String trellis for tomatoes

Contents

How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes, Part 3: Staking, Training and Pruning

Support Structures

Before you get started, you need to know whether you have neat and compact determinate tomato plants or one of the more unruly indeterminate varieties. The former group consists of varieties that have been bred for stems that grow only to a specific length; many of the modern hybrid varieties fall into this category. The latter bunch is comprised primarily of older heirloom varieties, which are vine-like and will keep growing until freezing temperatures stop them. The back of the seed packet should indicate which you planted.

Store-Bought Wire Tomato Cages
The standard wire tomato cage found in garden centers (in the shape of a downward-tapering cylinder) is fine for small, bushy determinate varieties, but will quickly become overwhelmed by a large indeterminate plant.

Homemade Wire Cages
For a bigger, beefier cage, use a 5-foot-by-5-foot section of wire fencing or concrete reinforcing mesh. Roll it into a cylinder, set it over the top of a young tomato plant and anchor it into the ground with stakes on both sides. Use a product with grid openings that are at least 4 inches square (ideally 6 inches), so you can reach your hand in to prune, train and harvest.

Stakes
A single, stout stake is an effective support structure for a tomato plant. For small determinate varieties, use a 1-inch-by-1-inch-by-4-foot stake and pound it into the ground at least 6 or 8 inches deep near the base of the plant. For large tomato vines, use a 2-inch-by-2-inch-by-7-foot stake and pound it in at least 14 to 16 inches. If you can’t find stakes that come with a pointed tip on the bottom, cut a point yourself so they go in the ground more easily. Avoid pressure treated lumber, since it may leach toxic chemicals into the ground around your tomato plants.

Trellises
Tomatoes can be trained onto any number of trellises intended for other vines, including the farm-classic hog wire trellis. However, for a simple trellis to use for a single growing season, pound in a row of stakes along the center of your tomato bed and run horizontal lengths of twine between them. For small tomato varieties, use 1-inch by 1-inch by 4-foot stakes spaced every 4 to 6 feet and run the twine across every 6 inches. For larger varieties, use 2-inch-by-2-inch-by-7-foot stakes spaced every 6 to 8 feet and run the twine across every 12 inches.

An alternative method is to stretch bailing wire horizontally across the tops of the stakes and run a piece of twine vertically from the bailing wire down to each plant, anchoring it at the bottom by tying it to a short wooden stake.

Pruning and Training

Training tomatoes is not difficult, but you have to start when they’re young. Wait no more than a month after transplanting.

Tie the stems of your tomato plants to the support structure every 6 or 8 inches as they grow. The growing stems are soft and easily damaged, so you need to tie them loosely. Use thick garden twine, plastic plant tape, strips of fabric or old pantyhose. It’s always better to tie just above a cluster of flowers rather than just below – otherwise the stems holding the flowers may get crimped by the ties as the flowers turn into heavy clusters of fruit.

If you’re using the single-stake method or the single-string trellis method, you’ll want to train the tomato plants to a single stem. For the horizontal-string trellis method or the cage method, three or four stems works best. It’s best to decide on a method before planting the tomatoes, because they can be spaced much closer together if they will be trained to a single stem, versus those with multiple stems, which need to branch out over a larger area.

As the original stem grows, it will begin to sprout side stems – often called ‘suckers’ – in the crotches between the leaves and the main stem. To maintain a single stem, prune out all suckers as they appear. For multiple stems, let the first few suckers that appear grow into stems of their own and prune out subsequent suckers. To prune, simply snap off the sucker with your fingers just above the point where it joins the main stem. They are succulent and easy to snap when they first appear, and it’s best to avoid cutting them with scissors or pruners, which may contain diseases or other harmful organisms on their blades.

If you’re using a multi-stem approach, tie those stems to the support structure in the same manner as the original stem. Continue to remove suckers throughout the growing season, both from the original stem and the side stems.

About one month before the average date of first frost, there is one last pruning chore: cut off the ends of each stem just above the topmost fruit cluster. It may seem severe, but cutting the growing tips forces the plants to put a final burst of energy toward ripening the fruit that is left on the vine while the weather is still warm.

Image via Flickr user Mark Levisay

The Internet is full of tomato trellis ideas. Have you noticed? But how do you sift through the endless ideas? Do you even need to stake tomatoes? If so, what will work best for your garden?

And, let’s not forget something you probably have run into — cost. Some methods look amazing, but you could buy bushels of tomatoes at the farmer’s market for what some of these trellis ideas would cost!

Even though I had all the ideas and resources at my disposal, I still didn’t figure it all out, and it took learning by experience and making mistakes to start to make progress in this area.

So, in this podcast episode and blog post, I’m talking to you — the beginning gardener — in hopes of helping you skip the mistakes I made. Not only do I discuss four types of tomato trellising methods, but I also help you decide which one (or ones) will work best for your garden and your needs.

Because there’s no one-size-fits all approach.

, and scroll down to read the blog post and show notes.

Before You Consider Staking Methods, Here’s What You Must Know

There are two main types of tomato plants — determinate and indeterminate — each one will require a different approach to staking.

I discuss these types in detail in “How to Grow a Salsa Garden,” but for staking purposes here’s what you need to know:

  • Determinate tomatoes only grow to a set height — usually about 3-4 feet. They need staking but they don’t have the intensive staking needs that others do.
  • Indeterminate tomatoes have a vining habit and require more intensive staking measures for the best results

4 Types of Tomato Trellises

Round Tomato Cages

The inexpensive round tomato cages get a bad rap in the gardening world, in my opinion. Of course, I understand why. They’re too flimsy to handle most tomato varieties. They definitely can’t handle the vining nature and heavy tomato yields of indeterminate tomatoes without buckling under the weight, and I have found a heavy cropping of determinate tomatoes like Romas tests their limits as well.

But, they are ideal, in my opinion, for cherry tomatoes. Those plants still sprawl out, but the cages can handle the weight.

Round tomato cages are right for you if:

  • you are growing cherry tomatoes

Florida Weave

In the Florida weave method, you use tomato stakes (or other posts) and twine to form a figure 8 pattern between the stakes and the tomato stem. Below is a demonstration of how I use the Florida Weave with my tomatoes:

Here is another demonstration from MIGardener of how he uses the Florida Weave Method to stake several tomatoes using just two T-posts.

Pros of the Florida Weave Method:

  • It’s the most economical option.
  • Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy.
  • It’s sturdy.
  • You can harvest easily because you don’t have to fight through a structure to grab the fruit.
  • It’s perfect for determinate tomatoes, like Romas, that grow to a specific height because you don’t have to worry about the plants outgrowing the stakes.

Con of the Florida Weave Method:

Indeterminate varieties will outgrow them, unless you buy tall stakes. I made this mistake when I used this method my first season of growing Amish Paste tomatoes. It worked great until the vines outgrew the 4′ stakes and then they sprawled everywhere with no support.

The Florida weave is right for you if:

  • You’re looking for an economical option
  • You grow Determinate Tomatoes
  • You grow Indeterminate tomatoes and you purchase stakes 8′ high.

Single Stem Trellis Method

This is a method I tried for the first time last year. In the single stem trellis method, you decide to pinch off ALL the suckers the tomato plant produces and you train the main stem up a stake of some sort.

If you’re unfamiliar with suckers, they’re the stem that grows at a 45 degree angle between the main stem and a side stem. Suckers become pretty much like their own tomato plant themselves if left to grow, producing stems and more suckers, so you can imagine how a tomato plant can grow out of control if left alone.

In a single stem trellis method, you prune off all the suckers, and you even trim the side stems beyond the cluster of flowers (which will become fruit). The goal is to limit foliage and growth to what the one main stem produces. You may wonder why you would want to do this, and there are several reasons that I’ve found.

  • You want large tomatoes. Let’s say you’re wanting huge, slicing tomatoes. A plant with fewer flowers will put its energy in the fruit it’s already developing, producing larger fruit.
  • You struggle with disease like blight. If you’ve ever had the bottom leaves of your tomato plants turn yellow, most likely, you’ve fought early blight. By limiting the foliage on the plant, you limit the transfer of these fungal spores from the ground to the leaves. It also increases airflow, which is another disease deterrent.
  • You want to plant lots of tomato plants. With a single stem method, you can plant your tomatoes closer together. This will probably be a benefit for those of you who start your seeds indoors and you had a higher germination rate than you expected. And if you can’t imagine disposing of those plants, you can fit more into your garden with this method.

If you decide to do a single stem trellis method, you have several options. You can simply buy a tall, 8-foot stake and train the main stem up it, tying the plant to the stake as it grows.

Or you can put together a set-up like I did last year, where I placed T-posts about 6 feet apart, connected them at the top with PVC couplers, and ran rebar horizontally at the top. Then, I tied string at to the rebar and anchored the string to ground next to the tomato plant. As the plant grew, I attached the main stem to the string using tomato clips.

The Single Stem method is right for you, if:

  • You have time and focus to trim your tomatoes, pruning out the suckers
  • You want to maximize your garden space (maybe a raised bed) but growing these up while planting other crops at the base, like onions, carrots, lettuce, or another low-growing crop.
  • You have started your seeds indoors and you have extra seedlings.

