Posts Tagged ‘tomato cages’

Tomato Trellis Performs Well

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Trellis September 24th

Trellis September 24th

Trellis Early July

Trellis Early July

Early in July I posted about a heavy duty tomato trellis I constructed with T Posts and bamboo stakes: T Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis.   I’m happy to report the trellis performed exceptionally well.   I’m going to build one again, next year and I already know some minor changes I’m going to make.

Lacing the Stems to the Bamboo Forced Vertical Growth

Lacing the Stems to the Bamboo Forced Vertical Growth

Lacing the tomato stems to the bamboo forces the plants to maintain excellent vertical growth. A lot of the plants are growing well over the 8 foot height of the bamboo poles. The tomato fruit had a tendency to follow the foliage growth up the poles so as the season progressed the tomatoes were easier to pick as they moved upwards.

Tomato Cages Made Weeding Difficult

Tomato Cages Made Weeding Difficult

Next year I hope to put the structure up first, then plant the tomato transplants next to the bamboo poles. The traditional conical tomato cages that I used became a hindrance to weeding and I’m going to eliminate them next year. I thought I might need them for structural support, but I don’t think they are necessary.

While I thought the plants were far enough apart, I’m going to open up the spacing and plant less plants. I experienced some leaf blight and that sometimes can be reduced by better air flow. The blight didn’t seem to slow things down, but the closeness of the plants made it a little difficult to prune them and tie them up. I’ll leave out some of the varieties that did not perform well this year. And as we had way more tomatoes than we needed, leaving a few plants out will probably be a good thing.

Tomatoes Are Easy to Harvest

Tomatoes Are Easy to Harvest

We’ll be picking tomatoes until frost and I also expect the structure to offer some good support for covering the tomatoes with poly to try to extend the season and get them through the first mild frost.

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Tomato Trellis

I didn’t have the heart to cull out some of my beautiful and healthy tomato starts so I ended up with 78 plants in two beds.  My normal planting is 60 plants in two beds so I had to cheat a little on the spacing.  I opened up the width across the rows and pushed the plants as far to the edges of the bed as I thought I might get away with.  I still came close to a 20″ spacing between plants and that’s close to what I always do.

I’d already determined that I was going to develop a trellis system using the eight foot bamboo stakes I bought last year. I wanted a structure with more rigidity and easier maintenance than previous trellises.  I knew bamboo stakes would work.  This is the result.

In this planting are three each of 24 different heirlooms or open pollinated varieties and one hybrid – Sungold, the excellent little orange cherry tomato that is usually the first and last tomato harvested each year. Also here (seen below) are three tomatillos, not quite a tomato, but pretty close.  Their growing requirements are nearly the same.

T-posts, Bamboo Poles, and Cages

T-posts, Bamboo Poles, and Cages

I put tomato cages around my seedlings while they are still small and train the plants to stay inside the cages. Many gardeners don’t like traditional cages, but I find them useful in that they give me some time to get a more beefy structure set up. Plus I use the cages as a framework to tie everything back to the t-posts. This creates kind of a tension structure that is close to impervious to winds and the weight of heavy plants.

I have four t-posts on each side of the bed. The t-posts are 90 inches long overall with about 16” driven into the ground, so the structure frame is about six feet tall. I like using t-posts for trellising. They are rock solid once they are in the ground and they are easy to tie off to. I use a cheap jute twine for most of my trellising. It’s soft enough that it can be used on plant stems. And it’s biodegradable and rots away in a season in the compost pile so I don’t have a disposal problem as I would with a plastic tie.

Tying into T-posts for Support

Tying into T-posts for Support

I use one bamboo pole for each plant set next to the main stem and aligned with the t-posts. I tie the cages into each other and to the t-posts wherever I can.

Lacing It All Together

Lacing It All Together

All the outer bamboo gets tied off to a t-post or a lateral bamboo framing pole, so they have a lot of rigidity. The bamboo poles in the center are free standing, but laced into their adjacent poles. This should give the center poles enough stiffness (I hope) to handle the loading as the plants mature.

Stems Tied Around Bamboo

Stems Tied Around Bamboo

I’m training the plants to be as vertical as possible by loosely wrapping multiple stems around the bamboo using the jute twine.   With very little help, tomatoes like to grow upwards.

Lots of Air Flow

Lots of Air Flow

I’m getting lots of air flow through the plants even though they are tightly spaced.  I don’t mulch my tomatoes.  When I tried mulching I had severe slug problems. I now try to keep the ground around the main stems weed free and dry. I prune away low hanging stems and leaves and try to get as much vertical growth as possible.  It took me about a full day to set all this up, but I think I’m going to be very happy with the results.