New Tomato Trellising and Training System (Video)

July 10, 2009

What can be worse than rambling tomato vines and rotting fruits sprawling all over the garden? How about spending money on tomato cages and fancy supports that really are not up to the task of keeping your tomato vines upright, productive, and happy!

I’m trying a brand new tomato staking system in my garden this summer and here’s a video to help show how simple, easy, and inexpensive it can be to trellis tomatoes in your backyard garden:

Start with the tallest metal fence posts you can find, add a spool of 16 gauge wire, something to tie the tomato vines onto the wire, and there you have everything needed to train and trellis your heirloom tomatoes.

I’m using the tomato trellis clips from Johnny’s Seeds and while they are made of non-biodegradable plastic, they are reusable and can be used from one season to the next. There are also other applications such as training cucumber vines that will put these clips to good use.

Pruning your tomato vines and removing the sucker growth is an important part of the trellising process, but it takes very little effort if you are consistent about it. I have to thank and credit Leslie Zuck of Common Ground Farm for sharing this trellising system at last winter’s annual PASA Conference.

As with any growing method, you should plant your tomato transplants very deeply when setting them out in order to encourage strong root systems. Leslie also emphasized using a mulch around the tomato plants as part of this trellising system. That’s something I normally don’t do with my tomatoes but I’m following her advice and applied a straw mulch after transplanting.

trellised-tomatoesI’ve just strung my third strand of wire along the row and this tomato trellis system is working out better than the cages ever did for me. Plus the wire can be reused over and over, and the t-posts will take up much less space in storage during the off-season.

I don’t think that I’ll be going back to using cages anytime soon! In fact, if anyone local is looking for a couple dozen used tomato cages, I know where you can find some.

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  • Tee

    Trying to tame my tomatoes plants is something that I have struggled with forever. Like you said in the video, I have tried cages, stakes, a combination of both – nothing has ever really worked that great. But this system looks like a winner! I am definitely going to give it a try next season. Thank you for sharing it!

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  • Thanks for the great tips on trellising! This is been an odd growing season in our area this year. We’ve had unseasonably mild weather. My tomato plants are almost 6 feet tall and have outgrown my cages many weeks ago. I’ve added stakes but they’re outgrowing those too.

    I sure wish I had seen your trellising system this spring. I’ll definitely keep it in mind for next year!

  • The beauty of this is the simplicity! I’ve skipped tomatoes this year (blight two years in a row.. time to rest the beds!), but will probably get tomatoes going again next year and this is the trellis i’m going to use. This is also a FAR sturdier trellis than i built for my peas this season. I’ll be replacing those trellises with this one too. Thanks!

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  • J

    I don’t like those short tomato cages either. Here is our solution. We bought a roll of something called construction wire. It is made to roll out to strengthen concrete. The roll already has a grid pattern and it is really strong. We made up round cages and have been using the same cages for 7 or 8 years now–they really last. About once a week we weave the tomato vines through the windows in the wire. This works really well for support. We no longer even need ties or clips. Making the cages takes a little work (wire clippers and then bending the wire to close the circle. But it works great and they last forever.


  • Handy! I may try that next year.

  • Barbee

    Don’t ditch those wire cages just yet!
    I too have a collection of hoop style wire cages that don’t work well w/ tomatoes. Being the cheap-skate that I am-I looked for other uses and found one.
    Summer squash supports.
    I found that my crookneck, straight neck and zucchini squashes grow very well (and tall) using these supports. The fruits are kept off the ground, they are easy to see and harvest plus the added benefit of being able to easily inspect the undersides of the leaves for squash bug eggs has reduced their numbers considerably.

  • In my dreams I have tomatoes that need any staking! Someday though I hope to again live somewhere warm enough to worry about this sort of thing. Right now that San Francisco fog is going to keep my tomatoes down… sigh.

    Great video.

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks for the compliments and for taking time out to watch the tomato trellising video. It’s still holding up well and supporting all of my tomato vines. One additional suggestion that I received was to use some type of brace on the end posts to keep them from being pulled in as the weight on the wires increases. I will keep an eye open and brace the post if needed but so far they are still straight and and all the tomato vines are very happy and finally starting to ripen fruits.

  • Avidgardener

    This is a great idea, but I’m a single older woman that finds this type of physical labor difficult. So, here is what I found for trellising my tomato plants and any other vining plant or plant that requires support. Putting the stakes in the ground are easy and rather than having to run wires back and forth, this is much lighter than wire and easier to set up for us older folks. I buy all of my heirloom tomato plants and other veggies and flowers from Garden Harvest Supply. Here is the link for the trellising system:
    Keep up the good work, you have a great site!