Sturdy Cage

This is one I’m going to try this year, in addition to the Single Stem, and compare the results. A sturdy cage is one you see at the garden center that has a heavier duty metal, and most of them I see are build in a grid-pattern. You can also make your own using cattle panel or wire mesh (leftover from when we poured a concrete patio) like in the photo above.

Pros of a sturdy cage:

  • This type of cage can support the weight of determinate and indeterminate tomatoes, and depending on how tall the cage is, they should support your indeterminate tomatoes’ height as well.
  • You may still want to prune your tomato plants a bit, but it’s not as necessary as with the single stem method, and your yields per plant may be larger, though you would have to adhere to regular spacing methods with all the foliage produced
  • These cages can last for years. While the wooden stakes in my Florida Weave method may last me 2 years max, these, especially the ones made from cattle panel, could last decades from what I hear. So it’s a good investment.

Con of the sturdy cage:

  • The investment. This is not cheap out of the gate, and if you’re gardening on a budget, this may not even be an option. But if you have a small garden with just a couple of tomato plants — or if you have some sturdy wire lying around — this may be exactly what you want.

A sturdy tomato cage may be right for you if:

  • you have a small garden
  • you have access to cattle panel or other material where you can build the cage
  • you want something attractive that you can invest in, that will work for you for years

I hope this overview of 4 tomato trellis ideas gave you some ideas on how to stake your tomatoes this season. Just a reminder, I’m listing all of these in the show notes, along with helpful links and photos. I’d love to hear from you — do you plan to try any of these for the first time this season? Or have you used a method that you stick with year after year?

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With vertical string trellises such as the T-Post and Inverted “V” string trellises, lengths of weatherproof garden twine hangs from a top pole and is wrapped around the tomato plant to support it. So simple!

By Amanda Davis

From Quebec, Canada all the way to Honolulu, Hawaii, people have long used the string trellis method to support their tomato plants. It’s no wonder, either, because these trellises make post-harvest cleanup a breeze. Just snip the strings and store the stakes in the shed. Easy as tomato pie!

Here are five simple string trellis options to consider this tomato season, ranging from practical to pretty. While they all follow the same basic concept, the trellises vary slightly based on need or location. Check out these tutorials and take your pick—or design your own string trellis and share it with us on Facebook!

image courtesy of gardenbetty.com

1. The Classic String Trellis
Garden blogger Linda Ly, aka Garden Betty, is a fan of the basic Florida Weave string trellis for tomatoes (or other climbing veggies). Simply put, you run weatherproof garden twine between two stakes, weaving it around and back so there’s twine on either side of each tomato plant. As the plant grows, you add more twine higher up the stakes. For more details, check out Ly’s post on how to create a classic Florida Weave string trellis. Some gardeners claim bragging rights based on the number of strings they use — so a “7-string tomato,” for example, would beat out a “4-string tomato.” Also called a Cat’s Cradle trellis, you can use rebar instead of wood stakes for a longer lasting version.

image courtesy of whizbangtrellis.blogspot.com

2. The T-Post String Trellis
Herrick Kimball, the guy behind the Whizbang T-Post Trellis blog, prefers to string his tomato plants vertically, from a top bar attached to two stakes. Using found items such as downed tree limbs, his method is a good one for gardeners who don’t want to spend a lot of money on materials. (Visit his post for details about the trellis, and scroll down about halfway.) It’s also great for folks who expect to grow tall plants, especially cherry and grape tomato varieties. He also includes a tutorial for making a trellis from concrete reinforcing wire—cheap stuff, but it ends up looking quite pretty with all your tomatoes tied to it. (Just the thing for those hefty Mortgage Lifters.)

3. The Inverted “V” String Trellis
I spotted this simple, elegant string trellis last summer during a visit to Quebec City, Canada. To make it, you simply lash 8-foot bamboo poles together to form upside down “V”s, run a horizontal pole (or poles) along the tops, then attach short wooden stakes on each side to anchor the sections in the ground. Tie long lengths of weatherproof garden twine along the top pole; each one will then be tied loosely around the stem of a tomato plant and wrapped around it for support as it grows. (Plants should be centered between each pair of “V”s.) Cost-cutting tip: Ask around before you buy any bamboo — you may be able to get it for free from someone who has an overabundance growing in his or her yard.

image courtesy of blog.joshuafeyen.com

4. The Diagonal String Trellis
For a less mainstream string trellis, we’re intrigued by Joshua Feyen’s clever design. First, a pole is run between two stakes, then cords are run from the pole down to stakes placed in the ground. You plant your favorite tomatoes (or cucumbers or beans) beside the low ends of the cords, then the plants climb diagonally to the tops. Stems can be secured to the cords with gentle clips, garden twine, or zip-ties as they grow. This is an ideal set-up for shorter gardeners who want to grow tall tomatoes. It’s also the most unusual string trellis I’ve come across, and I’m eager to test it for myself! Discover design details this diagonal string trellis here.

image courtesy of foodformyfamily.com

5. The Wood Frame String Trellis
This sturdy structure, found on Shaina Olmanson’s Food for My Family blog, is also built to train tomato plants to grow diagonally. However, this one is designed as an attachment to a raised bed, so it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It may be more expensive to build than other string trellis options, but could be worth it if you’re looking for a more permanent structure, or you want to follow your tomatoes with some climbing peas or cucumbers next season. (But first, read our article on rotating vegetable crops to find out why you won’t want to use it for your tomatoes again next year.)

STRING TRAINING TOMATOES, BECAUSE I’M NEVER SATISFIED WITH ANYTHING. EVER.

There has to be a better way. There’s always a better way (unless it’s making french fries in which case McDonalds pretty much has a lock on that). I say that little mantra with pretty much everything I do, see or live with.

My living room? Not quite right yet. My dining room? Ditto? Backyard, bedroom, garden, thighs, ditto, ditto, ditto. So it should come as no shock to you, me or anyone in the general vicinity of planet Earth that I’m trying out a new way to stake my tomatoes.

I’ve done the Florida Weave for a few years now and it works well but it still results in a big MESS of tomato plants. The kind of thing you’d expect to see starring in The Rocky Horror Picture show.

It’s not Espaliering my tomatoes. Although I am testing out that method this year too.

No, I’m going to string my tomatoes up. With a string. Up to the sky. I’m sorry, I’m getting slightly distracted here because the muscle under my arm (we’re going to call it muscle) is actually moving while I type. It’s swinging to and fro like a hammock. I’ve never had that happen before and I’m what you’d call, well, nauseous is I suppose the best way to describe it. I’m hoping it’s just because I adjusted the height of my work chair. If not, expect to read a blog post on the topic of arm tightening through self surgery up soon.

O.K. back to the tomatoes.

Stringing them is a method used in commercial greenhouses which I’ve seen before but for some reason haven’t looked into for myself. I’m not sure why. It could be that my dangling arm pocket actually contains the small portion of my brain that I would normally use for figuring out simple things like the fact that I should be stringing my tomatoes up.

I don’t know this guy. This guy is just stringing up his tomatoes. Never met him. Good photo though.

Up at my community plot the other night I was talking to the other person up there that’s just about as nuts as I am when it comes to researching, testing and trying out new things. Actually he’s much more advanced in his gardening nuttiness than I am. Clearly. Because he strings his tomatoes. At least that’s what he’s trying out this year and therefore so am I.

Stringing is literally allowing your tomatoes to climb up a single string. Doing this, along with the pruning that goes along with the method results in SUPER neat and tidy rows of tomatoes. Less foliage more fruit is the basic premise.

As you can see in my above photo, my tomato area looks a bit chaotic. That’s why I included that photo of the guy I don’t know and have never met. He has a clearer picture of what the string method looks like.

For stringing your tomatoes you have one of two choices for pruning. The French Method which involves getting rid of allllllll other leaders and suckers other than your main tomato stem, and the Missouri Method, which involves something else that I’m not doing so I can’t be bothered to tell you about. It’s basically leaving suckers and some leaders on your tomatoes and pruning them back about half way. Or something like that. But who cares because we’re not doing it.

We’re doing the French Method you and I because it’s easier to keep track of and it’s French which means it’s better, cooler, more elegant and has more swagger than anything else in the world has to offer.

The French Pruning Method.

No suckers, no extra leaders. Only one stem with leaves coming off of it.

Here we go!

How to use the string method with tomatoes.

  1. Run a string, wire or board between 2, 8′ high stakes.

2. Tie a string so it hangs down towards your tomato plant.

3. Prune your tomato to one leader, removing all the suckers.

4. Twist the string around the base of the plant several times.

5. Twirl the tomato plant around the string until it’s taut.

6. Continue to remove suckers and twirl once a week until the end of summer.

7. Remove lower leaves as the plant grows.

Need more details? No problem.

To string train your tomatoes you have to run a string from about 8 feet above the tomato plant, very similar to the way you would string train green pole beans.

You can get this string above your tomatoes by hammering 8′ stakes in the ground on either side of your tomatoes. Then either run another stake across the top of those two stakes with strings hanging down, or run string across the top of the two stakes like I’ve done.

I have a lot of stakes actually not just two because in past seasons I’ve used a stake for every tomato plant. I used all of the stakes for the base for my string training.

You need a single string dropping down to every tomato plant. As the tomato plant grows, you twist the string around the tomato plant stem so it grows straight up.

