NGA Articles: Trellising and Training Tomatoes

Trellising and Training Tomatoes (cont)

By: Shepherd Ogden

Why Trellis Indeterminates?

Indeterminate tomatoes are true vines. Being perennial they will continue to grow, sprouting new leafy and fruiting branches, until the plant is killed by disease or frost, or the growing tip is damaged or removed. I have seen 18-month-old greenhouse tomato plants fifty feet long! In long-season areas, outdoor plants trellised against the wall of a house may well climb to the roof. Trellising the plants can be a fair amount of trouble, but -- particularly if you have a small garden -- it's worth it. With a bit of attention to training the plants, you can get them to bear almost as early as the bush types. Actually, both bush and vining tomatoes should be trellised, but each kind requires a different kind of support.

Another reason to trellis -- a reason that's applicable all over the United States, but especially in humid areas of the East and Northwest -- is that it keeps the fruits and foliage off the soil, and it allows air to circulate around the plants, reducing the likelihood of foliage blights.

Trellised tomatoes are also easier to protect from pests than plants that trail on the ground. Aphids, whiteflies, hornworms, and even field mice are more visible and more easily controlled when you don't have to battle them in a tangle of ground-hugging vines.

In the Southwest, a tomato may be better off if it trails below the level of drying winds, but then irrigation is necessary, and unless you provide water through tubing rather than sprinklers, you may still see blight and mildew.

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