3 Best tomato & pepper trellising methods: Easiest ways to stake or support tomatoes and bell peppers
Tomatoes and bell peppers as well as English cucumbers are some of those plants in your vegetable garden that require some form of trellising or support because the fruits can get so large and heavy. Trellising keeps the plant upright and prevents the stems from breaking during any high periods of wind or heavy rains. It’s also important to trellis tomatoes and bell peppers so that you keep the plant leaves off the ground, which helps to reduce any possible plant diseases that may develop from excess ground moisture.
From my experience, the three most effective tomato and bell pepper trellising techniques are stringing method, Florida Weave or basket weave or twine weaved method and finally the staking method. In this farming tutorial we will explore in great detail all the three methods.
The first thing to consider when planning your tomato or bell pepper trellis is whether you are growing vine (indeterminate) or bush (determinate) tomatoes or peppers. Bush or determinate tomatoes or peppers grow for a shorter season, setting and ripening their fruit during a concentrated period. This makes bush varieties excellent for canning or bulk market supply. It also means their height is limited and tall trellises are not necessary.
Determinate tomatoes only grow to a set height — usually about 3 to 4 feet (about 0.9m to 1.2m). They need staking but they don’t have the intensive staking needs that others do. Indeterminate tomatoes have a vining habit and require more intensive staking measures for best results.
Growing the vines on a trellis will keep them out of pathways. Trellising makes fruit easier to find, speeding and improving the ergonomics of harvest. Trellised vines can be grown at a higher density than vines that are sprawled, since they can make use of the vertical space over the plant, instead of growing into each other — which optimizes yield.
There are a lot of different options for trellising tomatoes or bell peppers, also known as capsicums. The system that will work best for you depends mostly on the following:
1. The type of tomato or pepper you are growing.
2. Where you are growing it.
3. How much labour you want to put into it.
Ideally, you start trellising tomato or pepper plants when they are about 1 feet or 30cm tall and easier to manage. I do mine about 2 to 3 weeks after I transplant the tomatoes.
1. SINGLE STEM TRELLIS METHOD OR STRINGING METHOD
Stringing is a method that up until recently was normally only seen in commercial greenhouses. This is my preferred method, and it's the one I always use since I always grow indeterminate tomatoes in my shade cloth greenhouse.
The stringing method, although it's usually used on a single stem, it can be used on two to three stems per plant, which each stem being supported by its own string, however, one stem yields best results and is much easier to work with.
The method requires nothing more than string and something to support the string from. Tomato stems are wound up the string as they grow. Stringing is literally allowing your tomatoes to climb up a single string. Doing this, along with the pruning that goes together with this method results in SUPER neat and tidy rows of tomatoes.
In the single stem trellis method, you decide to pinch off all the suckers the tomato plant produces and you train the main stem up a stake of some sort. If you’re unfamiliar with suckers, they’re the stem that grows at a 45 degree angle between the main stem and a leaf. Suckers become pretty much like their own tomato plant themselves if left to grow. We'll talk about removing suckers and pruning tomatoes in another video.
You will need stronger poles at the end of the rows, and some poles along the rows if you are going to have lots of plants. A wire will have to run above the poles along the row and this is where you will hang your trellising baller twine on before it runs down into the soil. I personally use barbed wire as it stops trellising twine from moving willy-nilly.
Next, tie (not too tight!) the other end of the string to the stem of the tomato plant underneath it, close to the soil. There is one really important thing to pay attention to here. When you tie the tomato plants when they are young, their vine is still thin. As the plant grows, the vine thickens. If you tied the string too tight when the plant was young, it can hurt the vine as it thickens. It’s really important to make sure that you tie the string loosely when the vine is young and that you check the stem every couple of weeks to make sure it’s not damaged.
If you notice that the tie is too tight, you can try to loosen it a bit or, if you want to prevent this altogether, you can use tomato clips instead of tying to the plants. You can also use the tomato clips to attach the plant to the string as it grows instead of wrapping the plant around the string.