When you first wrap your string, wrap it around the base of the plant several times. This should be enough to secure it. If not you can use floral tape, a knot or a plastic clamp to hold the string in place at the base of the tomato plant.

(never take off more than 25% of the plant during your initial pruning or you’ll get leaf curl … I got leaf curl)

I TOOK THESE PHOTOS 2 WEEKS AGO. WANNA SEE WHAT MY TOMATOES LOOK LIKE NOW?

I’LL BE POSTING PICTURES OF THEM ON INSTAGRAM TODAY.

By the way, this method is for indeterminate tomatoes. The kind that can grow 9′ tall or more. It isn’t for hybrid varieties which don’t get very tall. As the summer progresses you remove all the leaves on the stem that fall below the first fruit set. And you keep doing this on and on.

By the end of the summer you’ll have straight, tall tomatoes which get a lot of air movement and a lot of sun. They’ll be bald at the bottom and producing healthy tomatoes at the top.

Hypothetically of course.

Because this is gardening and all hell could break loose at any moment. A wild band of twirling goats or screaming aphids could come barreling through your garden destroying everything in its wake. You just don’t know.

But I have high hopes for the string method for my tomatoes. And my arms.

Wanna see how the string method worked with a single tomato flat against a fence? It would work flat against a house too. Check out this post.

Tomato Staking Techniques

Wire Mesh Cages

This method is composed of a series of reinforced cement wire mesh cylinders of graduated diameters. Cylinders vary by 6-inches in circumference to enable three or more cages to be nested one inside another for efficient storage purposes. Sizes range from 5’ – 7’ tall with mesh openings of 6-inch square. Cages are held together by bending over cut ends or tying with wire. Each cage can be anchored at its base by either a 4’ length of 1”x2” wooden stake, metal rod, t-stake, rebar including by cutting the cage’s horizontal wires and pushing remaining vertical wires into ground.

Advantages:

  • Can be stacked inside one another for improved storage space efficiency
  • All materials can be used for multiple seasons
  • Easy to work with once made
Disadvantages:

  • Hard to see/collect fruit inside cage due to foliage if plant is not pruned
  • With taller 7-foot cage sizes, it is difficult to reach top fruit without a ladder
  • Mesh material rusts which doesn’t really matter
  • May require two or more people to handle the mesh during initial construction
Tools needed:

  • Heavy- duty wire cutters
Materials:

  • Cement mesh (height as desired)

Cement Reinforcing Mesh Trellis with EMT Electrical Conduit

The materials for this method feature a very strong wire mesh used to reinforce cement. Cut lengths of “EMT” electrical conduit to support this. In order to demonstrate the ability to build trellis structures appropriate to several heights of vine growths, a stairstep arrangement of three 10-foot wide 5-foot, 6-foot, and 7-foot tall sections was constructed prior to planting. These sections were butted end-to-end in a straight line down the middle of a 30-foot row of seedlings.Each section consisted of the following: a single horizontal 10-foot conduit piece supported by two vertical pieces long enough to be driven 18” to 24” into the ground while still maintaining the requisite 5, 6, or 7-foot above-ground height. The horizontal bar of each section was attached to the two vertical supports with two 18-inch lengths of conduit, bent at right angles using a conduit bender, and inserted into openings of the ends of the three conduit pieces to be joined.

Lastly, a single piece of the concrete reinforcing mesh was cut so as to fit the 30-foot long, stairstepped conduit framework but extending 6” above each of the 5, 6, and 7-foot tall sections. The mesh piece was modified at the shortest 5-foot end by removing a 1-foot by 10-foot section at ground level to facilitate access to the bottoms of the vines. It was attached to pieces to be joined. It was attached to the framework using heavy metal wire clips on the crossbars and a lighter wire on the vertical supports. Flatten bottom of vertical posts prior to installation.

Advantages:

  • Cutaway bottom section afforded easier access to work at ground level
  • Easy to dismantle and store, either by hanging on fence or wall or rolling
  • Easy access to fruit
  • Visually appealing
  • Tomato vine snakes through mesh easily
  • Conduit and mesh sections can be used for multiple seasons
  • Uses less wire than cages when plants are closer than six-feet apart in rows with minimum spacing between rows
  • Easy to weed around
Disadvantages:

  • May require two or more people to handle the mesh
  • The cut mesh edges are sharp
  • Mesh will rust
Tools needed:

  • Wire cutters
  • Saw to cut conduit
  • Sledge hammer or other tool to pound conduit into ground
  • Conduit bender
Materials:

  • Conduit
  • Mesh 5ft, 6ft, or 7ft height

Recommendation:

  • Install trellis structure prior to planting

Electrical Conduit and Vertical String Method

Similar set up to Cement Reinforcing Mesh with EMT Electrical Conduit Method; however substituting twine for wire mesh. Cut lengths of natural fiber twine (heavy gauge) and tie a Bowline knot at bottom of main young tomato stems when plants begin to sprawl. Twirl the twine around the stems to top of plants in approximately 3 cycles. Tie the excess twine to the horizontal conduit using a clove hitch with a slipknot so it can easily be untied in order to gather more of the plant stems as they grow.

Advantages:

  • Minimum storage capacity required
    Fruit easily accessible
    Workers can access the entire plant
    Framework can be installed before planting
    Easy to weed
    Conduit sections can be easily stored and reused for multiple seasons
Disadvantages:

  • Need to continuously monitor and tie existing and new main plant stem growth
  • Tools needed
Tools needed:

  • Wire cutters
  • Saw to cut conduit
  • Sledge hammer or other tool to pound conduit into ground
  • Conduit bender
  • Twine cutters
Materials:

  • Twine
  • Conduit

Recommendations:

  • Install trellis structure prior to planting

Post and Twine Method

This method features 8-foot long, 2-inch diameter post driven into the ground at 10-foot intervals and connected by several horizontally strung rows of natural fiber twine (heavy gauge). A key feature of this method is to “sandwich” the tomato plant between a double-wrap of the twine around each pair of posts. That is, begin and end the first run of the twine on the same side of each post and each plant to be supported. Then string the twine on the opposite side after rounding the second post. The first row of twine is strung about 12-inches above the ground and then continued no more than 10-inch increments as the plant grows.

Advantages:

  • Wooden posts can be used for multiple seasons
    Easy and space-saving storage
    Less expensive
Disadvantages:

  • Requires continuous twining throughout the season to capture growth
  • Twine stretches with the weight of the tomato plant, causing sagging
  • Tends to allow tomato plant to sprawl
  • Needs constant monitoring and working
  • Hard to locate tomatoes due to thick/compact of vegetation
  • Prone to breakage due to twine breakage/stress on wooden posts
  • May be difficult to remove wooden posts from ground without damage
  • Requires much pruning of plant to optimize this method
Tools needed:

  • Scissors
  • Sledge hammer or other tool to pound posts into ground
Materials:

  • Twine
  • Posts

Recommendations:

  • Place posts at 4-6 foot intervals with no more than two plants between posts. This will reduce the stress on the twine from heavy stem and foliage growth.
  • Use heavy nylon twine instead of natural jute

Commercial Round Generic Tomato Cage

Lightweight metal, 3 feet tall round cages, with protruding legs that are pushed into the ground.

Advantages:

  • Inexpensive
Disadvantages:

  • Difficult to reuse from one season to the next due to bending and/or breaking of wire
  • Requires cages to be reinforced so tomato plants don’t cause them to fall over.
  • Plants typically exceed cage height, which either requires extensive pruning or if left unpruned causes stems without support to bend and break.
  • Not strong enough for robust plants
Tools needed:

  • Difficult to reuse from one season to the next due to bending and/or breaking of wire
  • Requires cages to be reinforced so tomato plants don’t cause them to fall over.
  • Plants typically exceed cage height, which either requires extensive pruning or if left unpruned causes stems without support to bend and break.
  • Not strong enough for robust plants
Materials:

  • Round cages

Recommendations:

  • Use for “determinate” varieties of tomatoes and/or pepper plants or eggplants

Texas Giant Tomato Cages

Round galvanized commercial cages which measure 5 feet in height with a 2-foot diameter and mesh openings which measure 8” x 16”.

Advantages:

  • Come in two sections that fold flat for easy efficient storage
  • Strong enough that no staking is required
  • Openings large enough to pick fruit and work plant
  • Does not rust
  • Can be used for multiple seasons
  • Attractive
Disadvantages:

  • Expensive
  • 5-foot height limitation
  • Not widely available
Tools needed:

  • No info provided
Materials:

  • Giant tomato cage

Square Commercial Tomato Cages

Similar to Round Commercial Tomato Cages but store flat.

Advantages:

  • More suitable for determinate varieties, pepper plants or eggplants
Disadvantages:

  • Difficult to reuse from one season to the next due to bending of ground stakes
  • Requires cages to be reinforced
  • Plants typically exceed cage height, which causes stems without support to bend and break
  • Cage can tip and cause plant breakage
  • Not strong enough for robust plants
Tools needed:

  • None
Materials:

  • Suqare cage

Metal Spiral Rod

Uses a 5-foot tall galvanized metal spiral rod which stems are wound around and up. Plants must be pruned to single stems for optimum effectiveness.