  • Kenny Point

    Avid Gardener, thanks for stopping by and checking out the video. I actually think setting the stakes in the ground is the most physical part of this entire tomato trellising system and that it would be even easier than using the netting that you linked to. I place the wire one strand at a time as the tomato vines grow and there are no tangles like you can get with the wire. Also there is no way that I could ever get the netting to be as sturdy or as rigid as the wire, especially down an entire row of tomato plants.

  • Kevin

    I used to do a lot of work in greenhouses growing tomatoes for an early season harvest to take to market. We did something similar to your method here. We used 10′ T-posts driven two feet into the ground. A post driver and a sturdy step ladder helped a lot. For the trellis we used a flat synthetic rope. It was like electric fencing without the conductors in it. It was tied off at one end of the row and woven back and forth between the plants. At the end it was tied off and brought back down the row weaving through the plants on the other side, trapping the plants between the rope. It is easier to see than to explain. It is a lot like finger weaving. The rope was good for several years and was easy to take down. This was good because as soon as the tomatoes were done the greenhouses had to be cleared out for drying racks.

  • Loved your tomato video. Trellising tomatoes is a wonderful idea, the cages really don’t work for heirloom varieties that seem to take over the garden. I’m definitely going to do this next spring! I’m growing my apple tree on a trellis, I don’t know why I didn’t think about growing tomatoes that way as well.

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks MRK, the tomato trellis is still holding up well and the some of the tomato vines have grown over six feet tall and reached the highest wire. Even then they can continue to grow along the wire. It looks like I have a tomato fence and is much more attractive than the usual jumbled mess of tomato vines. I should probably be pruning the tomatoes better than I have but this system is working great!

  • Eugene Gore

    Hi! I will be brief. My trellis system is… I use fence stakes or some other type of metal pipes to stick in the ground. For the horizontal lines I use the plastic pipes from the Home Depot which are used for the electric wiring. They are around $1 for an 8 foot pipe. The rest is easy to understand. These plastic pipes are light, easy to handle and even do not lose their color. You can keep them and reuse them forever. I use a rope from the dollar store which will be enough for several seasons and more. It is by the way natural, so enjoy. That is it, easy, cheap, and long lasting.

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  • sam

    I could not get the tomato trellising video to go for me..any ideas?

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  • Orange Crush

    Just one season of growing indeterminate tomatoes has shown me that I definitely needed a better way to support them. Just looking at the cages and little flimsy poles they make, I knew that wouldn’t work. I did use ten foot 1X1, but i didn’t have a good system of attaching the plant for support, so I still ended up with plants that went up and then went back down when I ran out of 1X1 (the 1X1 was about 2 foot in the ground so was about 8 foot high). The system that I want to try seems similar to the one on your video, but it’s a little different, and maybe not quite as expensive to do. The video was on Youtube and it shows commercial tomato growers’ version of trellising. What they do is place a stake between each tomato plant, so you have tomato plant, stake, tomato plant, stake. A good quality string is used to “weave” in and out of the plants and stakes. I found it while looking for videos on pruning, but it also shows their trellising system: Just curious is anyone has tried this before and how it turned out for them? Also, a couple notes on pulling suckers….by pulling suckers you will end up with larger fruit, but also fewer fruit. With determinate varieties of tomatoes, you start pulling suckers much later than with indeterminate varieties. One more thing…what do you think of the new UV light reflective plastic mulches? I had a problem with thrips and the tomato spotted virus they spread this year…so I’m thinking about incorporating all these things into my tomato gardening next year…raised beds, UV reflective mulch and the trellis system on that video. Any ideas?

  • Thanks for the video Kenny, I think I am going to try a trellis system next year. I usually put el cheapo 7′ bamboo poles in the ground to support my plants, so of course the most you get to use is 6′ after you’ve sunk them in, and for some time now I’ve been trying to creatively fold the vines up and down the poles to keep the branches from breaking off (which frankly has happened several times). Another interesting version I saw somewhere, maybe at the Fine Gardening website, was to install a kind of skeleton gazebo around your tomato plot, and then run string or wire vertically from the top horizontal section, to the ground where the string is connected to short stakes in the ground. I think your system is a good bit simpler, and probably less expensive.

  • Thank you for another insighful post!

  • I just finished watching your video, it’s very helpful! This is certainly something I’m going to do this season. I had tremendous success using a trellis system that I freecycled from a neighbor this year on my cucumber varieties. I don’t have much space so being as vertical as possible is a great advantage. Thank you Kenny, very helpful as always—I especially appreciate this as I’m also located in PA (Northeast).

  • Kenny Point

    You are very welcome Chris, I agree that using trellises are great for smaller sized vegetable gardens and some crops just grow better when they are able to grow vertical instead of along the ground.

