How to Make a Tomato Trellis: A Cagey Alternative

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tomatoes supported by a wire t-bar trellis

Tomatoes need our support.  (You trying maintaining vertical with 10 pounds of green, red orbs hanging off your branches. ) Some people cage them in, others rely on the stake. As for me, I’m a fan of trellising.

tomato supported by trellis wireI create a vertical plane that the toms can grow up for maximum sun exposure, air circulation and  tidiness (a feature more prevalent in my garden than my house).

COPY CODE SNIPPET

trellised-tomato-rowIt’s a pretty basic idea–a point A to point B design framed by two rigid poles or stakes with wire or twine connecting the two at one foot intervals. (Boz inspects the trellis, checking for appropriate tensile strength and any tasty, errant compost clods.)

tomato support I use foam twist ties or green gardening tape (seen in first photo). Nothing complicated about it.

How to Make a Tomato Trellis

  1. Choose the beginning and end points of your trellis.
  2. Don’t forget to leave room on each side of your end tomato plants.
  3. Drive Pole A and Pole B into the ground until secure (no wobbling).
  4. Tie a wire or heavy twine from Pole A to Pole B.
    1. Note: twine stretches, you may have to re-tighten later.
  5. Add more wire/twine up the poles at one foot intervals.
  6. I usually go up five feet, making five wire rows.
  7. As tomatoes grow, attach larger stems to each available wire.
  8. Use a soft foam twist tie or wide garden tape.
    1. choose a tie that won’t cut into the vine as the plants and fruit add weight
  9. Sit back and wait for you bounty (that is after weeding and watering and…)

trellis for tomatoes in a row

My ‘artistic” representation of Tom’s Tomato Trellis.

56 COMMENTS

  1. That’s a great idea, Tom!!

    I will do that with my 3 tomato plants!! they are growing higher every day. One plant is already nearly 2 meters high!

  2. How clever you are, Tom! When I get a look at your garden, I swoon. Your tomatoes are so pampered. I love your system. (And I especially love that shot of Boz lying in the soft, tilled soil: oh, the order, the sheer potential of good earth and rain and sunshine!) My own garden is a fortress of chicken wire and garden fleece and… Well, it’s ugly. That’s just the plain truth. Maybe it’s because I don’t start with a beautiful rendering with pen and ink. Yeah. Maybe.

    You remain my hero!

  3. June, I’m blushing. If it’s any consolation, the inside of the house is anything but orderly. Thanks for your very kind words. Tomorrow we are expecting a heatwave, uh, that would be 72 degrees. So in go the squash, pumpkins, eggplant and tomatillos, oh yes and my favorite aspirational fruits…melons.

  4. I’m trying the same trellising system for the first time this year. I see they are working well for you.

    I used plastic tomato clips but really like your foam twisties. Where did you get them?

    • Dorie, I believe an appreciation of bullies (English, French or otherwise) is a sign of high intelligence. Boz and Gracie surely concur. Thank you for the compliment. -TC

  5. Tom – Will and I are growing pickle cuc’s. I’ve got them in a long linear container, looks likw a window box. Can i trellis these?
    sgt

  6. You bet Brion, cukes love to climb. And since they’re in a container, I’d fertilize them, too, say every couple weeks, with a diluted liquid fertilizer.

  7. I may have to consider trellising next year just to simplify things in the garden. It’s getting to the point where I’m finding that I have to buy an extra dozen or so bamboo poles each year to support whatever is growing/climbing in the plot!

  8. Buon Giorno…Mahalo…Rowena, if you ever need stakes, look for any freshly cut stumps in the woods. Usually they have straight saplings springing from the base of the trunk. They make keen stakes.

  9. Tom,

    This is lovely! I tried it yesterday, but I fear my wire is not strong enough to support the plants. What guage wire did you use?

    Thanks!

  10. Another question Tom.
    Did you have any problem with your wire sagging when the tomatos reached maturity and pulling your T post inward?
    Thanks,
    Steve

  11. Hi Steve, the posts were 8′ t-posts driven in the ground 2′ so no they did not bend inward, but maybe an inch or two. And yes, I would weave the plants up through the wires and also tie them to the wires where needed for support.

  12. Sir Tom,

    I am in charge of extension and training programs of our college. I could share your trellis system to our farmers. That’s great.

    Ed

    • Amy, I was using 10 to 12 gauge as I had some leftover from grape trellising, but that’s a bit of overkill. I recommend 14 or 16 gauge as it’s easy to handle and bend. My posts were 50 feet apart, but I have extended them to as far as 75 feet, as that was the length of my planting row.

  13. Amazing, Tom! Really. SO I have a small 10×10 plot in a city garden. How close together can I can I plant these tomato plants with this system?

  14. Hi Drew, I plant mine about 3 feet a part, but then again I have a large garden.

    I’d think you could get away with 5 tomato plants in a ten foot row or say two feet apart. Paste, cherry and grape types can be more crowded than the big beefsteaks. Hope this helps. The good news is when tomatoes are stressed a bit, you get more fruit. When lavished with fertilizer tons of space you get some nice leaves. 😉 Good luck!

