How to Train Tomatoes to a Trellis


Training tomatoes to a trellis conserves garden space and makes gardening tasks easier. Air circulates better around plants that are lifted off the ground, decreasing the risk of disease and rot. Determinate or semi-determinate tomatoes are best for training to a trellis. Pruning away suckers limits the plant to the main trunk and strengthens the trunk. However, less vegetation makes the tomatoes more susceptible to sunscald.

Using an Existing Trellis

Step 1

Anchor the trellis well so that it will not blow over in a strong wind.

Step 2

Plant the tomatoes 18 to 24 inches apart along either side of the trellis.

Step 3

Tie the stem loosely to the trellis when the tomato trunk reaches approximately 8 to 12 inches tall, using a thin strip of cloth or cotton twine. Wrap the cloth or twine around the stem, then around the trellis so that it forms a figure 8.

Step 4

Tie the stem to the trellis approximately every 12 inches as the tomato plants grow.

Step 5

Remove low-growing suckers or side shoots as they appear, leaving one sucker below the lowest flowers and all of those above. Pinch off suckers with your thumb and forefinger at the tomato trunk.

Building a Trellis

Step 1

Build a simple trellis by driving posts into the ground and stringing wire between them. Place a low wire about 10 to 12 inches above ground level and another wire at the top of the trellis approximately 5 to 6 feet high.

Step 2

Plant the tomatoes approximately 12 to 18 inches apart along the trellis. Tie a piece of strong cotton twine vertically between the two wires for each tomato plant.

Step 3

Rotate the tomato stem around the string weekly so that the string wraps around the tomato plant and supports it. Move in only one direction to avoid unwrapping the string.

Step 4

Remove side stems and suckers as they appear to confine the plant to one main stem.

Things You'll Need

  • Trellis or posts and wire
  • Cotton twine or strip of cloth


  • N.C. State University: Trellising Tomatoes
  • Iowa State University Extension: Training Tomatoes
  • New York State Agricultural Experiment Station: Growing Tomatoes Using a Trellis
Keywords: trellising tomatoes, train tomatoes, tomatoes on trellis

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.