DIY Tomato Supports

tomato supports DIY

In Colorado, tomatoes are finally here! Our May was cold and wet, which is unusual for   sunny Colorado, setting plantings and harvests back 2 to 3 weeks. So while our tomatoes usually start coming in around July 4, it is now the 3rd week of July, and I finally have tomatoes.

Tomatoes are one of several crops that are best grown in your own garden. The homegrown flavors of picked-when-ripe, fresh tomatoes, snap beans, peas, or corn are worth the effort. This year I tried a new support system with my tomatoes, and so far it is my favorite because it is easy to set up, use, and store. And it’s reusable year after year!

My new method is similar to the stake-and-weave method, but it’s easier. I used sturdy wire mesh panels (concrete remesh or hog panels work well) attached to 8’ t-posts. I hung the mesh with the bottom about 1’ above the ground and attached it to t-posts using zip-ties. I planted my tomatoes 2’ apart in line with the support. While I am in the garden, I can simply weave the tomato tops back and forth through the grid pattern. I do this once a week, maybe twice, while I scout for ripe tomatoes, pests, and disease. At the end of the season, I can simply remove frost-killed vegetation, snip the zip ties, pull the t-posts and store the panels and t-posts flat, outdoors, for years of use. These are also great for creating permanent trellises rotating between peas, pole beans, melons, watermelon, cucumbers or any other climbers. I love seeing my tall, thin, yet strong wall of tomatoes. This system is simple, space efficient, reusable, and keeps plants off the ground, improving airflow and reducing the risk of soilborne diseases. It helps make weeding a snap!

Every year my gardening efforts open my eyes to new opportunities and ideas to improve colors, flavors, and methods—my skills and enjoyment grow right along side it.

What is your favorite gardening method?

 

Caged tomato

 

2016 UPDATE: This year I decided to turn the remesh on end so they are eight feet tall by 42″ wide. Our tomatoes liked the trellis so much last year they reached over six feet! We are now growing pole beans, vining summer squash (“Tatuma”), smaller vining winter squash, and melons this way. We have found this method to be quite tidy and a great space saver. Grow up!

36 thoughts on “DIY Tomato Supports

  1. You are right about these types of supports for tomatoes. We have been using them in our school garden for several years and they will last for many more years. Our tomatoes grow so tall (everything is bigger in Texas)that they grow up one side and then down the other. Unfortunately our tomato season is over until this fall.

    1. Hi Julia, sorry for the late response. A t-post is a metal fencing post with a bit of a spear shape on the bottom (creating a “t”). They are commonly available at hardware stores at many heights and are usually green.

    2. Go to a lawn and garden store or a hardware store. They will have them. A “T” post is a type of fence post.

  2. You are describing my favorite trellis method. The first fall we took down the panels and pulled the posts. The second growing season, my husband realized that instead of pulling the supports, we needed to buy more ranch panels and put a trellis in every box, permanently. Now our panels are wired to the posts. Because I add a layer of compost each fall, I seldom spade my beds; trellises aren’t in the way even for bush beans.
    I suggest leaving the panels several inches above the ground. Weeds take advantage of places where you can’t get a tool or your fingers.

  3. p.s. If you come home from the plant sale with more tomatoes than you intend, this will work for plants even 1 foot apart. It will be a jungle, but every plant will get sun so tomatoes will ripen well.

    1. Hi Clara, sorry for the late response. A t-post is a metal fencing post with a bit of a spear shape on the bottom (creating a “t”). They are commonly available at hardware stores at many heights and are usually green.

  4. I use concrete reinforcing wire rolled into a “round tower” 30″± across

    The towers need only one stake to keep them in place and work for tomatoes, pole beans, cucumbers …

    At the end of the season, I stack the rolls in an out of the way place until the next year

    1. This is what I have used for 15 years or more, the same cages year after year. I love this method. I can fish baling twine through the middle to support the seedling as it grows. I have to sink a 3′ upright stake on 2 sides. One year my 7′ tall tomato plants blew over in a strong wind. Luckily they fell against a cattle panel fence 4′ away and survived.