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  • […]thanks for the info!! I don’t know what we expected, but this guy seems to have the answer! Trellis training – the way to go, and it looks affordable[…]

  • Jen

    Love the idea of trellising my tomato plants. Wondering where to get some good tall fence posts? Any ideas?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Jen, the metal fence post are pretty easy to find and work great with this tomato trellising system. You should be able to locate fence posts that are at least six feet tall at your local building supply, garden center, or farm supply store.

  • Allie

    Hi Kenny, thank you so much for the great information on this site! I also have been growing heirloom tomatoes and need a better support system than what I have been doing. I was looking at the T-trellis system with the plants growing up a heavy string as well as the one you use. Did you experience any problems with the system you employed? All of the Central Americans who live near me use the same method as you. Everything looks so nice and orderly. Will this help alleviate plant blight which I got hit with last year? You know – more air flow around the plants? I try to grow organically so I don’t want to use fungicides unless I absolutely have to.
    Thank so much for sharing your ideas, skills, and talents!

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Allie, the trellis system worked great for my tomatoes last summer and I did not have any problems with it. It will help with pruning, thinning, and air flow, but as for tomato blight, most of us suffered with that last season. You are very welcome and good luck with your tomatoes and whatever trellising system you decide to employ.

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  • Kathy C

    Hi Kenny, Love your idea! I was wondering how I was going to fit all my veggies into a 4×8 raised bed, and I think you just gave me the answer! One question, however: can I use this trellis system for my pole beans, zucchini, peppers and cukes? If so your system truly will be the answer to my prayers!

  • I have the stakes in the ground and the tomatoes planted (started from seed). I will follow your instructions to the letter. Thank you for this excellent video.

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  • Leonard Diiorio

    We have been using this technique for a number of years. We found that it is better to string all the wire beforehand and simply adjust the vines as they grow – rarely are clips or ties necessary.

    We DO have problems with heavy vines taking the metal fenceposts down. Also, our vines tend to grow 8 to 11 feet high and our stakes just aren’t that long. We grow near a fence and hang the 4 x 8 sidewalk rebar on the fence itself – the plants seem to gravitate toward it and need little attention.

    Next year we plan to use the rebar AND the fence posts. The little tabs on the fence posts work quite well at holding the rebar up and if we put the rebar on it’s side (the 8 foot side) then we should have a trellis that will resist sagging, be 8 feet high and support about any tomato we wish. I hate throwing that wire away every year as well.

    Happy growing.

    Leonard & Gerri

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  • Carolyn Vynckier

    I am great-full for your tips I can really see this idea working for me, I have done this with vine garden beans. Also what works for me is a orange like net and I guide the vines into the large loop holes and it has hold up well for vine beans and vine tomatoes.

    Happy Spring

  • matt

    I’ve just installed a trellis like this on my raised beds. I used 8′ 2x2s and eye hooks spaced ever foot. I added a 1×2 at the top for added support and screwed the 2×2 to the ends of the raised beds. I then strung the wire from the eye hooks. I plan on weaving the tomato vines through the wires and securing w twine. thanks for the idea!

  • Joe Hasenstab

    Hi Kenny,

    Thanks for the great video on the tomato trellis system. We are putting together our trellis site to transfer our tomato plants that we have been growing in our greenhouse. I haven’t been able to find metal posts with holes in them. Can you make any suggestions? We can order online or somewhere locally — we live in Northern California.

    Thank you very much,


  • Kenny Point

    Hello Joe, those are just the standard metal fence posts that are available just about everywhere here. Garden centers, farm supply stores, Home Depot, Lowe’s, they all carry them. Usually painted green they are relatively inexpensive but you definitely want to find them locally because shipping would probably be costly. There is a photo of the type of fence post that I use towards the bottom of the page at this link.

  • Stu Estrade

    Kenny, THANKS for the video and explanations.
    How far apart do you recommend the T-posts?
    I have a 15 foot row of 7 Celebrity tomatoes and spaced the the 3 T-posts 7 1/2′ apart.

  • Kenny Point

    Stu, that spacing should work but for a short row I might even use four posts spaced evenly over the same distance to be distribute the weight and keep the load from pulling in the two end posts. That would give you a post every five feet apart.

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  • Frank Marino

    Hi Kenny I used your idea of the trellis system for tomatoes, so far it works good. I used 2×4’s and screwed them to the short sides of my raised bed the strung 60Lb fishing line between the wooden uprights, using multiple passes at each level that gave me lines (at the same level) 3 1/2 apart and just let the plants grow right up the middle between the lines. My tomato plants are about three feet tall so far and I am getting ready to add another line. This is the first year I actually have something growing in the garden.Thanks for the help.

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  • Kitty H

    Oh boy! I tried the Florida weave with my tomato plants. It didn’t work so well. The tomatoes are all determinate and they still kept sliding sideways. I think I’ll try Kenny’s way next summer. Live and learn.

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