Staking up and supporting tomato plants has got to be one of the more time-consuming pastimes of the home gardener, and there’s plenty of ways to do it. Circular cages, bamboo stakes, stacked hoops, special ties that won’t hurt the vines, you name it, the home stores will be glad to sell it to you.
If you have a garden and a library, you have all you need. ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
In past seasons, I’ve used bamboo and wood stakes in the raised beds, and spent quite a bit of time tying the vines to the stakes. Last year, I tried my hand at cattle panels.
Cattle panels are basically farm fencing material made of heavy-gauge galvanized wire. I found some just laying around on our newly-purchased acreage, and put it it to use in the home garden as a vertical trellis. You can catch just a glimpse of it amidst all the tomato greenery below.
So using cattle panels for trellising is fairly common, and not that clever.
What is clever is rotating the panels ninety degrees to the horizontal, and growing the tomatoes through the panels. Again, not my idea. I saw this method year in what I think was Oklahoma Gardener magazine. I’d give more credit than this, but I can’t find a source on the interwebpipes.
The one tomato bed in the back yard had already six tomato plants (Husky Cherry, Lemon Boy, Better Boy, Golden Sunrise, and Juliet). Should have planned a little better, but the weather’s been nice, making for an impatient gardener (get those plant in the ground now!)
My neighbour asked if he could use my lawnmower and I told him of course he could, so long as he didn’t take it out of my garden. ~ Eric Morecambe
The slight trick was to get the vertical 4′ x 8′ panel, and flip it horizontal, without any other helping hands, and without hurting the new plants. Using some twine to suspend the panel from the support frame, I got ready the cross supports.
Once the cross braces are screwed in about two feet above the plants, the panel is secured with some zip ties.
That’s panel number one, at two feet elevation. The next two will be put at four and six feet high, and should save some time, as the tomato vines grow up through the panel squares. To guide the plants up the panel, a couple of bamboo stakes per plant for support.
Cattle panels are readily available at farm & garden stores like Atwood’s and Tractor Supply, or from farm auctions. Or, you could do what I did, go the extreme expensive route and buy some acreage out in the country. There’s bound to be some cattle panels laying around somewhere.