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Gardening Articles: Care :: Tools & Equipment

Tomato Trellises (page 2 of 3)

by National Gardening Association Editors

String and Bar

Commercial greenhouse growers train indeterminate tomatoes up strings. This method requires some pruning of side shoots. Shep Ogden recommends inexpensive 2x2 stakes that are eight feet long. He buys 2x4s and rips them with a power saw. After pounding them into the ground 12 to 18 inches, you'll have a stake that's six to seven feet tall. The bar across the top is made of 10-foot-long 3/4-inch electrical tubing from a building supply store. You flatten two inches on each end, then drill a hole in the center of the flattened area an inch in from the ends.

Set the stakes 10 feet apart, lay the bar on top and run one-inch galvanized sheetrock screws through the holes down into the tops of the stakes. The work goes fast. The system is very strong, and it comes apart easily in the fall.

To train tomatoes up the string, start when the plants are about a foot tall. Make a loose knot that cannot slip and become tight around the base of the stem just below a sturdy leaf or shoot. Then run the twine to the bar and and tie it loosely, leaving about two feet of extra line hanging over the top. As the tomato vine grows up, you just wrap the leading shoot around the twine, so the two are braided together. That twisting eventually uses up all the twine you left at the top. When you need slack, you loosen the knot at the top, take what you need, and tie it again. If you use untreated twine, you can cut everything out quickly in the fall and toss it on the compost pile.

If you take out all side shoots, you should space plants closely, about foot apart. It's important to leave enough foliage to protect fruit from sunscald, especially in hot, sunny regions. If you space plants 18 inches to two feet apart, you can let a few side shoots grow near the base of each plant. Tie on a string for each side shoot and start braiding the sprouts. Unsupported side shoots can tear off the main stem just as the fruits are heaviest and ready to ripen. When shoots reach the top, you top them. This trellis works well for cucumbers and pole beans, too. In Holland, gardeners grow squashes, eggplants and peppers this way.

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