Indeterminate Tomato Trellises

robinava(6B)January 15, 2014

Spent the past few hours watching videos, reading comments and trying to make a determination as to which form of trellis would be best for my indeterminate tomatoes. New garden is 10 feet wide and plan to plant 2 rows of heirloom varieties. Want to hear what the experts have to say to prevent costly mistakes. By the way how many plants for a 10 foot row? Carolyn and Dave walked me through the seeds and now I have to find out the best way to hold up these babies. All feedback is appreciated.
Robin

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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I have seen people who trellis their tomato plants. In my opinion, it should be slanted(say, by about 23 degrees). This way the vines can rest on it. Another thing that cross' my mind is that the matoes should be planted right by the foot of trellis. This means that every row need a trellis.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 5:21PM
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robinava(6B)

Seysonn, trying to visualize how this is done. Photos would be great if you have any. Do you use wiring or string? What kind of posts did you use? I have seen the regular notched fence posts, conduit, rebar and pcv pipes and it is quite confusing for a first timer. Want to learn from others mistakes and then make a few of my own. What you say makes sense as they would have less stress doing it this way. Yes, I do intend to have 2 rows of trellises but just don't know which ones would be more suitable for these gentle giants.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 8:43PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Robinava, ..
I have done it for cucumbers, many times in the past, not for tomatoes. You can do it just vertically too. But you are gonna need to do a lot more tying down because tomatoes are NOT climbers and have no tendril.

If you choose to do slanted, the you drive your supports slanted and then install the screen on it. Depending on how many tomato plans are going to rest on it you have to reinforce them by additional vertical poles. So in effect the supports are like triangles, every 3 to 4 feet.

You can use prefab wooden lattice(sold in HD ..) instead of metal screen.

I am sure somebody else will come and chime in , as how he has done it. .

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 9:20PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I trellis taller tomatoes on cattle panels (aka stock panels, hog panels), which are IIRC 54" x 16'. They're not cheap, but they don't rust, and will last forever.

My trellis starts about 14-16" off the ground; the panels are held up by T-posts: one in the middle of each panel, and one where the panels overlap. I'm 5'2", so I can reach a bit higher than the 5'6" - 5'8" top of the trellis. It's completely sturdy; absolutely no danger of the vines pulling the trellis down.

(If you'd like a taller trellis, you could cut the panels in half for an 8' high trellis. That would, however, be a lot more expensive, as you'd only get 9' of trellis per panel, rather than 16'.)

I weave the vines in and out of the holes in the panel, and also use the circular plastic vine clips (not cheap, but they last many years). I mostly use the vine clips temporarily (till the stem grows long to stay woven in the panel), so it doesn't take that many per plant. [I haven't bought any vine clips for a few years; at that time, Johnny's and Territorial were selling them. I prefer the red ones, though the white ones are okay; the green clips Gardener's Supply sold kept popping open.]

One tomato plant per 4' of trellis is ideal, but I sometimes plant them a bit closer.

Re. seysonn's slanted trellis idea: I've seen photos of slanted trellises posted on GW in years past. Some people cut a panel in half and stake it at different angles. I've also seen photos of cucumbers and pole beans grown that way. [People also bend a panel into an arch, anchoring the bottom somehow with rebar; I think this was mostly for flowers or other crops than tomatoes.]

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 10:10PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

If you really want to trellis them then cattle panels work best. But true tomato cages, especially those made from CRW, are far better supports and much less work and no pruning is required. So is a Florida weave.

Search here will pull up all sots of discussions about all 3 methods. Linked a few of them below.

If cost is no object then Texas Tomato Cages are consistently rated as best.

The ideal support all depends on how much daily work you want to put into maintaining them and how much aggressive pruning you want to spend time doing.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: cage trellis stake support discussions

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 10:11PM
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robinava(6B)

Thank you everyone. After spending a good part of my morning going to the suggested links and reading the many comments I have decided to go with the cattle panels and T posts. Tractor Supply has the 16' panels for $20.00 while the local Farmer's Co-op offers them at 23.00. Add a few posts and the price is right.

Robin

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:53AM
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robinava(6B)

When am I going to stop asking questions, I guess when I have all the answers. Next question. Plan to cut the panels into 3 5'.33 pieces which I will start about 12-14" above the ground giving me a panel height of over 6 '. Will this work for these babies? Am I correct in starting about 12-14" above ground?
Feed back, feedback please.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 3:04PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Don't know why you are cutting them - your choice. But 6" max. up from ground is better. 1' of unsupported stem is too much and it will break over. If you want to hang the panel higher then you'll need to stake the plants so the base of the plant has support too. I think this is discussed in more detail in several of the 'cattle panel' discussions.

You will never find any support that is tall enough to support most indeterminates unless you want to use a 10-12' tall thing and a ladder to pick fruit.

The point is to support the majority of the core of the plant. The rest just drapes back down and keeps on growing.