  15. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your post. I built the trellis for my tomatoes over the weekend! It turned out great. I had some old vinyl covered laundry line laying around and used that instead of wire….looks good!

  16. Hi Tom,
    I was thumbing through your posts on your blog and Im trying to figure out a problem with my tomato plants, maybe you can shed some light? The tops are yellowing a bit and I dont know what that means. There are some pictures of each of my three tomato plants on my blog called “tomatoes” and earlier blogs on “gardening” have pictures from when they first were brought home and transplanted. Can you shed any light?

    • Hi Alice, I checked out your lovely blog — great stuff. Now about your tomatoes yellowing. It can be a lot of things, but I think I’d focus on two, either too much water or a nutrient deficiency in the soil. Here’s what I’d do. Wait for the soil to dry out a bit, that is maybe even wait until the toms droop a little and are telling you, “we need water.” See if that practice doesn’t facilitate a rebound. At that time maybe maybe add a liquid fertilizer too, say diluted to half strength so you don’t get all leaves and no toms.

      I think your soil may be a little moisture retentive as I saw the squash plant with brown tips, and that in most cases is a sign of over watering in a soil that is poor on drainage.
      Good luck, remember, tomatoes like a little stress. Often time pampered plants have lush foliage and few toms, and horrible looking plants have gorgeous toms.

  17. Tom, Have you considered a bamboo trellis? We have too many plants for your gorgeous trellis, and they got too big. I made a sort of lean to of bamboo rods and just let the toms lay themselves over the frame as they grew! Much of the fruit dangled through easily reached and it supported lots of weight. Love your blog came for figs stayed for everything else!

  18. Yes! This is my method as well. Great minds think alike! It works great and is far less expensive than caging. Also, I can get at the tomateys a lot better, which is very important.

  19. I am so happy I found this page 🙂 I was all set to buy wood to make folding tomato ladders… then I quickly googled “tomato trellis” (I used jute and it didn’t hold up as well as I would have liked last year) and lo and behold! A couple stakes and wire! I already have the stakes and my husband and I are in construction and readily have 9 gauge ceiling wire on hand all the time 🙂 I’ve used the wire for so many other things, but it never crossed my mind for trellis’ until now!!! Thanks for stretching my imagination!

  20. Hi Tom, I happened on to your site a few days ago while looking for ideas for trellising green beans……….I love it! You seemingly are living the life that many of us can only dream of! LOVE the peach farm house! Perhaps you’ll be like the gal who decided to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook and then create a blog about it……….they made it into a movie, right? I can see it now, it will be Tom, his 2 bulldogs and his tomatoes, making ketchup in the kitchen! Take 52!! Get that makeup guy over here on Tom! 😉 One question about tomatoes…..what’s your answer for those absolutely disgusting tomato worms that appear and them double in size over night? Would they just continue getting bigger and bigger until they are the size of small dogs? I’m told to just cut them in half……..even more disgusting! Then I read online to collect them in a bag and put them in the freezer to kill them humanely……..seriously? No gross worms in my freezer, thank you! What do YOU do, Tom? Also, please forgive me for asking an off-topic question……..your writing is most eloquent……not that of your typical male of the human species……..you have to either be a writer, an actor, or perhaps a retired English teacher?? If you care to share, I’m dying to know! And keep writing! I’m checking your site daily! P.S. I’ve got 2 little canines of my own, who also assist in my garden……long-haired chihuahuas. 🙂

  21. Hi,
    I was looking for an easy way to trellis my toms when I came across your website.
    With luck this year they are doing well despite my lack of attention, so much so that their little arms were touching the ground and needed support. Using some basic info gleaned from your site I was able to transform my raised bed plants to a respectable and attractive piece of earth.
    Thanks, Nancy in NC

  22. Hi there, as silly as this may sound, I would like to try to grow cherry tomatoes espaliered on lattice (as I have a very small yard and a place beside the lattice where I can place some plants. The lattice faces south. Do you think I am wasting my time?

    • Hi Deborah, I would say go for it. Cherry tomatoes go crazy with growth no matter where they seem to be planted. Sungold for instance is my most prolific producer. Since the lattice faces south, they’ll get plenty of sun. And most cherry tomatoes are indeterminate, meaning they will grow taller and taller, which is want you want on a trellis or lattice. Good Luck, and don’t fertilize too much if at all or you’ll have all plant and no tomatoes. Good Luck! Here’s to your first fresh salad!

  23. […] How to Make a Tomato Trellis: A Cagey Alternative – Tall … – […] with flimsy tomato cages? Tom from Tall Clover Farm has great directions and an illustration for building a simple tomato trellis. I’m going to … say diluted to half strength so you don’t get all leaves and … Have you considered a bamboo trellis? We have too many plants for … […]

  24. Looks amazing. I think I will try the wire rolls or fence that have 4″ rectangular holes and secure it to a post at each end. I would think no ties needed because it would grow through the fence. Good idea?

    • Hi Gretta, You’re right I usually don’t have to tie them too much; I just weave them through the panels as they grow upward. Old stockings make great ties (given to me by a friend). Just cut them crossways so you have a stretchy ring and then use it to tie the tomato vine gently to the wire. Good luck!

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