This year I’ve decided to try to use vertical space in the garden. My tomato plants in particular, tend to get pretty wild and sprawl across the pathways and tangle up their vines making it difficult for sunlight to reach inside each bush and ripen all of the fruit. While determinate tomatoes only grow 3-4 feet tall, my indeterminates can get as tall as 10 feet if I had the space. Last year I didn’t do much pruning of the tomatoes and also did a poor job of staking them. The result was 15 pounds of green tomatoes that didn’t have time to ripen before frost. This year I plan to prune and stake my large variety, heirloom, indeterminate tomatoes so I will hopefully have fewer fruits but they will actually ripen.
I built a trellis for each bed using 4 foot rebar stakes, PVC pipe, wire fencing and zip ties. I set one piece of rebar at each end of the bed and drove it into the bed (not going through my weed barrier at the bottom). It went in about 2 feet and had about 2 feet above the bed making it a great stake for the PVC.
I bought 10 foot sections of PVC piping and cut them in half. Then I cut another piece the length of the bed for the top of the trellis.
After sliding a 5 foot section of PVC over the rebar at each end, I attached 90-degree elbows to the top of each piece and inserted the last piece of PVC between the elbows to make it a rectangle.
Since the PVC is 5 feet tall and the tomatoes can grow much taller than that, I opted to cut the fencing at 6 feet in length. I didn’t want it to be so tall that I would need a ladder to pick tomatoes. I cut two sections that were each 6 feet long and stood them up in the bed and then used zip ties to attach it to the top bar of PVC. Once that was held in place, I used more zip ties to attach the fencing to the side PVC pieces and tied the two pieces of fence together in the middle until everything was secure.
I planted two tomato plants in each bed and made sure they were snug against the trellis in the center of the bed. I used vegetable ties to tie the main stem of each plant to the trellis. I trimmed away some of the lower leaves so there was nothing touching the soil.
As the tomatoes grow, I will continue to tie the main stem to the trellis and prune away suckers. I want these large heirlooms to focus on setting high-quality, large fruit, in a reasonable number and then focus their energy on ripening them.
I have two cherry tomatoes as well. These are also indeterminates. Since the fruit is so small, these tend to ripen quickly and they will continue to set and ripen fruit well into October. I don’t plan to prune these guys because they don’t have any problem ripening and I want as many cherry tomatoes for pizza as I can get.
So there you have it; my tomato trellises. I hope this helps my tomatoes this year because it was heartbreaking to see all that beautiful fruit never ripen. I ate all the friend green tomato sandwiches I could and gave away the rest. Many people in the neighborhood enjoyed them. I just prefer juicy, sweet, red tomatoes!