If you read the article about the gourd tunnel, you know basically what we did here too. The biggest difference is the width. Vines grow a long ways, especially if you train them and prune them for it. In fact by late July our gourds had grown about 8 feet from both sides to meet in the middle. Tomato plants will do significantly less length on a design like this so the tunnel needs to be smaller. We design ours to be easily walkable.
Our tomato tunnel is going to be awesome. It is the grand entryway to one of our kitchen gardens. The space between the bales is three feet in case we want to bring a wheelbarrow or something else large into the garden. This will also provide plenty of airflow through the tunnel as well.
Again, like the gourd tunnel, we used t-steaks and re-mesh to build the trellis. But this time, we just put up our sides on the t-steaks and then bent them down and overlapped two squares. By fastening the ends of both sides together with a small overlap the re-mesh made a perfect archway.
Here’s the tricky part with the tomato tunnel: Not all tomatoes will grow very large. In fact, Roma’s (which are great for canning) only grow to about three feet. This is nowhere near the size we need to fill in a tunnel. To solve this problem, we alternated our determinate (meaning they grow to a certain size, bear fruit, and then die) and our indeterminate (meaning they just keep growing and producing until frost) tomatoes. I have at least one indeterminate tomato in each bale. so it can grow up and spread out while the smaller determinate plants can fill in the bottom.
I am expecting about 20 pounds of tomatoes per plant. The tunnel is 5 bales long. With two sides, this will give us 20 plants. A total of 400 pounds of tomatoes.
It is important to help train the tomato plants as well. While they are pretty hardy growers, they do need support so they don’t fall over or break. I have been very successful with growing tomatoes on a trellis and the key is to clip off any extra shoots so that there is one main stem growing into the re-mesh and then spreading out from there.
With time, the plants will fill in and we will have a sweet tunnel for the kids to play in and for us to pick tomatoes out of.
Follow this series and you will see the progress this year!