Advantages:

  • More suitable for tomato plants pruned to one main stem
    Can be reused over multiple seasons
Disadvantages:

  • Far too light weight of a support for indeterminate tomatoes
    You have to prune off 90% of the plant for it to properly support what is left
    Requires reinforcing stake when used for larger plants
    Not strong enough for robust sprawling plants
    Not readily available
Tools needed:

  • No info provided
Materials:

  • Spiral plant support
  • Ties (optional)

Square Wooden Cage

This method features four wooden 2”x 2”, 8-foot tall stakes arranged at 4 corners of a square pattern. Twenty-eight mutually orthogonal holes are drilled at 6-inch intervals beginning at 12” from the ground. Thin rods (such as bamboo or dowels) are inserted into the holes between adjacent posts such that alternating parallel sides of the “square” have two parallel rods every 6 inches along their height. For robust plants, space posts at least 2 1/2-feet apart.

Advantages:

  • Excellent way to handle large plants gracefully
  • Creates eye pleasing garden structure
  • Minimum pruning required
  • Rods can be easily removed and reinserted to capture sprawling plant
  • Storage areas minimum for stakes and rods
Disadvantages:

  • Initial setup is labor intensive and expensive
  • May be difficult to see/ pick fruit inside “square”
Tools needed:

  • Sledge hammer or other tool (recommend pole pounder) to pound stakes into ground
  • Drill
Cost:

  • Stakes: $0.30/foot
  • Rods: 0.50 each

Recommendations:

  • Install trellis structure prior to planting

Traditional One Stake Method

This method features a stake 6-8 foot tall, which is used to tie tomato stems to. Requires pruning out all but about three main stems.

Advantages:

  • Fruit easily accessible
  • Can plant many varieties in small area as spacing can be as close as 18”
  • Access to entire plant
  • Easy to weed
  • Minimum materials needed
  • Stakes reusable and easy to store
Disadvantages:

  • Constant pruning is required
  • Plant can exceed stake height causing stems to bend and break
  • Reduces production
Tools needed:

  • Sledge hammer or other tool (recommend pole pounder) to pound stakes into ground
  • Ties such as green or clear nursery tape
Materials:

  • Simple stakes
  • Ties

Recommendations:

  • Install trellis structure prior to planting
  • Keep tomato plant pruned to 1 – 3 stems

V-Shaped Stand

This 4-foot above ground stand is a heavy gauge wire, prefabricated commercial tomato stand that is in a shape of an open V. Plants grow up into this open V-shape space. Mesh openings in stand allow the tomato vines to snake through.

Advantages:

  • More suitable for semi-determinate tomato varieties
  • Can be used for multiple seasons

Disadvantages:

  • Four foot height is too short for indeterminate tomatoes
  • Do not recommend this for staking tomatoes as it doesn’t work
  • V-Shape space is too small for robust and sprawling plants
  • Doesn’t contain stems, but they tend to fall out on open part of V.
  • Requires constant pruning to keep vines within V-shape opening
  • May require additional staking for heavy stem/foliage varieties
  • Expensive
Tools needed:

  • None
Materials:

  • V-shape stand (current sources unknown)

Recommendations:

  • Install trellis structure prior to planting
  • Use for varieties that are heavily pruned

Originally written by Sue Evanicky with Nancy Garrison

Trellising and Training Tomatoes

In my travels to gardens and farms around the world, I’ve seen a variety of inventive ways to trellis tomato plants. Some of the trellises are particularly attractive, others are surprisingly strong, and still others are rather elaborate.
Choose a system suited to the number of plants you’re growing, their type, and the prevailing winds in your area. Trellises suitable only for small, determinate-type plants are noted. Otherwise, assume the trellis is for indeterminates.
Here are the ten basic ways you can train tomato plants.

Compost Cages

An ingenious American trellising method. Make a 4-foot-diameter cage (minimum) from fencing or concrete reinforcing wire. Build a compost pile inside it. The following season, plant tomatoes around the perimeter and train them to grow up the outside. Rain falling on the compost will feed the plants.

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Low-maintenance
  • Good for determinate varieties
  • Requires planning a season ahead

Single Stake

The most common method in the United States. Pound a solid stake a foot or two into the ground, and tie a single vine to it as it grows. Six-foot 1- x 1-inch stakes are usually set 2 to 3 feet apart, 2 feet deep, in rows 3 to 4 feet apart.

  • Simple to construct and maintain; inexpensive
  • Not wind-resistant
  • Heavy pruning usually needed to keep plants attached to stakes

Bar-and-Twine Trellis

A home-scale variation of a widely used European trellis. Sink 8-foot-tall 2 x 2 rot-resistant posts 18 inches in the ground, 5 feet apart, and join them at the top with electrical conduit flattened and drilled at the ends. Tie strings to the base of each plant with a nonslip knot, then loop over the top bar. Braid stems with the strings as the plants grow.

  • Uses space efficiently
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Provides good air circulation
  • Wind-resistant if parallel to prevailing winds

Dutch Spiral

This system is a high-tech single-stake method. Set the metal post 1 foot into the ground; as the pruned, single-stem tomato plant grows, it intertwines itself with the stake.

  • Simple to set up and maintain
  • Not wind-resistant
  • Relatively expensive

Tall Cage of Concrete Reinforcing Wire

Almost as popular among American gardeners as the single-stake method, these cages are taller, sturdier versions of the basic tomato cage. Make one from 4-foot-wide concrete reinforcing wire, available at most building-supply stores. Set a stake just inside the cage and fasten the wire to it.

  • Good for determinate varieties
  • Not wind-resistant

Long Row

For this English-style trellis, set 8-foot-tall 4 x 4s 2 feet into the ground at the ends of a 20- to 50-foot row. Run a 9-gauge wire from anchors beyond each end over the top and tighten with a turnbuckle. Run twine from the plant base to the wire or tie bamboo stakes to the wire every 2 feet, and tie the stems to grow up the twine or stakes.

  • Provides good air circulation
  • Efficient for large-scale growers
  • Wind-resistant if parallel to prevailing winds

A-Frame

A variation on the single stake is the A-frame lean-to. Use 2 x 4s for end posts and top; 1 x 2s or 2 x 2s elsewhere. When end posts are sunk slightly in the ground, it is self-supporting. The base is 3 to 4 feet, and the vines are trained, one every 18 to 24 inches, up both sides.

  • Neat and attractive
  • Very wind-resistant
  • Not necessary to prune plants severely
  • Expensive

Quadrapod

Similar to methods used in the Far East and the Caribbean, this system uses 3/4-inch, 8-foot bamboo stakes lashed together with twine. Set the canes 2 feet apart in every direction and then lean them together.

  • Simple, modular, and adaptable to large and small, northern and southern gardens.
  • Easy to take down in fall
  • Relatively expensive in areas where bamboo is not available

Quonset Hut Cage

Common on Spanish farms, this system uses concrete reinforcing wire. Place hoops over the plants when they’re 6 inches tall. They’ll grow up through the wire grid and bear fruit on the top, away from pests. A row cover fastened over the cage at planting time makes a small grow tunnel and promotes early fruiting.

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Good for determinates
  • Good for large plantings
  • Very wind-resistant

Ties That Bind

Use untreated twine to attach your tomatoes to the trellis. That way at the end of the season, you can simply cut the lines at the top and the tomato stems at the bottom, roll up the whole affair, and throw it on the compost pile.

Basic Tomato Cage

Place these widely available funnel-shaped wire supports over plants when they’re 6 inches tall; as plants grow, their branches drape over the cage, keeping fruits off the ground. Used world wide.

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Only for small determinate varieties
  • Not wind-resistant

Tastiest Tomatoes

Tomatoes’ flavor quality is affected by the ratio of fruit to foliage. That means that the more plant there is for a given amount of fruit, the better the fruit will taste, all else being equal. The bush kinds, so loaded down with fruit on compact plants, just don’t have enough flavor to go around. So if you want great-tasting tomatoes, grow only indeterminate types. And if you grow them, I recommend that you trellis them.

Convenience or Flavor?

The most basic distinction among tomatoes is between the bush and vine types. Bush tomatoes are called determinate, because genetic programming causes them to grow a certain number of branches and flower clusters and then stop, much the way that peppers and eggplants grow. Because of their fixed habit, they are considerably less trouble to grow than vining or indeterminate tomatoes. They are generally earlier as well. But bush tomatoes are usually less disease-resistant, and the flavor of a bush tomato will rarely match that of fruit from the larger plants. There just isn’t enough plant to produce as good a fruit.

Why Trellis Indeterminates?

Indeterminate tomatoes are true vines. Being perennial they will continue to grow, sprouting new leafy and fruiting branches, until the plant is killed by disease or frost, or the growing tip is damaged or removed. I have seen 18-month-old greenhouse tomato plants fifty feet long! In long-season areas, outdoor plants trellised against the wall of a house may well climb to the roof. Trellising the plants can be a fair amount of trouble, but — particularly if you have a small garden — it’s worth it. With a bit of attention to training the plants, you can get them to bear almost as early as the bush types. Actually, both bush and vining tomatoes should be trellised, but each kind requires a different kind of support.
Another reason to trellis — a reason that’s applicable all over the United States, but especially in humid areas of the East and Northwest — is that it keeps the fruits and foliage off the soil, and it allows air to circulate around the plants, reducing the likelihood of foliage blights.
Trellised tomatoes are also easier to protect from pests than plants that trail on the ground. Aphids, whiteflies, hornworms, and even field mice are more visible and more easily controlled when you don’t have to battle them in a tangle of ground-hugging vines.
In the Southwest, a tomato may be better off if it trails below the level of drying winds, but then irrigation is necessary, and unless you provide water through tubing rather than sprinklers, you may still see blight and mildew.

