Every year, I grow indeterminate, heirloom tomatoes. Every year, my tomato plants reach heights of 9 feet to 12 feet!
For the last 4 years, I have created a trellis for these monster tomato plants using bamboo poles and small green balls with connecting slots in them.
Each year, I am challenged to make the trellis straight and strong so it can hold up the weight of the fruit from more than a dozen very vigorous tomato plants.
This year, I lost the challenge.
In fact, this year, you could say I made a series of ill-fitting, trapezoid like structures that strong winds consistently knock awry! What you’re looking at is supposed to be a straight line…but it clearly flunked geometry and so did I!
I was a bit desperate so I asked my husband (who is “…not a man of the soil”) to help me make a trellis using PVC pipe and connectors and he came through, as he always does.
The materials for this trellis cost $78 at Lowes. It is easy to put together as all of the vertical poles are the same length – 7 feet. All of the cross pieces are 3′.
Mr. Pat bought 14 PVC pipes that were 10 feet long. He cut 3 feet off each one to make both the verticals and the cross pieces. He then used elbows and tees to connect the verticals to the cross pieces.
The finished trellis looks a bit like something that clanked its way out of War of the Worlds!
But it is lightweight and easy for the two of us to move. And it can easily be taken down and stored during the winter.
This afternoon, when the sun is warm on the plants and the leaves are dry, we will install the new trellis. It is 7 feet high and the cross pieces are 3 feet across. It will sit just inside the raised bed walls and a bit higher than my monster trellis.
Once the trellis is sunk into the ground, I will gently untie the tomato plants from the old trellis and tie them to the new one which will sit about 6 inches higher.
I am moving to the new trellis in the nick of time as the 13 plants that are relying on it for growth are literally loaded with fruit.
My Tiffen Mennonite, the replacement for the Brandywine, are growing in clumps and getting huge.
The Consueleto Genovese and the Fox Cherry tomatoes are flat out laden with green tomatoes.
However, none of the fruit is ripening due to the chillier June nights we have been having.
Only the Black Vernissage, this year’s tester tomato is showing any color…but it’s not ripening, either.
Our temperatures have been in the mid to upper 50’s in Southeast Pennsylvania. Tomatoes like warm nights – 70’s+ and even warmer days. Over the next week, we will be hitting the 70’s at night and the 90’s during the day so I expect that just about all of the tomatoes on the trellis will ripen, all at once.
Once they start to come in, my neighbors better get ready! It will be tomatoes all around.
ps – please forgive the long silence. Since May 25th, I have been working valiantly to save the life of one of my two West Highland terriers. Unfortunately, my beloved Spike died on Saturday.