how I make and use pole and string tomato supports

Garden Structures, Tomatoes

tomato supports IMG_5821
tomato supports IMG_5878

The season is fading and I can see my garden structures again. My husband designed these tomato supports for me and I’ve used then probably 10 years now. I used to make tepees out of 10-ft 1×1 inch poles. That worked OK, but poles and string are less work, support the vines better, and give better air flow. Here’s what I do to set up and use pole and string tomato supports.

Side support materials:
Two 5-ft metal fence poles
Two 8-ft wood posts, 2×3 in, with a hole in the top that fits the cross pole that will be used
Post driver
Zip ties

Cross pole:
One 10-ft metal pipe (copper or galvanized)

Tomato support materials:
Twine and scissors

Setting up the supports:
First, I firmly pound the fence poles into the soil using the post driver. I place them about 9-ft from each other, so the metal cross pole will be well supported and there will be a bit of overhang. Then to each fence pole I attach the wood post with the hole in the top making sure that the holes are set up so the pole can go through them. I used to attach them with screws and bolts, but I’ve gotten lazy and just use zip ties now. Once the end posts are up and are very solid in the ground, I run the long metal pipe through the holes at the top.

Supporting a tomato vine:
Space plants about 12 inches apart. I usually plant 5 tomato plants below each 10-ft pole. Lay out and plant the seedlings with even spacing. While they are still small seedlings, I usually support the plants by tying them to small sticks. When the plants are about 1-2 ft high, I tie them to the top pole. To do this: I run out enough twine to go from the ground, up and over the pole, and then down to the ground again. Add some extra. I spiral the two pieces of twine around the plant down to it’s base then tie it to the stem. To tie it, I choose a sturdy location of the stem, preferably below the lowest leaf. Tie a bow knot in the two strands of twine to hold them together. Then use the two ends to wrap around the tomato stem a few times and secure them with a double knot. That’s it. Repeat this for all of the plants.

Caring for the vines:
For plants on pole supports, it’s best to pick off suckers so the vines stay tall and don’t grow into adjacent plants. I gradually remove the bottom leaves as they turn yellow. This gives the plants more airflow. It’s best to water from below and keep water off the leaves to reduce the spread of fungal diseases. As the vines grow, wind them with the string. Check on the tie at the bottom of the plant. If it becomes constricting, replace it with a looser knot. Sometimes a second string is need for extra support of the vine if you have a particularly heavy crop of fruit.


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