Training Indeterminate Tomatoes

Whatever type of trellis you choose, attach the plant to the trellis in the same way. First, tie a nonslip knot about 4 inches in diameter around the base of the plant. Then, before cutting it off the spool, run the other end of the line up and over the top of the trellis. Cut it off about 2 feet beyond the top bar, and tie this loose end with a granny knot that will come out easily later. The usefulness of this extra string will become apparent later.
Once your trellis is set up and the young plants are attached, the training begins. Training is important because it allows you to control how the plant grows, how many fruits it sets, and when.
Look closely at how a tomato vine grows. You’ll see that it starts out as a single stem with leafy branches and flowering branches. But soon sprouts (sometimes called suckers) appear and grow at the stem joint (called axil) of each leafy branch. Each of these will in turn produce both leafy and flowering branches.
After each of these axial stems reaches three branches, and just before the first flowers appear on the axial stems, pinch off its growing tip to stop further development. That way, except for the axial leaves, which you want, you can keep the plant growing as a single stem. This makes it easier to trellis, and equally important, it keeps the number of fruits low in relation to the foliage, which makes for better tasting fruit. Pinch plants this way about once a week or so.
Always keep in mind that fruit flavor is related to the amount of foliage on the plants, so if you prune heavily, it makes sense to remove some of the fruits as well.
In the North (zone 5 and colder), prune consistently and carefully. But don’t remove more than a third of a plant’s foliage at any one time, because that may shock the plant and hamper its development.
In the South (zone 6 and warmer), don’t prune plants as severely, or they’ll faint in the heat and the fruits will be more susceptible to scalding by the sun.
Once you understand this basic concept, the actual training of the vine is simple. Take the slack vertical string which is loosely attached to the base of the plant, and wrap or braid it around the growing vine. Do this a minimum of once per fruit cluster. As the plants grow taller, the slack in the string disappears, and you can periodically release and re-tie the knot at the top of the trellis to make more twine available.
Once plants reach the top of the trellis, pinch out the growing point of the plant. That will cause it to stop growing and start ripening the fruit already set. And if you want early fruits, simply pinch out the end sooner. This will cause the plant to ripen fruits sooner, though overall yield will be reduced.

Trellises Mean More Care

Trellised tomatoes need more water and repeated sucker pruning. We’re in the cold zone 4, so we give the soil a week to warm up in the strong June sun, then lay a section of soaker hose along the center of the bed. Next, we erect the trellis and cover the entire bed with 8 to 12 inches of hay mulch to prevent rain from splashing early blight spores up onto the plants.
To avoid blossom-end rot (leathery sunken spots at the ends of the fruits caused by extreme moisture variations), water the plants regularly rather than only when they’re desperate. The one exception is late in the season when the last flush of flowers has set fruit. A month before the first frost, we stop watering and remove all the too-small and too-green fruits that won’t ripen before frost; this concentrates all the energy of the plant into the remaining fruits and concentrates their flavor by decreasing their water content.
Two other subtleties that affect the flavor of tomatoes are choice of variety and time of harvest. First, heirloom tomatoes, for example, have been regaining the popularity they lost over the last fifty years. The high-yielding, disease-resistant modern (often determinate) hybrids released by breeders over the past few decades, though wonders of modern genetics, just didn’t taste as good as widely available, indeterminate, old-time American heirlooms like ‘Brandywine’ and European varieties like ‘Marmande’ (available from specialty seed catalogs). Second, any home gardener who picks a tomato that isn’t dead ripe is wasting its taste potential. Sun-warmed and soft, that juicy vine-ripened love apple is one of the true garden treats.
Tomatoes are by far the most popular vegetable grown in American gardens. Knowing a few of the simple steps I’ve described here will ensure you enjoy them all the more.

vegetable growing techniques Tomatoes growing tomatoes on a horizontal trellis the standard method of growing tomatoes The standard way to grow tomatoes is to tie the tomato plants to single stakes or a vertical trellis. If you are very short of space or only want to grow a few tomato plants then this is an excellent way to grow them. The main drawback of this method is that it involves constant work training and pruning of the laterals.
the horizontal trellis method Horizontal trellis with young tomatoes planted under it.
Horizontal trellis in early spring with Laserlite sheets to protect the tomato plants from frosts and to provide extra warmth during the day. The horizontal trellis method involves suspending a trellis in a horizontal position about 25 cm off the ground and training the tomatoes to grow largely unhindered on top of it.

  • Advantages
    The main advantage is that there is a lot less pruning to do as once the plants are above top of the trellis there is no need for further pruning.
    The frame makes an ideal cloche structure when the tomato plants are young.
  • Disadvantages
    Growing tomatoes using a horizontal trellis takes up much more space than single stakes or a vertical trellis, so you get a lower yield per square metre of ground.
    The tomatoes are also closer to the ground, which means that they are more susceptible to disease due to mud being splashed on them when it rains.
    Offers a convenient height for black birds to get at the tomatoes.
    Harder to pick as you have to bend low to pick them.

Building a horizontal trellisI prefer to use the heavy duty 20 X 20 centimetre weldmesh that is used in reinforced concrete as it is strong enough to be used without needing a wooden frame for support.


  • A section of one of the vertical supports. Each square is 20 X 20 cm. To erect it you drive the sharp points into the garden bed to a depth of around 15 cm. To make the vertical supports cut two 2.4 Metre lengths (the standard length of reinforced weldmesh in Australia) to a depth of almost 40cm, leaving one row of intact 20 X 20 cm mesh squares with the ends of the second mesh square sticking out.
  • To make the horizontal trellis section cut a 2.4 length of mesh to a depth of 80 to 100 centimetres (four or five 20 X 20 cm mesh sections).
  • To erect the trellis place the two vertical supports in a raised bed about 70 cm apart. To keep them upright drive the ends of the rods into the ground about 15cm so that the top section is about 25 cm above the ground.
  • Place the horizontal trellis on top of the two vertical sections. You can tie it down if you like but I have found that the weight of the mesh is enough to stop it blowing off.

cheaper alternative to heavy duty weldmesh A cheaper alternative is to use one of the lighter weight garden trellis meshes, but these will need to be supported by some sort of light wooden frame.
Growing tomatoes using a horizontal trellis


  1. Place the two vertical support sections lengthwise in a a vegetable bed with the horizontal trellis frame on top
    Plant a single row of tomato seedlings down the centre of the bed at intervals of about thirty centimetres. As the young plants grow cut off all the laterals until the main shoot gets above the top of the trellis.

    Once the tomato plants have grown above the mesh then let the laterals grow unhindered. Prepare the veggie bed as you would for tomatoes and place the vertical trellis in place as described above.
  2. Plant tomato seedlings in a single row about 30 centimetres apart down the centre of the bed. Support each plant with a small stake.
  3. As the seedlings grow cut all lateral shoots off the plants until the main stem has grown above the top of the horizontal trellis section.
  4. The plants can largely be left to grow unhindered, draping their shoots across the top of the trellis mesh. All you have to do now is cut off or turn back any shoots that grow beyond the horizontal trellis section.

types of tomato plants to useWhile bush tomato varieties are probably the most suitable to use I have found that just about any tomato type will grow successfully on a horizontal trellis. Varieties I have used in the past are Rouge de Marmande, KY1, Roma and Round Red.
ConclusionThese days I prefer to grow my tomatoes on a vertical trellis as it produces a higher yield. However the horizontal trellis method does involve a lot less work.
If you have plenty of space or you are one of these people who can never keep up with the rapidly spreading laterals that tomato plants inevitably produce in the warmer weather then this method might be for you.

While some people grow determinate tomatoes so that they don’t have to worry about a trellis, anyone who wants to grow an indeterminate variety is going to need one. Whether short or tall, big or small, I’ve got a list of different options which will help ensure your tomatoes have the support that they need to give you huge quantities of fresh produce!

I’ve broken these down into categories based on what is actually providing the support for the tomatoes, and included some rough estimates of cost and difficulty. I’m really sure you’ll find a solution for your tomato trellis needs here!

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String-Based Supports

The T-Post Tomato Trellis

The T-Post Tomato Trellis. source

This is a really creative way to secure tomatoes! A framework made of T-posts and rebar securely mounted in the ground provides an anchor point. When the tomatoes are planted and quite young, a piece of twine is tied around the bottom of the plant and secured to the upper rebar. The plant is then trained around the twine as it grows. It’s an easy DIY build and, with the addition of a mesh screen panel, can be used to secure other climbing plants like beans and peas when you’re not growing tomatoes. Full directions and the process for training can be found at this website.

Materials Twine, metal posts, PVC or metal t-connectors, rebar
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $-$$

The A-Frame Support Structure

The A-Frame Support Structure. source

If you love the idea of twine-supported tomatoes, but tend to grow six-foot-tall tomato plants like I do, this lumber framework should help you out considerably. Since it’s so tall, you may also be able to drape shade cloth over it on hot days, or plastic on cold ones, thus adding protection for your plants and extending their growth cycle. Here’s how these people did it.