If you don't want all this, then either delay tying the twine to the stem, or simply wind the end of the trellising twine and then bury the wounded end underground then compact the soil with your fingers to strengthen the trellising twine. As you water the garden and as time elapses, the trellis becomes firmer.
2. FLORIDA WEAVE OR BASKET WEAVE OR TWINE WEAVED METHOD
The other proven option for tomato trellising is called the “Florida Weave”. This technique consists of using stakes along the row and weaving twine between the plants and each stake. The Florida Weave is a great way to trellis tomatoes if you grow too many tomatoes along a row. In this case, the number of resources required to support each plant might not be feasible, so the twine trellis makes more sense.
Start with sturdy stakes at least 6 to 7 feet tall (about 1.8m to 2.1m tall). Thick bamboo works better as it is weather resistant and has amazing tensile strength, but it’s also harder to come by unless you grow your own bamboo. You can use cotton twine or commercial-grade, polymer twine or synthetic baller twine to trellis tomatoes using the “Florida Weave” method. In addition to being a great option for large growers, this option works great for determinate tomato and pepper varieties that have a limited lifespan.
The Florida weave method holds tomato plants upright between the stakes or poles. It takes a lot of stakes and twine and continuous tending. It works better in a garden row rather than a raised bed.
Many small-scale farmers and commercial growers employ the Florida Weave method (also called the Basket Weave method) because it’s fast, simple to set up and maintain, and uses space efficiently during the growing season — as well as after the growing season when there’s so little material to store.
The Florida Weave method works especially well for determinate tomatoes, since they never grow more than 5 feet in height (1.5m). This makes it easy to contain the plants within the weave and have them be fully supported, especially if you’re using wooden stakes and natural-fiber twine.
3. STAKING METHOD
This method is super-simple from the get-go although it requires more work down the road. As the tomato plant matures, you need to tie it up the stake leaving a single main stem by pruning the suckers.
Plants can be tied to t-posts or stakes, one plant per stake. Use whatever stakes you have on hand – wooden stakes, bamboo, metal – just be sure that they’re at least 4 feet high (1.2m high) and preferably sharpened on one end which you push into the soil. Drive a stake to the ground next to every tomato plant and use a string to fasten every tomato plant to a stake erected besides it. This isn’t the easiest method because you need to continuously tie the plant up over the course of the season, but it works and is cheap.
Use synthetic baller twine, nursery tape or small strips of fabric to tie the tomato vines to stakes as they grow. Try tying it not too loose nor too tight. The plant must stay in place, but if you tie it too close, you can damage it.
If you use this method, drive your stakes in when you plant your tomatoes so they won't damage the plants' roots by being driven in later. Place a stake next to every plant and drive it at least 12 inches (30cm) into the ground. Continue to monitor your tomato plants. Keep tying them to the stakes every 18-24 inches (45-60cm) until they grow mature.
Whichever trellising and supporting method you use for your tomatoes or bell peppers, always remember the following:
1. Prune old, lower and unhealthy leaves
Removing the lower leaves as the plant grows as well as unhealthy leaves showing signs of fungal diseases is a good way to help reduce diseases because the most devastating tomato diseases like blight are soil borne and when it rains, the spores splash up onto the tomato leaves, where it then travels up the plant until it eventually kills it. By removing the lower leaves, closest to the ground and unhealthy leaves you can help slow down or prevent your tomatoes from being hit by fungal diseases.
2. Save the trellising system for future plans
At the end of the season, you can simply cut the twine, pull up the plants, and even leave the stakes in place for the following season if they’re not in the way. You can also use the same field and its trellising setup to trellis other plants like peas, pole beans, and cucumbers. Avoid growing bell peppers soon after harvesting your tomatoes, as peppers and tomatoes are in the same family and so share not only the same fertilizers and fungicides5f3, but diseases too.