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DIY Tomato Trellis
Tomatoes need a structure to keep them off the ground and orderly. As the weather warms up, the tomatoes you planted for summer are likely growing like mad, signaling the need for a DIY tomato trellis! DIY Tomato trellises are a great way to use inexpensive items to train your tomatoes as you wish.
There are numerous DIY tomato trellis methods available, and in this article, we will explore our favorites. With over a decade of experience growing tomatoes here in San Diego, we have tested tons of different trellising techniques. We will explore the benefits and shortcomings of the top three DIY tomato trellis systems we have come to love. Please note we do not review tomato cages, as they are rarely effective or worth using for tomatoes. Tomatoes often outgrow their cages quickly and, if not secured well, tomato cages can easily fall over. Therefore, we never use tomato cages on the farm.
DIY tomato trellis system using cattle panels
Cattle panels are sections of fencing made from heavy-duty metal. Sold at farm stores, they are typically used to corral or fence in animals. When shopping for panels, purchase authentic cattle panels with heavy gauge metal. They should come in sheets, not rolls. On our farm, we use them as trellis systems for our tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans. They are simple to use and can be modified as needed. To create a DIY tomato trellis using a cattle panel, stake it into the ground using secure T-posts, and voilà, you have an instant structure for your tomatoes to grow on! You can weave your tomato branches through the metal openings or clip or tie them to the panel. Cattle panels are great for cherry tomatoes as they can fill the whole panel very quickly. Let’s look at the benefits and shortcomings of this DIY tomato trellis system.
- Quick to install
- Minimum parts/pieces needed
- Available in large sizes (16-20’)
- Little to no string needed
- Can be considered expensive ($30-$40 per panel)
- Cumbersome to transport, will need a truck
- Best when permanently installed in the garden, not easily moved around
DIY tomato trellis system using stakes and string
Another popular DIY tomato trellis uses stakes and strings to control your tomatoes. Although this is the least expensive and the most common method, it is our least favorite of the three due to its variability and the amount of labor. The Florida Weave is a classic stake and string method. In this method, stakes are set every 2-4 feet in a row of tomatoes, and then the string is weaved in-between each tomato. You will want to use heavy-duty twine like polypropylene tomato twine for this trellis system, which will not break down in the sun.
- Least expensive
- Easy to install and remove each season
- Best for determinate tomatoes
- Least effective
- Requires constant re-stringing
- Can cause plant damage from the strings
- Wasted string at the end of each season
- Limited to growing tomatoes, not used for other crops
DIY trellis system using the low and lean method
The low and lean DIY tomato trellis system originated in professional greenhouses to maximize space and production by growing vertically. It has enormous benefits in the garden because it maximizes precious space, keeps the garden orderly, and produces a bounty of healthy tomatoes. Although this DIY tomato trellis system is a bit more involved, the work is well worth it.
Check out this video for the full instructions on how to build the low and lean DIY tomato trellis system:
- Helps control disease by heavy pruning
- Produces heavy crops of tomatoes
- Maximizes space
- Not just for tomatoes, you may use it to grow other crops
- Some equipment purchases are necessary (tomahooks)
- Works best with large indeterminate tomatoes
These three DIY tomato trellis systems will reward you by keeping your tomatoes healthy and manageable. Using a cattle panel as a tomato trellis is an excellent alternative to other more expensive DIY systems but will still cost some money to purchase the panels. The low and lean method is a way to level up, so to speak—there’s a reason why professionals choose this system! It is the most expensive of the three, but once your trellis and tools are in place, you’ll use them for growing tomatoes and more season after season. Supporting your tomatoes using stakes and string is economical and an easy system to put into practice.
Which DIY tomato trellis system will you try?