The Indestructible DIY Tomato Trellis

The Indestructible DIY Tomato Trellis. source

This trellis is constructed of rebar, electrical conduit, and nylon mesh. It certainly seems like it could be indestructible! It makes a great row support for multiple tomato plants.

Materials Rebar, electrical conduit, nylon mesh, conduit elbows, conduit cutters, a lighter
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $$

Florida Weave String Trellis

Florida Weave String Trellis. source

I’m actually doing a Florida weave trellis this year for my tomatoes, and it’s working quite well! While it’s best used on determinate tomatoes to give them a little extra support, with tall enough stakes you can use it on indeterminates, too. The process involves securing heavy-duty stakes in the ground, then weaving twine or nylon cord between the stakes to create a cat’s cradle-like cage around the plants. teaches the process very well.

Materials Stakes (I used metal fence posts), twine or nylon cord
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Diagonal String Trellis

Diagonal String Trellis. source

This one’s a bit unusual, because instead of having the string support the tomato by holding it up from above, it supports the tomato as it grows diagonally up along the string to a frame. While it requires some training, it allows easy access to all sides of the plant, which is really useful. Check out the diagrams on this blog post.

Materials Metal frame, nylon cord, nylon mesh
Difficulty Intermediate (because of time spent training the tomatoes to climb)
Cost $$

Wood Frame String Trellis

Wood Frame String Trellis. source

A slightly-angled wood frame helps to support tomatoes as they grow upward in this interesting design. Using tomato clips, the vines are trained up along the strings at a slight angle, providing ease of access to all sides of the plant. It’s almost a reverse of the one right above! Take a look at this interesting design.

Materials Lumber, nylon cord or heavy-duty twine
Difficulty Intermediate (because of time spent training the tomatoes to climb)
Cost $$

Leftover Parts Trellis

Leftover Parts Trellis. source

If you’ve got leftover string or twine and some old branches or scraps of lumber, you can build this trellis. It’s not elegant, but it’s definitely functional and serves its purpose well. Take a look at suggested components and how to put it together.

Materials Leftover twine/string, old branches or lumber, misc other possible parts
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

DIY Bamboo and Twine Tomato Spiral

DIY Bamboo and Twine Tomato Spiral. source

While not as fancy as the commercial metal tomato spirals, this tripod of bamboo anchors twine in place to provide the same sort of support. It’s a simple and quick construction that works surprisingly well, although the twine doesn’t last for more than a season. You can read the instructions here.

Materials Bamboo poles, twine
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Wire-Based Supports

The Raised Bed Trellis Arch

The Raised Bed Trellis Arch. source

Whether you’re growing tomatoes or any other climber, anything that fits into a relatively-small footprint is a breeze with this setup. Two narrow raised beds are paired up with an arching trellis to which you can secure tomatoes, allow pole beans and peas to climb, or even encourage an archway of grapevines. And best of all, it’s harvestable from all angles this way! Detailed plans can be located here.

Materials Lumber, cattle panels (or other trellis material)
Difficulty Intermediate (must be willing to construct the beds and secure the panels)
Cost $$-$$$

The Lean-To Tomato Trellis

The Lean-To Tomato Trellis. source

This guy has an unusual design – a lean-to constructed of livestock fencing and fenceposts. When your tomato is planted underneath the sloped surface, it will grow up through the fencing and get the support it needs. At the end of the season you just pull out the fencing and posts and stack them out of the way! How to set it up is available here.

Materials Livestock fencing, livestock fencing posts
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $$-$$$

The Homemade Horizontal Trellis

The Homemade Horizontal Trellis. source

There’s a whole lot of pictures in this blog post, so let me recommend that you scroll down the page. Eventually, you will come upon a rather ingenious system – a pair of mesh panels supported by wooden corner posts. Tomatoes can grow up through them and get the support that they need, and they can sprawl a bit, too. Photos are at this blog.

Materials Two pieces of heavy wire mesh, wooden corner supports
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Livestock Fencing Long Trellis

Livestock Fencing Long Trellis. source

While I mentioned other options using wire mesh earlier, if you have old livestock fencing lying around the yard, why not put it to work as a long trellis to tie your plants to? It’s handy stuff. Take a look at the website for this type of trellis plus a couple we’ve already mentioned.

Materials Livestock fencing, metal posts
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $$

The Livestock Cage

The Livestock Cage. source

With a bit of work, you can turn that livestock fencing into individual tomato cages, too. This design creates V-shaped panels, and you can place two panels together to form a full cage, or leave them as V’s and tie the tomatoes to them. They stack in a neat stack at the end of the season. Visit the site for more on how to build this.

Materials Livestock fencing, heavy duty wire cutters or loppers, heavy-duty gloves
Difficulty Beginner (but may require a second set of hands to bend the fencing)
Cost $$

Concrete Mesh Tomato Cage

The Concrete Mesh Tomato Cage. source

This has long been one of my favorite styles of tomato cage. Using concrete reinforcing mesh, you build a cylinder that can support an immense amount of weight in tomatoes. One roll of concrete mesh can make a bunch of cages, so it’s relatively inexpensive if you need a lot. However, you will definitely want some solid wide-jawed pliers and heavy gloves to build these. I have used them without staking in the past and the weight of the tomato plants held them in place, but you can add a piece of rebar to stake them as well. Check out how to build them!

Materials Roll of concrete reinforcing mesh, heavy gloves, wide-jawed pliers, heavy wire cutters
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $$

The Stake-A-Cage

The Stake A Cage. source

Do you have tons of tomatoes and are dreading making cages for them all? Take a look at these simple plans for an option that will help you out. The Stake-A-Cage features a heavy mesh attached to a long wooden stake. It creates a very functional option at an attractively low cost.

Materials Welded wire fencing, wooden stakes, wire fence nails
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

The Tall Tomato Tower

The Tall Tomato Tower. source

If you grow in containers, you know how many problems there are in effectively staking your plants. Commercial tomato cages that fit into large containers tend to be weak and collapse under the weight of your plant. This expandable tomato tower can reach up to ten feet tall and will maintain its structural integrity throughout. You can read how to do it here.

Materials Galvanized metal fencing, wire, bamboo or plastic landscaping poles, heavy gloves
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $$

Cattle Panel And String Trellis

Cattle Panel And String Trellis. source

It’s really as simple as the name suggests. This arched style of trellis is primarily formed with cattle panels, and string or twine helps encourage the plants to grow up and around and through the panel. It is not as fancy as some other arched trellises, but it certainly does what it’s meant to do! See how it’s assembled for more information.

Materials Cattle panels, twine or string
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $$

Bent Cattle Panel Tomato Cage

Bent Cattle Panel Tomato Cage. source

A bit stronger than a concrete reinforcing mesh, this bent cattle panel will withstand pretty much any weight that’s put on it! It takes a couple people to assemble it due to the difficulty of bending the panel, but it will last for years and years. Check out the build process in this post.

Materials Cattle panel, bolt cutters, crescent wrench
Difficulty Intermediate (could be beginner with multiple people)
Cost $-$$ (depending on panel price)

Double Hog Wire Trellis

Double Hog Wire Trellis. source

This is actually a pair of trellises constructed of hog wire, and placed closely together to ensure that plants are supported well on all sides. It provides great support for a minimal cost. The photos and instructions are clear and concise.

Materials Hog wire panels, wooden stakes, eyebolts, heavy wire, a couple friends
Difficulty Intermediate (you will need to secure the top to the roof of a greenhouse and require assistance)
Cost $$

Japanese Tomato Ring

While this one is similarly-constructed to a few of the other cages we’ve discussed, the way it’s used is not. After constructing a ring out of mesh or fencing material, you plant four plants around the outside of the ring, rather than one plant inside of it. Add compost to the interior of the ring to feed the plants, and secure the plants as they grow. This is a great way to maximize your planting in a small space! Here’s how to do it.

Materials Wire mesh or fencing, compost, twine or cord or tomato clips to secure plants to mesh
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $-$$

PVC-Based Supports

Square Staked PVC Tomato Cage

Square Staked PVC Tomato Cage. source

If you have leftover PVC pipe lying around, pick up some connectors and pull out your PVC cutter, because this tomato cage is super-easy to construct and can be taken apart for storage after the season ends. This particular version has a heavier long piece of PVC pipe used as a stake to connect the cage to so it doesn’t move around. It’s easy, efficient, and sturdy. Check out the concept here.

Materials PVC pipe (mostly ¾”, but if you have leftover 1” that’ll work too), connectors, wire (to secure the stake to the cage)
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

PVC and Conduit Tomato Cage

PVC and Conduit Tomato Cage. source

This PVC cage doesn’t need connectors — but you will need a drill and some patience. Wide-gauge PVC is used to create the corner supports, and conduit is run through holes in the PVC to provide crossbar support. It’s actually really inexpensive, provided that you’ve got the required size of drill bits already, and it’s very sturdy. Check out the build process!

Materials Heavy-gauge PVC, lighter gauge conduit, drill
Difficulty Beginner to intermediate (hole placement may be tricky in the PVC)
Cost $-$$

PVC Tomato Block

PVC Tomato Block. source

Do you have a lot of tomatoes in a small space? This blocky structure will help! Using a network of interlinked PVC, this style of cage helps support a multitude of plants no matter the weight, and can be disassembled later to store (provided, of course, that you don’t use PVC glue to lock it all together). It’s a simple yet effective build, and you can see it right here.

