Record cold and winter snow is a distant memory this weekend as summer officially arrives at 12:38 PM Sunday. For gardeners, that also means it’s “tomato time”. Tomato plants are finally kicking it into a new gear after the recent warmth and periods of rain. My wife and I grow my family’s indeterminate heirloom variety called “Mussolini Bombs”. My dad also helps keep the tomato tradition going. I’m not thrilled about the name, but that’s what my Sicilian grandmother called them because the fruit look like WWII bombs without the fins. Regardless, the plan this time of year is to get the plants off the ground so they can grow happy and healthy throughout the summer. One question I often get is, “How do you stake/string your tomato plants.” If you grow many plants in rows, you might like this trellis method I learned as a kid.
- 6′ metal U posts. T posts can be used at the ends
- 14 gauge galvanized wire
- Baler Twine
- Hammer a U post every 10 feet so that the top is about 5 feet high.
- Hammer a T or U post at a slight angle on each end
- Thread the 14 gauge galvanized wire through the top hole of each post, hand tighten, and wrap ends a food down on angled end posts.
- Tighten wire by hammering angled posts on each end deeper into the soil.
- When wire nice and tight, it’s time for string. Measure the distance from the ground to the wire and add about 8 inches. Take that value and divide by 2. That number will be the distance in inches to pound two nails into a garage or barn wall. Wrap baling twine around nails until bulky. Tie two lose knots on the top and bottom. Finally using a utility knife cut all pieces of string located at the bottom nail.
Now all your string is the same length. I like to tie the bundle to my belt loop which allows easy access to string while working down the row.
- At the bottom of each plant tie one end of the string.
- Loop string around the plant being mindful to not disturb any flowers.
- It’s also important at this point to prune suckers.
- Attach end of string to the tight galvanized wire by looping twice and creating s slip knot. This is important because you’ll need to release the knot at least two more times to string plants higher as they grow.
As plants continue to grow, untie and string plants higher on the trellis. I prefer to end the growth around the height of the 5′ wire. That’s enough for three sets of tomatoes and typically the frost gets the third set before I do. If you grow an indeterminate variety like I do, I think you’ll find this method to be a good one for keeping plants neat, healthy, and off the ground (My wife is a big help in stringing plants).
In a month or two, it’s time to eat fresh, freeze, and make sauce. Luckily I have some help!
If you have questions on this or perhaps you’d like to grow my family’s heirloom tomatoes next year, I’d love to hear from you. Happy growing!