Trellising is an important task during this time of the season when our peas are getting big and we have planted all of our greenhouse tomatoes. We trellis crops to reduce the chance they will acquire foliar and soil-borne diseases, decrease the amount of fruit lost to rot, and make harvesting them easier.  At Stearns, we trellis our peas and tomatoes both in our high tunnels as well as out in the field, using several techniques.

Peas are already equipped with a helpful tool to assist in the trellising process: their tendrils allow them to grab and climb things in order to lift themselves up towards sunlight. Shortly after the peas have germinated, we place wooden stakes in the beds every 6 feet and then wrap twine around each stake so the twine is parallel to the ground. Our first pass with twine is about 10 inches above the ground. We repeat this process several times so that the peas have more twine to grab onto as they get taller. This technique is easy to install and take down, and it makes our harvest more efficient and pleasant because the peas are easy to see.

Trellising tomatoes is a little more complicated. The varieties that most people love have been bred to produce large, heavy fruit, and the plants cannot support the weight of their fruit on their own.

In our high tunnel, we suspend strands of twine from metal pipes that run above each bed of tomatoes. We use tomato clips to connect the plants to the twine without damaging the plant. As the plant grows, we add more clips to keep the plants from toppling over. Our plants eventually get so tall that they grow above the metal pipes, and we let them just flop over the top. At that point in the season, they have enough support and this doesn’t significantly damage the plants. However, some farmers have another technique that allows their plants to keep growing to up to 18 feet long.

Lastly, the way we trellis our field tomatoes is often referred to as the Florida weave or the basket weave. We place a combination of wooden and metal stakes after every three plants and then use twine to weave around each plant and around each stake. The stakes hold the tension and help to support the weight of each plant as they grow. It is ideal to place another layer of twine every 12 – 18 inches until we reach the top of the stakes so that each plant gets enough support.

Some farmers also trellis their peppers in the field and cucumbers in greenhouses. To trellis our peppers would require more labor and resources than we have right now, but it is something I’d like to try in the future. We don’t grow our cucumbers in our greenhouses, and there isn’t any need to trellis them out in the field.

The hours we put into building trellises to support all of these delicious vegetables is extremely worth it. The fruit they produce is easier to see, less susceptible to disease and rot, and so much more pleasant to pick because we don’t have to bend over as much. Everyone wins!

Until next time,