Training Tomatoes Up a Trellis

This entry is part 22 of 31 in the series Grow Your Own Challenge

Hello, one question I am repeatedly asked is: “How do you grow all those tomatoes?” I have tested several methods of growing tomatoes and I have developed my own technique which has worked literally every time since. It started when my neighbor and friend, Joel Karsten, who wrote the New York Times bestselling book “Straw Bale Gardens” encouraged me to try bales with my tomatoes. That first year I went from an average tomato grower to getting an exceptional harvest. From there, I tested out different trellis designs and have come up with the following system that keeps the garden small in size and produces hundreds of pounds of healthy tomatoes. I don’t ever weed, I don’t ever manually water, and I have very few bugs and pests. I spend about 5 minutes a week caring for the plants outside of harvesting the tomatoes.

I am a “lazy gardener” and I don’t want to have to work at it. Yet I still produce hundreds of pounds of tomatoes a year in a fairly small area. The key is to set up your straw bale garden and then to trellis your tomatoes and fertilize monthly. The straw bale system ensures they get watered correctly automatically, get fresh organic soil as the bales decompose, and the bales hold just the right amount of moisture through the day. Many gardeners use a tomato cage to support their tomato plants. I prefer to use a trellis to save space. I figured that if you can train them vertically, you can save space and still maintain your yield. I have nick named my trellis the “tomato tunnel” because it makes a nice archway that the tomatoes will grow through.

Training the tomato plant takes minimal effort. When they are young, there is really nothing to do. They have to grow just enough to be able to reach the trellis to start. The only thing I’ll do at this point is to cut off any secondary stems coming up. I want most of the energy of the plant going into a single stalk so it can reach up higher.

IMG_7097 3-1

As the tomato plant grows, you can let it branch out, you just don’t want second stalks starting by the roots. Gently weave the branch through the trellis as they grow.

june tomato

By July they look fairly mature and there will be a lot of green tomatoes growing.

july tomato

This year was a late year. We got our first ripe fruit the first week of August. It is normal for the branches of the tomato plant to turn yellow and wilt as the tomatoes on them ripen. This tunnel produced about 250 pounds of tomatoes in August.
august tomato

By September, the plants will keep growing on top and will continue to produce good tomatoes. But it will start to look viney and stretched out.
september tomato

This is my technique. It works very well and we get enough tomatoes to make all of our tomato juice, tomato soup, ketchup, bbq, and all of our tomato bases for marinara, etc… for the entire year.

Series Navigation<< Dill Pickle Recipe For Water Bath CanningBasil Garlic Tomato Sauce Review >>