Trellises help support tomato plants and keeping them off the ground, thereby reducing disease and pest problems and encouraging healthier plants. Home gardeners can use different methods of trellising plants, including staking, training the plant to a string or fence, and using a wire cage. Tomatoes grown on a stake or framed trellis may experience problems with sunscald; plants grown in cages are better shaded from the sun.
Traditional Staking Method
The traditional stake method is simply a 6- to 8-foot-tall stake driven into the ground at the base of the tomato plant. The plant periodically needs pruning and tying to the stake. Lumber, bamboo and existing posts make good stakes. This method has the advantage of offering easy access to the plant and is inexpensive to use.
The V-Stand is a commercially available tomato trellis. The tomato plant grows into the V-shaped space. This type trellis is more suitable for semi-determinate tomato varieties. The stands are compact, easily stored and reusable. Gardeners may find that the stands are not tall enough and are too small for larger plants. The tomatoes require constant pruning to keep the vines constrained and may need additional staking if the plants outgrow the trellis.
Vertical String Method
The vertical string method requires the construction of a frame from electrical conduit. The frame runs along the tomato row. Twine or cording ties to the bottom of the tomato plants main stem, wraps around the plant and attaches vertically to the frame. A slipknot secures the twine at the top so that it can be untied and rewrapped as the plants grow. The frame comes apart and stores for many seasons of reuse. An existing clothesline works as a support for the strings as long as it is sturdy enough. Insert a hook into other overhead structures or attach a string for a quick frame substitute.
Mesh Trellis on Electrical Conduit Frame
This system uses the same electrical conduit frame as the vertical string method. Instead of string, concrete reinforcing mesh or open wire fencing attaches to the frame to form the trellis. This method is similar to planting tomatoes along an existing fence. The tomatoes must be tied to the trellis to start, but will weave through the trellis as they grow. This system requires an effort to put together each season, but allows easy access to the plants. The system comes apart and stores for reuse.
Trellis Weave Systems
Trellis weave systems depend on tall stakes securely driven into the ground between the plants. As the plants grow, strings attached to the end stakes weave horizontally through the row of stakes, wrapping tightly around each stake. The string goes down the row, alternating to the front and back of each stake. The string then returns up the row alternating in the opposite direction, creating a figure-8 between the stakes that contains the plants. New strings continue up the stake as needed to support the plant. The fruit is accessible using this system, but the weaving continues throughout the season.
Wire Mesh Cages
Wire mesh cages are one of the most popular trellising systems for home gardeners because of their ease of use. Once in place, the plant grows through the cage and does not need tying. Commercial tomato cages are available in barrel shape and squares. Homemade cages made of concrete reinforcing mesh are inexpensive and effective. The cages anchor to the ground with a short stake. The cages need to be tall enough for the tomato variety planted.