Dave

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 4:54PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Another option, I suppose, would be to cut a panel in half lengthwise and use one whole panel and one half panel, one over the other (I think I'd put the half panel on the bottom). At 6" off the ground, the total height would be about 7' (depending exactly how you cut the panel in half).

Or you could use one whole panel and 1/3 of another panel. At 6" off the ground, the total height would be 6' 6".

Another possibility would be to use something cheaper for the bottom 1-2', with a whole panel over that. Plastic netting, nylon netting, cheaper wire, etc.

I use twine to tie the young stems to the bottom of the cattle panel (as needed). It can be a pain. But once the vine is tall enough to be woven into the panel, the panel takes the weight, and those lower stems no longer need extra support.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 8:22PM
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robinava(6B)

This was my thinking. The panels are 4'4" wide x 16' long. If I leave the panels in tact, which I would like to do, and start the panels 10" above ground, the top of the fence would be at 5'4". Based on numerous comments some of these babies grow to 12' My logic was that the 5'4" wouldn't cut it, am I right or wrong about this?

If I cut a panel into 3 panels at 5.33 ' then place them 10" above the ground they would be at 6.33' and I could lower the height above ground. If I can get buy with the 5'4" that would be great. It was mentioned that 10" is too high and that the plants would need to be strung or staked at this height so ideally it should be as close to the ground as possible. What say you??The other suggestion of cutting and adding is not an option. So what is the consensus?

Robin

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 9:10AM
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lucille(Houston)

If you have a 4'4" panel 6 inches off the ground, the tomato can grow up one side and hang down the other. If you add two 6" to the equation (the 6" going up and coming down, you get 4'4"+4'4"+6"+6"= 10'8" . While not quite your target 12', that is a lot of growing space.

This post was edited by lucille on Fri, Jan 17, 14 at 10:56

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 10:13AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

some of these babies grow to 12' My logic was that the 5'4" wouldn't cut it, am I right or wrong about this?

Wrong. As I said above the point is not to have some support all the way up. That is impossible and would be undesirable if it was possible because you couldn't harvest without a ladder. The standard method for using panels by most growers is horizontally, 6-8" off the ground for a total height of approx 5' and it works just fine. CRW cages are 5-6', TT cages are 6' tall and 1 foot goes into the ground, commercial tomato stakes are 6' tall and 1' goes into the ground, etc.

The T posts determine your max height. So a 6' post ends up 5' tall (+/- an inch or two). They come in 5' and 6' and 1' goes into the ground. Panel height above that is unsupported. There are all sorts of threads here that include photos of them in use.

Tomato plants drape the rest of their growth down just fine.

Dave

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 11:21AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

7' T-posts are available (I have some for another use). Or other types of posts could be used (I have no idea how costs would compare).

My cattle panel trellis, which is 14-16" above the ground, uses 6' T-posts. The bottom 12" or so of the posts are underground. That means that the top 8-10" of the panel is above the top of the posts. That hasn't caused any problem (though I must say that those cattle panels are heavyweight -- they happened to be on sale for the regular price, and I think the regular panels had all been sold).

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 12:25PM
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smithmal

Sorry that I'm late to the game, but I use a drop-line technique using a 8' 1"x1" horizontal post support be two "A" frames on either end. Then from the horizontal post, I drop lines down every 18" (purchase clothes hanging type synthetic cord which has good weather resistance from Home Depot). The bottom of each line is tied loosely to the base of the plant and the tomatoes are manually wound up the line every week or so. This allows me to get a lot of varieties in a small space with a lot of good circulation (which helps to abate fungus/mildew). The link below will provide you with a pic I drew of my drop-line technique.

Like many I started with the store bought tomato cages and after seeing them topple over more than once decided to try out different support systems. The drop-line technique works well for your heavy thick beefsteak indeterminants. For the cherry indeterminants, rather than hanging line, your could attach some garden netting to the horizontal bar. You can keep extending your support by adding a new horizontal bar and an additional A frame (I usually make 16' supports with an A frame on either side and in the middle.

In terms of cost, for the wood you're looking at about $15-$20 and 100' of line would be another $6-10. Basically you'd have a good 16' of support for around $30 which can be used each season (I leave my framing up and only remove my lines during the winter time).

With drop-line techniques it's important to prune as this technique primarily supports the main trunk and nothing else (I typically get rid of the suckers and grow only 3 to 4 stems per plant).. You can support additional stems by purchasing some garden twine or tomato clips.

smithmal

Here is a link that might be useful:

This post was edited by smithmal on Fri, Jan 17, 14 at 15:06

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 2:58PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

Concrete remesh is the way to go for indeterminate tomato cages. 25 years and they have never let me down.

Not to say I wouldn't like vinyl-coated concrete remesh...

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 4:44AM
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robinava(6B)

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. Will probably follow Dave's suggestion by starting the panels 6-8" above the ground and using the 6' T posts, however I am still considering raising the panels to possibly 10" and using either stakes or twine. Either way I now have options. Thanks again.
Robin

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 9:28AM
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