If you're new to growing tomatoes and not sure how to set up your plants, a trellis might seem like a complex and unnecessary system. Given that a trellis takes much more effort than merely letting your tomatoes grow into a thicket, why bother constructing a trellis?
The answer is that trellises make planting and harvesting your tomatoes much more comfortable. They're also very durable, which means they can support your plants for years! Overall, a tomato trellis is one of the most useful things you can build to help your plants.
First, this article will discuss what a tomato trellis is. Because there are a few basic types of trellises, you'll need to determine which one works best for you. Then, we'll discuss why a trellis is so useful for your garden. Read ahead to find out everything you need to know!
What is Tomato Trellis?
In its most basic form, a trellis is any structure that you build to support tomato vines as they grow. The external structure allows the plants to grow upward rather than outward. The vertical vines are much more organized than ground-level tomato thickets; it's also a lot easier to harvest tomatoes from a trellis than from the ground.
Some people build their trellises, often consisting of just string and a pole. You can wrap the string around the vine and attach it to the mast to pull the vines upward. More complex trellises are built from wood or metal and provide ample surface space for tomatoes to grow on.
Many trellises look like vertical grates, organized in a grid pattern up. Other trellises fan out or incorporate smooth, flowing lines for a more elegant appearance. Some large trellises are shaped like a gazebo. They allow you to rest in the shade underneath the plants!
Do My Tomatoes Need a Trellis?
If you're considering a trellis, you should know that not all tomatoes will grow with a trellis. Certain types of tomato plants prefer to grow at ground level.
There are "indeterminate" and "determinate" types of tomatoes. People often refer to indeterminate tomatoes as "vine tomatoes." Determinate ones are also named bush tomatoes.
Indeterminate tomatoes grow for a more extended season each year and produce their fruit around the calendar. These plants grow much more abundant, meaning that they can often use trellises for added support.
Determinate (bush) tomatoes, on the other hand, have a much shorter growing and fruiting season. Because they don't take so much time to grow, they don't expand above ground level. Trellises are unnecessary if you're only dealing with bush tomatoes.
How Trellises are Useful
As we mentioned above, tomato trellises are some of the most useful projects you can apply to your garden. They offer a variety of benefits to keep your tomato plants healthy and growing properly. Let's break down some of the specific reasons why a tomato trellis is such a good idea for your garden.
Plant More Tomatoes
If you have a limited amount of space in your garden, a tomato trellis is a great way to maximize the number of plants you can grow. On the ground, tomatoes have limited space -- they may crowd each other out, or they may struggle to get enough sunlight and water.
A trellis opens up an extra new dimension for your plants to grow. The unique vertical space means that you can capitalize and grow more tomato plants in the same amount of ground space. And while one trellis may open up a lot of new growing surface, you can take things even further. Plant multiple trellises to maximize your growth potential.
Though a trellis may take some work to build and install on the front end, it will pay off when you can grow and harvest more tomatoes throughout the year. If you're strapped for space but wish you could produce more vegetables, a trellis is a quick and easy way to solve the problem.
On the ground, tomato plants are fighting for space and frequently grow into a dense thicket. Not only does this sort of bush make it challenging to harvest your tomatoes, but it also forces some of the plants out of the sunlight.
Building a trellis ensures that each one of your plants gets plenty of sunlight and fresh air as they grow. Because tomato vines aren't as dense when they grow vertically, they won't create the same sort of competition that you find in tomato bunches on the ground.
And with improved access to natural resources like air, light, and water, your tomatoes will most likely grow more prominent and juicier as well. A trellis is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to improve the quality of your fresh vegetables without changing anything else about your plants.
If you grow tomatoes in your garden, the chances are that your plants are dirty. It's easy for your tomatoes to pick up dust, mud, and other messes when they lie so close to the ground. When it comes time to harvest, the plants often look less than appealing.
A trellis is a quick and easy solution to your problems with messes. Though it's not perfect -- the plants can still pick up some dirt through the air -- a trellis moves your plants out of the dust and into a much cleaner environment.
If you live in a particularly dusty climate, you can always protect your trellis with a net or other shield. Spraying the plants with a bit of water will quickly get rid of any built-up grime. If you grow tomatoes on the ground, spraying too much water into the plants will only turn your garden into a mud slick!
A tomato trellis can solve any problems you have with wind near your plants. In areas with particularly strong winds, the gusts can topple or even uproot your plants from the ground. Many trellises are sturdy enough to resist high winds without falling over.
Because you tie your vines to the trellis, it also decreases the chance that the wind will catch one of your plants and pull the trellis. In some ways, tying the plants to the trellis is a more stable solution than leaving them to fend for themselves on the ground. There's less freedom for the plants to smack into other objects.
If you want to make your trellis as secure as possible, you can mount it to a wall of your house or shed. This way, the plants will be even more secure than on a free-standing trellis.
Easier to Harvest
Any gardener who's planted tomatoes knows how difficult it can be to reach into a thicket and grab all of the vegetables at harvest time. It's annoying, time-consuming, and can be painful for your back. A trellis makes it much easier to instantly identify and pick all of your ripe tomatoes, saving you time and effort.
Installing a trellis may also help you increase your yield by making sure that you find every tomato. Particularly dense tomato thickets may hide ripe plants when you go to pick them. Weeks later, the overripe tomatoes can rot and become havens for dirt, bugs, and other critters.
On a trellis, it's easy to see which tomatoes are ready to harvest. You won't miss any ripe tomatoes in a patch of obscured plants.
Prevent Pest Damage
Finally, trellises are one of the best defenses you can install against pest damage in your garden. The vast majority of critters that attack tomato plants come from the soil and the ground. With tomato bushes where the fruit hangs low, it's easy for bugs to attack and destroy many of your matured plants. By the time you come to harvest them, the tomatoes will already be half-eaten and festering.
A trellis makes it much more difficult for undesirable pests to reach your tomatoes. The higher up your plants are on the trellis, the better. Even relatively short trellises discourage many ground-based bugs from climbing up to access the plants.
If you're looking to eliminate all of the flying pests as well, you can hang your trellis with a net. The net prevents flies and other airborne bugs from landing on your tomatoes. This net is a simple and cheap modification that may pay huge dividends for your garden. Depending on your previous garden setup, you may even be able to re-use a net from your ground-based tomato bushes!
A tomato trellis is one of the best modifications you can make to any garden with tomato plants. It's cheap, cost-effective, and can greatly increase both the number and quality of your tomato plants. There are many different sizes of trellises, all best suited to a different type of garden -- take your time and look for an option that's right for you!
Featured Image: Flickr