Materials PVC, PVC connectors, PVC cutter
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $-$$

PVC Tomato Cages For Self-Watering Container Gardens

PVC Tomato Cages For Self-Watering Container Gardens. source

PVC is lightweight and easy to work with, but super-sturdy, which makes it ideal for this container-garden cage. Designed to work with the rectangular self-watering types of containers, it can also be modified in design to work in a standard garden. Look at the diagram here.

Materials PVC pipe, PVC connectors, PVC cutter
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $-$$

PVC Tomato Cage For Earthbox

PVC Tomato Cage for Earthbox. source

Another container style, this forum discusses how to assemble and work with a PVC framework cage for an Earthbox. This one is unique in that it only uses one specific (and relatively inexpensive) shape of PVC connector, and the side bars are at different heights. Effective, and easy to snap apart and store during the winter! Take a look.

Materials PVC pipe, PVC connectors, PVC cutter
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $-$$

DIY PVC Tomato Cage

DIY PVC Tomato Cage. source

This large boxy style is perfect for raised-bed gardens. With some added support from twine, it can handle multiple plants with ease, and can be taken apart for easy storage like most of the PVC designs. Here’s how they built it.

Materials PVC pipe, PVC connectors, PVC cutter
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $-$$

Offset PVC Ladder Cage

Offset PVC Ladder Cage. source

Another offset design, this one is meant for use directly in gardens rather than for container gardens. Like the one for the Earthbox, it only uses a single style of connector, meaning that you can purchase your connector type in bulk and get them cheaper. Here’s an image of how it’s built – it’s easy to determine your own sizing.

Materials PVC pipe, PVC connectors, PVC cutter
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $-$$

Heavy-Duty PVC Cage

Heavy-Duty PVC Cage. source

This style of PVC cage offers the most support of all of the PVC options, but it can be difficult to find the 5-way connectors that are used in the central part of the cage. Three different kinds of connectors are used on this setup, but it provides maximum support and ease of use – and a few pieces of rebar used as ground stakes adds even more stability. It’s worth hunting down those connectors for! Read more here.

Materials PVC pipe, PVC connectors, PVC cutter
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $$

The Tormato

The Tormato. source

This crazy hybrid of a tomato spiral and a PVC cage is strange to look at, but quite effective. It is almost a type of garden art, but a functional variety of art at that! It can even be rigged to act as a liquid-nutrient delivery system at the same time. Read more about this unusual contraption and how it was constructed.

Materials PVC pipe, PEX tubing
Difficulty Beginner to Intermediate
Cost $$

Wood-Based Supports

The Wooden Tomato Cage

The Wooden Tomato Cage. source

Want something sturdy that will hold up to the weight of most heavy-producing tomato plants? Look no further. This simple, yet effective, tomato cage can be built to any height or spacing requirements and takes mere minutes to assemble once you’ve finished cutting the wood to length. It looks great in the garden, too. Complete directions for the build are available.

Materials Lumber, brad or nail gun, saw
Difficulty Intermediate (must cut wood, use tools)
Cost $-$$

Supported Slat Trellis Box

Supported Slat Trellis Box. source

No instructions are included with this image, but the concept is very simple: set four wooden posts into the ground and screw on premade slat trellises. This forms a secure grid for your plants to grow through that will help support the eventual fruit. And it looks great, too!

Materials Premade slat trellises, heavy wooden corner posts, screws
Difficulty Intermediate (may require modifying a slat trellis to your needs)
Cost $$$

The Garden Obelisk

The Garden Obelisk. source

A lot of people like the angled shape of an obelisk-styled tomato cage, and this one will last for a long time to come. Constructed of wood, it offers ample support to the plant’s branches while still maintaining a nice sense of style. There’s full instructions with wood measurements!

Materials Lumber, saw, brad or nail gun
Difficulty Intermediate (requires some rudimentary construction skills)
Cost $$

The Baling-Twine Tomato Bed

The Bailing Twine Tomato Bed. source

This is a great option for people who’re doing raised beds. Using scrap lumber, you build a frame over your tomato-growing area. Once your plants are in the ground, tie a piece of twine to the plant, and tie it to the framework loosely. As the plant grows upward, you can shorten the twine, thus securing the plant to the frame and helping it stay upright. There’s a bunch of images here that can assist you in your build.

Materials Enough scrap lumber to build a frame, baling twine
Difficulty Beginner to intermediate
Cost $

Bamboo Tomato Cage

The Bamboo Tomato Cage. source

This is a great use for bamboo, whether wild-grown or extra cuttings from your own bamboo stand! Bamboo holds up to the weight of tomatoes really well as it’s a durable wood. I might personally secure the bamboo cages together with a screw through a drilled hole, but the designer used inexpensive materials around the house to put these together just as easily. Check out the .

Materials Bamboo of varying lengths, saw, twine or wire to secure it together
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Ladder-Style Folding Tomato Cage

Ladder-Style Folding Tomato Cage. source

What a cunning concept! We all know how a ladder opens up for use. Well, this works very similarly, and you use a screw to secure it in place while your plants are growing. At the end of the season, remove the screws on one side of the side bars, fold it up, and store it just like you would a ladder. You can see how it’s done right here.

Materials Scrap lumber, screws, screwdriver, saw
Difficulty Intermediate (you have to cut wood)
Cost $$

Pressure-Treated Decking Cage

Pressure-Treated Decking Cage. source

If you’ve redone your deck recently and have any scrap wood, you might be able to construct this tomato cage. Because it’s pressure-treated, it’ll hold up to moisture like a champ, and its sturdy construction ensures your tomatoes will have no problems whatsoever. Take a look and see how it’s made!

Foldaway Triangle Trellis

Foldaway Triangle Trellis. source

All you need for this triangular trellis is a bundle of wooden slats, available at pretty much any home and garden center. Making an A-frame that’s joined at the top with hinges, you’ve got a trellis that can be virtually any height, and the use of a stake or two will keep it from sliding out of place until the tomatoes can weigh it down. It folds up into a flat profile that can be tucked easily into a shed or garage. Check out the full directions!

Materials Wooden slats, heavy-duty stapler and staples, a couple of hinges, saw, screwdriver
Difficulty Beginner to intermediate (you have to cut wood)
Cost $$

The Inexpensive Obelisk

The Inexpensive Obelisk. source

Obelisks are really popular because they look good in the garden, especially with a nice coat of paint. This version is particularly appealing, especially if you add a topper like a pinwheel to help keep birds at bay. Here’s a full how-to on these inexpensive homemade obelisk cages.

Materials Pine lumber, saw, screws and screwdriver, outdoor paint
Difficulty Beginner to intermediate (wood cutting)
Cost $-$$ (depending on paint cost)

Three-Step Trellis

Three-Step Trellis. source

Got some old scrap lumber and sturdy twine? Then you have everything you need to build this trellis. It’s supported by driving the bottom posts into the ground at an angle so that they’re crossed at the top, and then lashed-on crossbeams help support an entire row of plants. Easy to construct, easy to use, and at the end of the season just cut the twine and it all falls apart.

Materials Lumber, heavy-duty twine
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $$

Arched Walkway Trellis

Arched Walkway Trellis. source

This is a stunning trellis concept for people with a bit of available space. Because the tomato plants are secured to an arch, they can just keep growing up and over, and you can harvest easily from both sides of the plant, plus it provides a nicely-shaded area to take a break from the sun. It looks great in the garden and is definitely worth consideration! Here’s how it all goes together.

Materials Lumber, UHMW plastic strips, metal T-posts, screws
Difficulty Intermediate (requires cutting wood and bending plastic)
Cost $$$

Stylish Tomato Tower

Stylish Tomato Tower. source

Made similarly to an obelisk, this tomato tower provides heavy-duty support in a small footprint. And it looks great, too! They recommend using cedar, but you could likely use douglas fir or pine as long as you gave it a coat of weather-resistant paint or stain. Full instructions and a cutting list are available on this website.

Bamboo A-Frame Trellis

Bamboo A-Frame Trellis. source

This trellis is made out of split bamboo, secured together with nails or screws, and is designed to work well in a raised bed or tall container setting. It’s a simple build overall, which is good as it’s not described thoroughly. You can see a photo .

Materials Bamboo poles (some split in half, some not), screws or nails, twine to secure plants
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Upcycled Supports

Upcycled Trellis Styles

Upcycled Trellis Styles. source

If you’re a fan of all things vintage, why not bring them into your garden as well? This blog post shows how to turn old cribs, frames from broken mirrors, bicycle wheels, chair frames, and more into features in your garden while adding support for your plants. While not all of them will work for all types of tomatoes (a heavy beefsteak tomato is likely going to need more support than a coat rack will provide), they add charm and interest to your garden space.

Materials All stuff you can find in your house, garage, or at the local yard sale
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Recycled Pallet Tomato Trellis

Recycled Pallet Tomato Trellis. source

If you have an abundance of old shipping pallets lying around, or know a place to get free pallets, this is one of the cheapest tomato cage options on this list. This A-frame trellis offers quite a lot of support for a row of tomatoes. Read more about this pallet process!

