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.