What is the best way to grow tomatoes? The answer will partly depend on the variety grown and partly on the climate, but I think the descriptor ‘vines’ is part of the answer.
Every garden year I challenge myself with the best physical support for tomato vines. I have tried allowing them to sprawl, inverted ring cages, box cages, pruning, and leader support.
This year I will prune my tomato vines to a single leader and train them up a single vertical support.
I used this method in 2009 and it was very successful until the plants grew too heavy for the bamboo frame that I built.
For better support, I am following the method detailed by Ed Smith in The Vegetable Gardeners Bible.
You will need:
- 2×2 lumber for vertical posts and horizontal supports (preferably cedar)
- Long nails (I used 3″)
- Drill with bit equivalent to width of nails
- A level is useful
- Drive a 2×2 into the soil every <8′ along your tomato row [we used 8′ 2x2s pounded down 3′ with a sledgehammer]. Try to keep the post level.
- Drill a 1.5″ into the top of each post.
- Measure the distance between posts
- Determine where the horizontal 2x2s will sit on the posts and where they will overlap
- Notch the ends of horizontal supports that will meet atop posts
- Drill through the ends of posts where they will sit atop the posts
- Insert nails through horizontal supports and secure to posts
- Drop a line of twine from the horizontal support and firmly attach to a spike embedded near the base of each tomato plant
- As each plant grows, trim the lateral spurs and loop around the twine
UPDATE: The one thing I would change about this trellising method for next year is the twine. The twine I used deteriorated after a month or so, resulting in collapse of the entire plant. I had to advocate for synthetic twine, but next year I will use something stronger.
That looks good…very organized. I’ve got mine in wire cages, cut and bent from concrete reinforcement wire that I cut about 10 or 15 years ago. It was hard on my wrists then, and would probably kill my wrists now, but they work well in my raised beds that must be covered at night to keep the cold damp air off. It can get down to 45˙ at night.
Yes, cool air can be a problem here, too. I have a little experiment going – not very well controlled, but still I will learn something. We bought a greenhouse this year – it doesn’t get a full day of sun, but it stays warmer than the yard. I also have tomatoes growing in there. I am very curious to see whether light or heat trumps tomato growth and production.