Need a Trellis?

Trellising is most commonly used for tomatoes, cucumbers, peas and pole beans.  And if you are growing heirloom  tomatoes they’re mostly  indeterminate so they really benefit from trellising.

Why Trellis?

  • keep vines up off the ground so there’s less disease risk and rodent damage
  • conserve space in your garden so you can grow more plants
  • keep fruit cleaner
  • less damage to fruit from mice, slugs and other ground visitors
  • improved aeration
  • better exposure to sunlight so fruit ripen earlier
  • makes harvesting the fruit much faster and easier

A trellis can be made from a large list of materials.  In this article I’ll give you a short list of approaches I’ve used over the years, along with tips on where each works best.

Types of trellising

  • stake support
  • string
  • stake and string combo
  • concrete mesh (concrete reinforcing wire)
  • wire cages
  • hanging mesh

Some of these require staking or posts driven into the ground… so be sure you there are no utility cables, wires and pipes in the area before proceeding. It would be a good idea to check with your local utilities provider before driving posts or stakes into the ground.

Stake Support

Just about any material that’s rigid, takes weather and is non-toxic will work. Some commonly used are bamboo, wood stakes, and re-bar . Drive the stake just a few inches away from your tomato plant and use ties or strips of cloth to gently tie the tomato stem to the stake. You can prune your tomato plant to one or more main stems and provide a stake to support each of them, keeping them spaced out from each other for good air flow. This type of support works well for determinate varieties, with longer stakes required for the semi-determinate types. A shorter stake can be used to support smaller plants grown in pots, just be careful to ensure the pot doesn’t tip over easily.

String Trellis

String trellising is what we use in our hoop houses for tomatoes and cucumbers, but it works just as well outdoors. You first fashion some kind of a horizontal support, tied off above the ground 5 feet or so up, to a fence or to posts at each end to hold it in place and keep it taut.

You can use a steel post, a length of hardwood or 2X4 or taut wire for this top piece. Then tie off long pieces of jute or sisal twine string to the top support long enough to hang down to the ground with a few inches extra length to wrap around the stem and gently tie off. Then simply give the tip of the plant a wrap around the string a couple times a week as it grows.

You can also make a horizontal string trellis using two secure end points such as t-posts driven into the ground and then stretch lengths of string between. Make several runs 4 to 6 inches apart to as high as needed for the plant you want to support. We’ve found that beans and peas grow up vertical string trellising more readily than the horizontal, It seems they naturally want to grow up rather than outward.

Stake and String Combo

Stakes and strings can be used in combination to keep multiple plants within bounds or a row of taller peppers or eggplants from laying over into walkways breaking. This type of trellis can also be used to contain larger deteminate type tomato plants by driving 3 or more stakes around the plant and then running string around them wrapping or tying at each stake.

Concrete Mesh

These are durable and can be used year after year. They rust, but that doesn’t interfere with their usefulness. Cut to 24” high sections with the edge wire along one side cut off, you can simply push the wire ends of the panel into the ground to support shorter peas plants.

For taller plants, you can use stakes or even steel fence posts driven into the ground to provide support for the mesh.

Wire Cages

You can find wire tomato cages in stores and garden centres, and you can also make your own using a short section of paige wire. These reduce the need for pruning and tying your plants to stakes, string or wire. If the plant produces an abundance of fruit you may have to provide extra support to heavily loaded branches by using ties or bits of cloth to secure the branch to the cage.

If you make your own cages using 5 to 6 fi sections of galvanized page wire, you can adjust the diameter of the cage to suit the variety of plant your working with. Form this section into a cylinder and hook the ends together to hold the shape. Then set it over the plant. You can secure this cage in place using two stakes woven through the wire strands and driven into the ground on opposite sides of the plant.

These paige wire cages can be opened up at the end of the season and folded flat for storage. With a little care these can be used for many years.

Hanging Mesh

This type is usually made from plastic material. It is extremely light weight yet strong. This type of trellis works well for pole peans and climbing peas. The ends of the section must be well secured to hold the weight of the plants, even in wind. Posts driven into the ground at each end with additional bracing or guy lines hold the mesh taut. Additional stakes or posts are driven every 12 to 15 feet for additional support. A rope or wire is stretched over the top of the posts and the mesh is secured to this and the posts using string or zip ties.

That’s just a few of the ways you can trellis your tomatoes, cukes, peas and more for a greater harvest… It doesn’t have to cost much, even branches can be used, with a bit of creativity.

And if you have a tomato patch in the works this season, at harvest time – you’ll be glad you trellised your plants when you don’t have to walk on your plants and turn the branches over to look for the bounty!

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