How to Trellis Tomatoes

Tomato trellis in bamboo

Tomato trellis in bamboo

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!

Not so straight tomato trellis

Not so straight trellis

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!

New tomato trellis

New tomato trellis!

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.

Tiffen Mennonite Tomato

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.

Black Vernissage tomato

Black Vernissage tomato

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.


14 responses to “How to Trellis Tomatoes

  1. Pat. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. xo

  2. theuniversalgardener

    I’m sorry for your loss, Pat.

  3. We had a grapestake fence that I really hated. It was about five feet tall, and separated a side yard from the front yard. It stayed because the neighbors liked it. Anyway, that is what we threw the tomato vines over. We staked them for about three feet, and then they flopped over the fence. They were ugly too, but they worked well.

    • I wish my tomatoes would stop at 5 feet but they grow to 9 to 12 feet and if I don’t trellis them, I end up with a jungle of rotting vines and tomatoes. Putting the trellis in was a bit trickier than we thought it would be. Mr. Pat put “feet” on the bottom of the PVC pipe (I asked him not to but he was the builder) but we couldn’t drive the pipe into the ground, as a result. So the trellis is 7 feet high and clamped to the raised bed walls… I had to use a ladder to bring the vines up and tie them over. But it’s done and it looks good. Well, thinking about your grapestake fence, I guess good is in the eye of the beholder.

      • Yes, I did not like it, but the neighbors did, especially when they could get tomatoes from it. One thing that I did not like about the tomatoes hanging over it was that they did not like to hang downward. They did not support their own weight, but wanted something else to do so. They were always trying to curve back upward. The ‘kink’ where they bent over the fence always seemed to be a sort spot for them, as they put out more growth behind it in an attempt to continue upward.

      • I never thought about that as I have always tied the tomato plants up as they grew. The weight of the tomatoes on the vines just tore the plants apart. So now I “…string them up” and tie them to the trellis. This keeps them off the ground, too, which cuts down on wilt, virus and fungus. My first tomato is ripening but I fear that behind that one little guy will be a deluge of tomatoes as our temps hit 90+ on Friday and are staying that way. Now we are under an extreme heat advisory – started on Saturday and is issued through tomorrow night. Oh the tomatoes….

  4. Hi Pat,

    How much rain do you get? It is generally cooler where I am but I think moisture must be an issue, too. I cannot possible imagine outdoor tomato plants like yours!

    Anyway, I’m sorry you lost your doggy 😢.

  5. Sorry to hear about Spike.

    • Thanks Elaine. It is difficult to come to grips with his loss both for me and for his sister, Harri. Oddly enough, Best Friends Magazine (from the Best Friends Sanctuary in Utah) had an article this month on grieving which helped. But I miss my beautiful boy very much.

  6. Pingback: How to Trellis Tomatoes | Grow So Easy Organic – WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

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