Since my first season of gardening, tomatoes have always been a staple. Every year we at least grow a few just to have that fresh taste of summer. Truth is Kristyn and I don’t like fresh tomatoes, but we relish in stocking up on our own tomatoe sauce each year. As nearly any gardener knows, tomatoes don’t do so well without some support. If they aren’t lifted up off the ground, they become prone to disease and pest damage, so a tomato trellis is a must.
I spent many years just throwing up a tomato cage and letting that do the trick. Those old tomato cages eventually break and needed replacing. Instead of just swapping out for a new set, I started trying out alternatives tomato trellis designs (here is our 2014 and 2015 efforts).
We have used different types of cages, homemade bamboo trellis, and staking through the years. They all have their drawbacks whether it was cost, quality of support, or harvest accessibility. At the end of the day, we want something that is simple to construct every year that provides great support without preventing us from easily harvesting.
Enter the Florida weave. This wonderfully simple method of training tomatoes is making some waves on our homestead this year. The Florida weave is an incredibly effective method of trellising tomatoes planted in rows. It’s easy to set up and uses garden space far more efficiently than anything else we have ever tried. It works best with indeterminate types of tomatoes, just beware that you might be breaking out a ladder if they outgrow you.
Sturdy Stakes (6-8’ tall)
Indeterminate tomatoes will grow over 4’ tall by the end of the year. If you planted early and have a long growing season, it may be well over that. We used 6’ posts to cover our bases. There are all kinds of things you can use for posts. Many commercial growers and gardeners use 2×2 wooden stakes which are strong, economical, and fairly durable. However, wood eventually rots. Metal t-posts are ideal as they offer even more strength and last for many years. Though many people swear by them, I’m not a big fan of using rebar. They have always gotten rust everywhere in my garden and became a mess to deal with.
Go for a 3-ply jute or sisal twine. They are natural and biodegradable, so they be cut down at the end of the season and left to decompose in the garden. Other non-natural twines will have to be completely removed and thrown away. Otherwise, you end up digging up string for years to come.
Installing the Florida weave tomato trellis
Drive stakes in ground at least one foot deep. Put one stake at each end of the row. For longer rows, space posts out about 4’ between each.
Starting at the end of a row, tie the twine to the stake. Aim for around 8-12 inches off of the ground or adjusted to whatever you need to start supporting the base of the tomatoes.
Pull the twine around the front side of the tomatoes under the leaves you intend to support. Working towards the next stake, continue to pull the twine keeping it tight weaving it through the leaves. If you have multiple posts in a row, loop the twine around the next post and continue until you reach the end of the row.
After looping the twine on the end of the row, pull it around the back side of the tomatoes at the same height you started. Continue pulling and weaving the twine through the leaves until you reach the first stake. Cut the twine from the roll and tie it off keeping everything nice and tight.
Continue tying the tomatoes up level by level. Space the twine equally as you go up until the tomatoes are fully supported. Every couple of weeks you will add another level of twine as the tomatoes continue to grow. Keep it up until you reach the top of the stakes.
Once they are supported, I go back and prune tomatoes to help them focus their growth where it matters. To learn the best ways of pruning tomatoes, check out our post on it. After a little training and pruning our tomatoes will bursting to life and loaded with flowers and small fruit. It looks like it’s going to be a good year for our tomatoes thanks to the Florida weave tomato trellis.