Materials Old pallets, nails or screws, a saw
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Funky, Fun Garden Trellis

Funky, Fun Garden Trellis. source

Much like the other recycled pallet trellis, this one uses recycled pallets — but in this case, the pallet frames form much of the framework. It’s a little easier to do than disassembling and reassembling pallet wood. Painted in bright colors, they look great in the garden. Check them out!

Materials Old pallets, nails or screws, a saw
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Rejuvenated Tomato Cages

Rejuvenated Tomato Cages. source

Are your old tomato cages getting a bit rusty? Take a little steel wool to them to clean off the rust, straighten out the wire, and add a coat of outdoor paint, and suddenly you’ve got colorful cages like the expensive ones at the garden center to secure your plants. Here’s how to do it!

Materials Old tomato cages, steel wool, cleaner and a rag, outdoor paint
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Double X Pallet Frame

Double X Pallet Frame. source

This interesting frame, shaped like a pair of X’s with crossbeams, is constructed almost exclusively out of old pallet wood. Heavy-duty garden twine acts as the support structure, while the heavy wooden framework keeps it all upright. It’s a neat project and quite a centerpiece in the garden. Take a look!

Materials Old pallets, nails or screws, heavy-duty garden twine
Difficulty Beginner to intermediate (requires cutting wood)
Cost $

Rhett Beaver’s Tomato Cage Stack

Rhett Beaver’s Tomato Cage Stack. source

In this newspaper article, there’s a number of cages discussed, but the one I’ve zeroed in on is the tomato cage stack proposed by a landscape architect. If you have some of the old conical cages floating around and are interested in experimenting with them, you can join two of them together to make a strange-looking, but much taller cage. You need to add a little extra reinforcement, but it’s surprisingly effective. !

Materials Two old wire tomato cages, leftover wire or garden twine
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Other Supports

Trellis-Free Upside Down Tomato Rig

Trellis-Free Upside-Down Tomato Rig. source

Why use a trellis when you can have gravity help you? After the “Topsy-Turvy” tomato planter fad from a few years back made it popular to grow tomatoes upside-down, someone came up with a way to DIY it a whole lot cheaper. Here’s how!

Materials 5-gallon buckets, saw, place to hang the tomato
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $

Wind Resistant Tomato Trellis

This design combines the features of an upper support with lower staking to offer as much security in a windy environment as is possible without using a cage structure. It’s an interesting technique, and one which would work equally well in a non-windy environment. Check out the video of the process!

Materials Metal T-posts, crossbar (wood or metal), stakes, twine or old cut fabric
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $-$$

Bull Fence And Twine Tomato Cage

Bull Fence And Twine Tomato Cage. source

Fencing is a popular component, as you can see. In this variation, heavy-duty bull fencing is paired with a zig-zag of twine to add extra support between the two panels. This is by and large one of the most effective fence panel setups I’ve seen, and is definitely worth reading more about.

Materials Bull fence panels, twine, stakes
Difficulty Beginner
Cost $$

A Triad of Trellises

A Triad Of Trellises. source

Here’s three different variations of tomato supports — a wire mesh fence that you tie your plants off to (good for cherry tomatoes), a shorter twine-based support, and a taller twine-based support. All three are effective, but I particularly like the tallest option because it tops out at 7’. Even the biggest tomato plants don’t usually reach 7’ tall! Check out this blog post for photos and more information.

Materials Twine, wire mesh fencing, rebar, wood, steel posts with U-hooks at the top
Difficulty Beginner to intermediate (depending on which you decide to do)
Cost $-$$ (depending on which you build)

UC Master Gardener Tomato Staking Techniques

This is a good overview of different tomato staking techniques. While most of them are covered in other forms in this list, there are a few that aren’t. There’s the use of EMT electrical conduit to help support concrete reinforcing mesh to make a long panel to stake to. Also, they cover the use of “Texas Giant” cages, as well as some commercial variations like metal spiral rods and more standardized cage options. It’s worth the reading through the article!

Materials Depends on technique chosen
Difficulty Beginner to intermediate
Cost $-$$$

Hopefully, in this exhaustive list you’ve found the perfect solution to tie up your tomatoes and keep them safe from pests and disease. There’s truly a solution here for everyone! I’ve tried quite a few of these techniques and I have to say I haven’t been disappointed yet. What’s your favorite method of securing your tomatoes? Let me know!

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Table of Contents

This post is full of ideas for Tomato Trellis & Tomato Cages!

Tomatoes are one of the top homegrown crops in backyard gardens.

It’s easy to see why: there are hundreds of gorgeous and tasty varieties available to gardeners that you just can’t buy at the grocery store.

Homegrown tomatoes taste better because they can be harvested at the peak flavor. They also require you to put up a tomato trellis or cage for support otherwise they’ll flop over to the ground. One season I was curious (& lazy) and didn’t trellis our tomatoes to see what the yield would be. Surprisingly we did get a decent however crop damage was higher being so close to the ground.

It’s better to trellis tomatoes for easier pruning, harvesting, air flow and for healthier plants.

Here are Tomato Trellis and Cage Ideas!

How you trellis your tomatoes will depend on the type you’re growing & how many plants you have.

Some of these ideas, while cute and DIY friendly, would only work (in my opinion) if you don’t have that many tomato plants. If you’re growing A LOT of tomatoes then you’ll likely need trellis options that are friendlier on the budget like using strong string to tie them upwards or fencing. I’ll share tomato trellis and cage ideas whether you have a few plants or many.

Rodale Organic shows you a woven row trellis

There are two types of tomato plants

  • Determinate– Grows to a certain size (often about 4 feet) then produces fruit at the same time. Tomato cages work great with determinate tomatoes.
  • Interminate– Keeps growing and produces fruit continuously until a frost kills the plant. These tomatoes need a taller trellis.

DIY Tomato Trellis & Cage Inspiration

This design apparently hold 100lbs of tomatoes! From a Piece of the Rainbow

Bamboo tomato trellis from ElMueble

Cute DIY tomato cages from Get Busy Gardening

Tomatoes growing up cattle panel fencing from Homestead Honey

DIY tomato tower from Rodale Organic

DIY Tomato Cage instructions from Ella Claire

Tomato trellis archway from Learning & Yearning

Spotted on willow boutique

The vegetable gardener has DIY plans for building an A frame Tomato Trellis

DIY video tutorial from the real farmhouse on how to build these tomato towers

Homemade food junkie has this great tomato trellis using cattle panel fencing.

You can see below how it turned out later in the season.

Do you have a preferred way to trellis tomatoes?

My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.

Searching for some really prudent and practical DIY tomato cage, trellis, and stake ideas to support tomato plants? This post is your stopper!

With a little bit of money, a little bit of work and a little bit of space, you can create this tomato trellis. The instructions are here!

2. Homemade Bamboo Cages

These homemade bamboo cages are so functional and cheap. Not only the tomatoes, but you can also use them for other vegetable crops.

3. Raised Bed+Tomato Plants Support Structure

This not so looking good structure is functional as it contains a raised bed and overhead support, which you can use to tie your tomato plants. Learn more here!

4. Sturdy Tomato Cage

Sturdy and inexpensive diy tomato cages that you can make from wooden boards by following the instructions available here.

5. Colorful Tomato Cages

Create colorful metal tomato cages for your garden, check out the tutorial here!

6. DIY 3-Step Trellis

This 3-step trellis is an excellent, dependable structure for growing all the vegetables that need support including tomatoes. Check out the DIY here!

7. Ultimate DIY Tomato Cage

This is a bit advanced level DIY but easy to understand; you’ll need livestock panels to complete it. The steps are here to follow!

Also Read: Why Stake Tomatoes

8. DIY Tomato Tower

Learn through this DIY here, how to make stunning tomato towers to keep your tomato plants off the ground.

9. Only Tomato Cages You’ll Ever Need

With reinforcing wire mesh, you can create tomato cages that’ll last long. The descriptive DIY tutorial is available here!

10. Recycled Pallets Tomato Trellis

Old pallets made into supportive tomato trellises. Check out the directions here!

11. Pallet Garden Trellis

Similar to the above DIY, if you’ve spare pallets, try this. This is perfect for small space gardeners. Click here for the tutorial!

12. Tall Tomato Towers for Indeterminate Tomatoes

If you’re growing indeterminate tomatoes, a support structure that is tall and strong is required, like this tomato tower here!

13. PVC Pipe Tomato Cage

This PVC pipe tomato cage is easy to assemble and sturdy enough, unlike decorative tomato cages in the stores. Visit Instructables to see the how-to!

14. Tormato

PEX pipe and a PVC is required to complete this DIY tomato trellis aka Tormato, which also has a nutrient delivery system. To give it a try, click here!

15. Indestructible Tomato Trellis

You’ll need a couple of 10-foot sections of electrical conduit, rebar and a few other easy to find supplies to create this tomato trellis. Find the tutorial video here!

16. DIY Garden Obelisk

This DIY garden obelisk here is very handy and functional, you can train your roses, peas, squashes, or tomatoes to climb on it.

17. DIY Earthbox Tomato Cage

On Dave’s Garden’s forum, find a discussion with instructions on how to build this PVC cage for the Earthbox, you can also do something similar for other containers.

18. DIY Container Tomato Cage

If you’re growing tomatoes in pots, look at this DIY tomato cage project from the Garden Therapy. Also, look at this tutorial video here.

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