BUILD YOUR OWN DAMN TOMATO TRELLIS

Our preferred  method of keeping tomatoes off the ground is string trellising. This is a great method for those that want to have multiple different varieties but have limited space availability. It requires a bit of maintenance but it does make for a well organized plant that is easy to work with.

The process involves training the tomato plants to a designated number of “leaders” - usually one to four. For the home garden, four would work quite well. “Leaders” are the main shoot of the plant (leader # 1) and then additional leaders are suckers. 

Tip - wait until a sucker presents that is close in size to the main leader.  In red, is the original leader and then, in the crotch of a leaf branch, a sucker grew and became the second leader. In this case, all other leaders will be removed. 

Tip - wait until a sucker presents that is close in size to the main leader.  In red, is the original leader and then, in the crotch of a leaf branch, a sucker grew and became the second leader. In this case, all other leaders will be removed. 

To tie them up, regular twine works great and can be bought at any garden center or hardware store. The knot used at the bottom is a bowline know. It forms a loop that won’t tighten even when pulled. Consult the internet to learn about a bowline. Other knots would certainly work too as long as they allow the stem to grow. The twine is then tied to something on the top such as a tall post, or a DIY structure of your choice. 

BAMBOO TRELLIS INSTRUCTIONS

1. Bring home at least a dozen bamboo poles 6-7 foot lengths. (depending on how many plants you have)
2. Using a trowel, dig a hole. Drive the bamboo stake into the hole. Make another hole opposite the first, about 4-5 feet away, and drive a stake into it. 
3. The bamboo poles should come together like a teepee. Wrap twine around the two poles where they meet at the top. Repeat this process to create 2 more teepees. Leave about 4 feet between each teepee.
4. Then place the last bamboo pole across the top of the structure in the “V” created where the poles meet, connecting all the teepees together.
5. Tie twine from one pole to the next along each side. Leaving about 12 inches between each line, continue up the teepee structure. You should have about 3 or 4 lines strung up by the end. This reinforces the structure and adds support for the tomato plants as they grow and climb.

* Instructions adapted from the following article.
Many thanks to French Lake Farmer for their growing expertise and help with this post!

How NOT to Kill Your Tomato Plants

Photography by  Sean O'brien

Photography by Sean O'brien

First off, shout out to the experts on tomato growing French Lake Farmer. These guys were just recently certified organic and are dedicated to growing the most beautiful, best tasting tomatoes in the Midwest. Just ask Cooks of Crocus hill who routinely feature their tomatoes in their seasonal crop shares. If you don't have the growing space to produce the ton of tomatoes you need for canning (seriously it's like 10 lb.), consider picking up a canners bulk case worth of Romas from these guys. Contact them directly over on www.frenchlakefarmer.com.
 

FIVE WAYS NOT TO KILL YOUR TOMATO PLANTS 

1. When the plant is about two feet tall, cut (or snap off) all the leaves below the lowest flowers.
2. Keep a consistent moisture level. Mulching with grass clippings or last years leaves (if you saved them) is a good way to keep even moisture levels in the soil. This will help prevent blossom end rot, one of the most common causes of tomato plant loss.
3. Avoid overwatering and don’t use grass clippings if you’ve sprayed your lawn with a dandelion killer.
4. Keep the leaves dry! Water tomato plants around the stem and again avoid overhead watering.
Most tomato problems in MN have to do with moisture and Tomato Blight loves moisture. 
5. Keep the tomatoes off of the ground! These plants benefit in a number of ways from support, staking, trellising etc.

For more information on detecting and troubleshooting your Tomato growing problems check out post, Speaking Tomato: What is Your Plant Trying to Tell you.

Farmer Story: French Lake Farmer

French Lake Farmer in Annandale Minnesota is a truly unique growing space with a story that will inspire. This family operated organic farm produces the most beautiful, tastiest heirloom tomatoes grown out of Minnesota soil, and employs vertical urban farming practices alongside no-till growing methods.
Yes, they are an urban family farm in a rural community, swoon. 

Read More