Ask a Question forum→Tried livestock panels/trellis to support my tomatoes and they did poorly

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Central Utah
utah300rum
Aug 31, 2020 3:05 PM CST
I have always used large wire cages to support my tomatoes with pretty good success. The main issues were tipping over and the cages lasting only a year maybe two.
I read that people were using cattle panels to make a Trellis or other support for tomatoes, so I decided to try it. I built one "A" shaped frames from 2- 4'x10' livestock panels by getting 2 panels laying them on their sides about 30" apart them tipped the tops together to make the "A" frame. I planted 4 plants on each side so 8 plants total on the frame so they could grow up the frame for support. We purchased 10 plants so the last 2 plants I planted in cages.

The 2 plants in cages did very well, all 8 plants on the frame were half the size of the plants in the cage and barely produced any tomatoes, they looked dry and wilted all year. We had a hot and dry year but they are planted next to each other and all received the same water and fertilizer.

Anyone have any similar experiences? I am thinking the heat got to the plants on the frame since the plant was spread out flat exposed to the heat while the cage plants only the outside were exposed and the middle of the plant were shaded?
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Aug 31, 2020 3:33 PM CST
I use a single stake to prop up my tomato plants. This is for both my cherry tomato's and my large fruit varieties.
I trim suckers all the time so I keep one central trunk. When I forget to trim suckers and allow them to grow and produce fruit, it causes a tremendous amount of stress ripping the plants apart. You take those bushy, Untrimmed plants and add some thundershower breezes and split plants are often the result.
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[Last edited by BigBill - Aug 31, 2020 3:34 PM (+)]
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Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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porkpal
Aug 31, 2020 3:35 PM CST
I've had good luck with the panels, but I mounted them vertically on T posts, and wove the plants into/onto them.
Porkpal
Name: sumire
Reno, Nevada (Zone 6a)
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sumire
Aug 31, 2020 3:43 PM CST
Welcome!
Can you post a picture of your set up? I am having trouble visualizing it.
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Bryan, TX
WAMcCormick
Aug 31, 2020 4:45 PM CST
I have used cattle panels tied to metal T-posts with good results for several years.
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Central Utah
utah300rum
Aug 31, 2020 6:20 PM CST
Here are some pics,

the first pic is of a tomato plant in a cage

Second pic All the tomatoes plants on the panel are small and not producing, see the caged plant doing well in the front left of the pic, right next to the panel.

Last pic all the tomato plants basically dead or almost dead on the second cattle panel.

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Thumb of 2020-09-01/utah300rum/41438b
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[Last edited by utah300rum - Aug 31, 2020 6:27 PM (+)]
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Central Utah
utah300rum
Aug 31, 2020 6:30 PM CST
Cucumbers like the panels
Thumb of 2020-09-01/utah300rum/bc7740

Name: Kat
Magnolia, Tx (Zone 9a)
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kittriana
Aug 31, 2020 6:33 PM CST
I don't think that is the panels fault, how hot has it been there this summer? You need to consider pulling one of those tomatoes and showing us the roots. Does that cover block moisture? Black can get a wee bit hot against a wooden fence, and tomatoes need spaced at least 3' apart for air flo.
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Central Utah
utah300rum
Aug 31, 2020 6:33 PM CST
View of both panels and tomato plant cage in the middle between them.

The left panels basically all the plants dead or dying

Tomato in cage in the middle doing well

The right panel tomatoes alive but not doing that great
Thumb of 2020-09-01/utah300rum/d72438

Name: Kat
Magnolia, Tx (Zone 9a)
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kittriana
Aug 31, 2020 6:35 PM CST
I notice all your damage is following the fence line... did you spray any pre-emergent, or use any substance that could have had pre-emergent in it? Like straw?
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Central Utah
utah300rum
Aug 31, 2020 6:39 PM CST
Nothing was sprayed and the tomato plant in the cage that did ok is closer to the fence.

I was thinking of the heat radiating off the fence but we typically plant the tomatoes in cages along that same exact location.

