them there as I’m in the garden every day, and as I walk up and down the rows, I just push a branch through the panel here and there and they take the hint very nicely. I love how much less space they take up than when supported by cages or allowed to sprawl (as inevitably happens when the cages fall over) and have found that the 18″ spacing between plants is working really well – the plants don’t seem crowded as I was afraid they might at this point.

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