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, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find something that works in your garden.
Tomato Trellis Idea #1 – Wind Resistant Combination Post System
After experimenting with cages made out of heavy duty fencing and wooden garden stakes, I came up with a system that is 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.
The system is simple:
- Right after planting, pound in three 4′ tall wooden garden stakes in a line to one side of the tomato. I usually orient my tomato rows from east to west, so I place the stakes to the north of the tomato plant. 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), which you’ll see more clearly in the video below.
- By the time the plants are around a foot tall (don’t let them get too big or it’ll be tougher to find room), pound in 6′ to 7′ tall steel fence posts at roughly 5 foot intervals along the row. These should be placed so they are 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 clock strips or wires. 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, which would be even sturdier, but I haven’t managed to get that to the top of the chore list yet.
- As the tomatoes grow, tie the plants up with cloth strips or tether of your choice to the 4′ garden stakes, pruning as needed to create a somewhat espaliered shape. You’re aiming for 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, up, up. I use 7′ – 6′ steel posts, so this puts the tops of my tomatoes at 5′ to 6′, which is about all the higher I care to reach when gathering large quantities of fruit. I get enough overhead picking time during apple and pear season.
- You can prune tops if needed to keep the tomatoes on the trellis, or train them sideways if you like. Some varieties grow much more aggressively than others. Most fit on the trellis in our northern growing season.
- At the end of the season, I clip off the dead tomato plants, wash the ties for reuse (I untie them and put them in a zippered pillow case in the washing machine), and stack the stakes and posts in the greenhouse to use again next year.
Once we get the trellises up and mulch down, all that’s required for tomato maintenance is tying up the vines every so often as they get taller.
Yes, this 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 that were hiding in a less visible location. With a trellis, you can see your tomatoes to pick 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 – not saying that you won’t have any, because mice are mini rodent ninjas, but they generally do less damage when fruit is harder to reach.
The video below shows off my trellis system for all you visual learners. See if you can spot Miss Kitty. 🙂
Tomato Trellis Ideas #2 and #3 – Cattle Panels and String Trellises
Teri at Homestead Honey shares how they’ve used cattle panels and string trellises for the tomatoes in their garden and greenhouse, plus several other trellis ideas in Garden Vertically with Trellises.
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 from Learning and Yearning was lucky enough to have her husband build her this gorgeous decorative yet sturdy arched trellis that can be used for tomatoes and other vining crops. You can learn more at, “Building a Trellis for Tomato Plants“.
If you want more tomato growing tips check out:
You may also enjoy other posts in our Gardening series.