I have the thick commercial weed block on the ground and the plants were planted in the same holes as last year, only we used the panel set up verses individual cages.
Name: Kat
Magnolia, Tx (Zone 9a)
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kittriana
Aug 31, 2020 6:44 PM CST
Your tomato problem isn't the panels- though I don't grow determinate tomatoes-it may be as simple as acquiring damaged plants (did you buy sets or seed them yourself) or bad soil.
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Name: Zoƫ
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NMoasis
Aug 31, 2020 7:21 PM CST
They look severely wilted and starved for water. Combine lack of water with the black weed block sucking the heat into the soil, and they could be just plain burned. However...that's radical wilt, and the fruit looks developed. Also, you sound experienced and I assume you would have noticed if they were wilting from heat before they got that bad. Can you post a close up, focused photo of the leaves and stems on one of the plants that is half green/half brown? Also a closer look of the whole plant, and the stem where it comes out of the soil.

I agree, the panels shouldn't have had any effect like that. It actually looks like a nice setup! Thumbs up
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Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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porkpal
Aug 31, 2020 8:20 PM CST
How do you water?
Porkpal
Name: Lynda Horn
Arkansas (Zone 7b)
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gardenfish
Sep 1, 2020 6:44 AM CST
Looks to me like a lack of water. I'm thinking a straw or compost mulch would have been much better than that black weed suppressor. Even though your temps may not be high where you are, you have to take your altitude into consideration. How high is it where you are? The higher the altitude, the stronger the suns rays.
I don't think it's disease; your squash and cukes look relatively disease free, and many diseases that affect tomatoes will affect them, too, especially at such close range.
Tomatoes are picky about their watering; they prefer to be evenly moist during their lifetime. Squash and cukes can get by on much less water.
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Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Sep 1, 2020 7:23 AM CST
I'd like to know what kind of fencing you are building cages out of.
My tomato cages are good for decades... longer... They don't wear out... unless a tree falls on one...

I use bamboo poles to hold them up, and as long as I sink the poles deeply enough, they don't topple... even when a tropical storm blows through.
Central Utah
utah300rum
Sep 1, 2020 7:58 AM CST
I have 3 sprinklers one on each corner with a 90 degree spray. The driest spot would usually be about where the caged tomato plant is it just to the right of it in the far away picture.

All the tomatoes were purchased from the same nursery at the same time in half gallon containers. The majority of the tomato plants just never really thrived this year.

The one in the cage was always noticeably bigger than the others. I really didn't think much of it until later in the season when it was clearly twice the size and producing fruit while the others were very small but reasonable healthy looking. Once they got some tomatoes on them the heat set in we had 8-10 days in a row at or over 100 degrees and the plants on the panels immediately started to wilt. My wife and I would go out every night and water by hand even though the soil never really dried out. It wasn't as damp as we would have liked to maintain. I adjusted the sprinklers to run it's normal time at 11pm and added another shorter watering at 10am Hoping to keep some moisture in during the day. Then we would be home about 6pm and water them by hand.

My neighbor who does a much larger garden than I, also mentioned his tomatoes didn't do well this year. His plants were definitely larger than mine but his looked quite sickly and wilted as well. His set up is a frame with wires from the top down into stakes in the ground. His tomatoes that did the best were in the center of his set up, where they had shade and protection, The plants on the edges looked a lot more like mine.

Next year I will do one set of plants on the panel set up and then other 8 or so plants back in cages and compare them.
[Last edited by utah300rum - Sep 1, 2020 8:13 AM (+)]
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Missouri (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Sep 1, 2020 8:14 AM CST
It is possible they had some type of fungus/wilt. I never spray mine over head but always water at the ground. The weed suppressor you have is not your issue. Neither is the trellis. Also you are not supposed to plant them in the same spot consecutively as they should be rotated. (preaching to the choir there Hilarious! ) Try putting them in a different area next year and see if that helps.
Central Utah
utah300rum
Sep 1, 2020 8:24 AM CST
This would be the second year in the same spot, we usually redo the weed block every 2-3 years and change the layout.

I am far from an expert gardener, but this was our worst year by far for tomatoes, and by chance the first year with that setup, the rest of our garden did well.

I am thinking of changing the sprinklers out for a drip or flood style setup to help with fungus issues on the squash.

lexiesmith
Sep 5, 2020 10:01 AM CST
I'm also very new to gardening but I had some plants that did the same thing, half the plants were affected and half were okay. (I too had a lousy tomato crop this year.) My problem was something attacking the plants at the point they enter the ground. The stem developed a dark ring around it and radical, overnight wilt with complete loss of the plant. I wrapped the remaining plants with a barrier around the stem and going an inch or two into the ground and had no more losses. When I asked for advice, the consensus was to definitely not plant tomatoes or related crops in that spot for at least 3 years. No one was able to positively identify the culprit.

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