  5. Nicely done!! It looks like great support and easy to find the fruits on the plants. I do something similar with my cucumbers. Protects the vines from being crushed and keeps the cucumbers off the ground.
    Happy Gardening!

    1. Sandra,
      That is, of course, is up to you. The reason we tried something new is that most tomato cages are notoriously wimpy and too short for tall, indeterminate tomatoes. By design, tomatoes also take up less width in the garden. If using remesh, it is also cheaper per tomato and the remesh can be stored flat. All the best!

  6. You did not say it, but it is a best case to have your mesh on a north-south orientation allowing plants to gain the most exposure to the sun light. The plastic orange safety netting used at construction sights works well also.

    1. Oh Kenneth, your idea of the construction site netting is pure genius! 🙂 Lightweight, strong and easily stored. Thank you!

  7. Similar idea; lay hog panel horizontal suspended 2 – 3 feet above ground and let plants grow up through and then spread across hog panel. Since tomatoes are a vine and prefer to grow across the ground, this gets them up off the ground in the natural growing state. There are advantages in as frosts begin as the fruit will be suspended and won’t get burned. You just need to make sure you can reach the middle from both sides. Worked like a charm until the hard freezes came; then you harvest everything.

  8. Thanks for posting this link on the website. I have been gardening for 30+ years and staking the tomatoes is always such a process. Plus, so many of the newer supports are just SO expensive it’s crazy. I was glad to see this simple…simple is the operative word here…idea. I have copied it off and will try next year myself. Thanks again. Vermont gardener

  9. Thanks for this great tip! I want to try it next year. I’ve actually looked for hog panels in the past, and can’t figure out where to source them. Any thoughts? Where did you buy yours? Thanks!

    1. Hi Christina, sorry for the tardy response. Hog panels or livestock fencing is best since it won’t rust and is ultra durable. You can find it at farm and ranch type stores. It is often 16′ long which makes transporting it a little difficult unless you have a trailer or cut it at the store. I opted for remesh (concrete reinforcement) this year since it was a fraction of the price and I was trying something new. I did see hog/livestock panels on common big box hardware websites, deliverable if that helps.

  10. This is a great blend of Florida weaving and caging. I love it! Definitely going to try it. Do you think it might work for squash/zucchini?

    1. Stephi, we are trying it with winter squash, pole beans, and a vining, heirloom summer squash called “Tatuma” (“Calabacita”) this summer! It worked great with melons and small watermelons last year so we are thinking it will be quite successful again! There are not a lot of vining summer squash but this structure would sure be advantageous if you also want to try a vining variety. This year we turned the panels so they reach 8′ high by 42″ wide.

  11. I grow 60 heirloom tomato plants on frames with 6″ square spacing, love the ease of tucking in stems without individual ties. However, we drive in cedar 2″X2″ stakes every 8 feet, screw in three laterals and then run nylon builder’s twine horizontally every 6 inches and lash vertically every 6″. The nylon should last a number of years. An alternative shown on U-Tube is electrical conduit frames, mounted on a rebar stake and using standard couplers for the top lateral.

    The problems with wire mesh include very hard to pull flat, will rust in time, and is not very attractive (our garden borders a very busy sidewalk)

    1. Tom, thanks for the added ideas. The remesh has worked very well, we haven’t had an issue with pulling it flat, although it does rust. Cattle fence panels won’t rust, are sturdier and more ideal, but we wanted to give a more affordable option in this example. Since we suggest rotating crops annually we wanted a version that was easy to store and move. It is so great to hear how others create in the garden! Thanks for sharing!

  12. That’s what I’m doing this year, though I was thinking of 3/4″ PVC to support the hog panels. T-posts sound like a better idea.

    p.s. Hope you had good luck with the Tatuma (I call ’em Calabacitas). They are actually a winter squash that is harvested young. They are awesome.

    1. Hi Dennis,
      Thanks for your comment. Re: ‘Tatuma’ have you tried it as a winter squash? I am curious about your opinion of the flavor. I have seen some mixed reviews of the texture, but if it is delicious I think that information would be helpful to other customers. Who doesn’t love a double purpose vegetable? Thanks!

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