How to Grow Tomatoes: Trellis

How to Grow Tomatoes: Trellis


[music] Hi, I’m Mark Hutton, University of Maine Cooperative
Extension Vegetable Specialist. What I’d like to talk to you about today is one of the ways
you can trellis your indeterminate tomato varieties for at home. You can build a trellis using many different
types of material. The particular trellis I’ve built here, we’re using some angle iron
that’s drilled out. These have been pounded into the ground about two feet. A 4×4 post
would work, or any other kind of tall fencepost. And then we’ve taken a heavy nine-gauge wire
and stretched across the top. I’ve also seen this done with 2x4s across the top, on top
of 4×4 posts. Then from our wire, we’re hanging a string
down to our plants. Now, these plants don’t look quite as big as what you may normally
expect to see in your home garden. We’ve pruned these back to a single stem, and we’ve been
wrapping the stem around this string as the plant grows. And we want to keep it fairly
tight. We don’t want to take off too much foliage, we’re not taking off any foliage,
but we are removing the suckers that are coming out from the leaf axils. So, if you look at this plant, you can see
we’ve got a sucker coming off right here. This is what we’re going to be removing. So
we can simply just snap that off. And we keep these pruned all the way up. Oops, here’s
one down here that we’ve missed. And as the plant grows, it’ll continue to try and put
out more suckers, but we’ll just keep removing those, and we’ll very carefully wrap the stem
around the string as the plant grows taller. Now, when we wrap and when we prune, we never
want to prune off the last sucker at the top of the plant. So here’s our last sucker here.
We want to leave this on until the plant grows a little bit taller. If, for instance, you
can see here that the tip of this plant has broken off, so we’re going to rely on the
next lowest sucker that’s still on the plant may become our new growing point, our new
stem leading up the vine. But we’ll wrap this around just to see. Maybe it’s going to be
all right. Here’s another sucker down here that we want to just very carefully just snap
off. Now, we can prune these plants to a single
stem. You see, our plant spacing here is about 18 inches. Another option for trellising tomatoes
would be to trellis our tomatoes with two stems, rather than a single stem. If you’re
going to trellis your plants to two stems, we’re going to treat these individual plants
really as two plants. So you notice that we’ve opened up the plant spacing. When we’re at
a single stem, we were at about 15 to 18-inch spacing. Now, we’re at about a three-foot
spacing between plants. Basically we’re going to treat these, as I said, as two separate
plants. So, we’re going to keep two main branches
on our plant. And the branches that we’re going to keep will be the main branch that
has the first flower cluster. Our second branch will be the lowest branch that comes out beneath
the first flower cluster. We call that the fork. That way we have the two branches trellising
up, and then we’re going to again keep all the suckers, which are the stems or small
branches in the leaf axils. Here’s our leaf, here’s our sucker. We’re going to keep those
removed. What’s going to happen with those is they’ll
grow and take energy from the plant. Eventually they’ll produce some fruit. But for us here
in New England, by the time these suckers produce fruit that we could eat, it’s really
going to be too late in the season. So, here you can see we’ve got a tomato plant.
This is an indeterminate tomato plant, the vining-type tomato plant. And you can see
our main stem, which has the flower clusters on the stem. And here we see, we’ve got a
couple hands of fruit that have set. And then at each leaf, we often have a small branch.
— we refer to these as suckers — starting to grow. So here we can see a fairly large
one. Here’s a smaller one. And when we talk about pruning tomatoes, what
we’re talking about is removing these suckers. In this case, we’re pruning our plant to just
a single, very strong stem. It’s what’s going to have our flower clusters, that’s where
our fruit is going to be. If we were to leave these suckers to develop, eventually they’ll
get flowers and they’ll set fruit. But usually, it’s going to be very far out, and it’s taking
a lot of energy away from the main plant. So, we want to go through, if we’re pruning
to a single stem, and remove all those suckers. [music]

21 Replies to “How to Grow Tomatoes: Trellis”

  1. Sucker growth doesn't 'take away' from the 'main plant.' A sucker is a natural part of the plant growth pattern, not a mistake or a parasite. And the photosynthesis that goes on in the leaves of the sucker shoot generate much of what's needed to produce fruit. Many experiments have shown that there's little difference between de-suckered plants and free growing plants. Single stem plants might produce fruit a little earlier, and multi stem plants may produce a little more fruit.

  2. Tomato suckers are branches that come off the main stem of the plant. Removal of suckers can lead to earlier production of high quality fruit but do not need to be pruned off the plant, and will eventually produce fruit. Un-pruned plants have the potential to produce greater overall yields both in numbers and weight of fruit, though the trade off is loss of early ripening and fruit size. Therefore, pruning of smaller fruited varieties is often not done.

  3. When trellising tomatoes up a string, the string is loosely tied around the base of the plant. This is simply a method to attach the string to the plant.

  4. Can you please tell me when should we start trellishing the plant? Maybe when it reaches at a certain height?
    Thanks

  5. Great question! If trellising a single stem by winding the stem around a string, the process is started once the plant is 6-8" tall. Every couple of days, or even daily depending on the plant growth rate, the stem can be wound around the string.

    Basket weaving of tomatoes begins when the plants are about 12" tall. New strings are added at about 8-12" intervals.

  6. I'm wondering how much angle iron is above the ground. I heard you say 2 ft go into the ground but not sure how long the angle iron is overall. Also, what size angle iron did you use? Would 1 1/2" X 1/8" work in 8ft lengths? Thanks!

  7. I don't get why everybody insist on taking off the suckers, they grow tomatoes too and you get a bushier plant.

  8. I Only remove Suckers on indeterminate Varieties, They serve no purpose but to make a bushy plant with very little fruit. Determinate types actually need the suckers and more growth to increase your chances for more tomatoes.

  9. Do tomato plants require Sun on the base of the plant to grow? Thinking of something to grow in a window well of a deck, to climb up a full sun brick wall. I can see there will be Sun and heat on the main plant, but the base of the plant will be shaded and much cooler, down in the window well. If this doesn't work, I may do them in containers on the deck top. Any advice, thanks,

  10. I'm from guyana our sir told us that u don't rop the plant around the string but u simply tiy the plant it the top and pull the string as the plant grows so is our teacher right ro is he roung please tell me : thank you

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