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Tomato string trellis question

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quiltbea
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Post  1airdoc Sat May 26, 2012 4:58 am

Loving my new string trellis for tomatoes that I am using for the first time this year. Thanks, forum members, for the great idea. Now a question: What do you do when the tomato reaches the top of the trellis?

I have read about just letting the tomato double back and come down again once it reaches the top, but it seems that the vine would just break off there at the top. Any experience with that out there?

I have also read about letting the string out so that the tomato vine "sags" at the bottom, and just progressively letting out more string as needed as the vine continually grows. That sounds like a good idea, but I didn't include any extra string at the top to let out. Any suggestions for how I might could do that, or is it too late for this year?

Call me a pessimist, but I figured the vines wouldn't need much more than 6 feet -- they never have before. With the vines in MM (with great compost in the mix) for the first time, however, I clearly underestimated how much growth to expect.
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Post  dixie Sat May 26, 2012 7:06 am

I love the string trellis idea too. Personally I just pinch the tip off to keep it from getting any taller. It seems it would allow nutrients to promote fruit production as opposed to more vine growth.
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Post  camprn Sat May 26, 2012 7:20 am

I agree with Dixie, and I know Turan tops off her tomatoes a few weeks before frost to force the plants to put the energy into the fruit. I did have tomatoes 2 years ago taller than ten feet... then I ran out of growing weather.

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Post  1airdoc Sat May 26, 2012 10:23 am

Vines more than 10 feet tall? How do you harvest them? That reminds me of a joke I read once on this forum:
"Wat do you call tomatoes on a 10 foot vine?"
"Rotten!"
It's one of the reasons I limited my trellis to 6 feet. My box is on a hill, so the downhill side is well more than 6" above the ground.

Since I'm keping all the suckers off and just maintaining 1 vine or 2 vines per plant, if I top off the main vine(s), won't the plant stop producing new tomatoes?? Given that I have at least 4 more months of growth and production, I'd hate to do that anytime soon....
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Post  chjbr63 Sat May 26, 2012 11:46 am

My tie off is about 8' and when they get up there I let 1 or 2 of the suckers stay. Then chop the main top off and string the new ones up.
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Post  camprn Sat May 26, 2012 1:17 pm

chjbr63 wrote:My tie off is about 8' and when they get up there I let 1 or 2 of the suckers stay. Then chop the main top off and string the new ones up.
I like this! Very Happy

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Post  walshevak Sat May 26, 2012 3:32 pm

+1 I also like starting new plants from suckers in June/July to offset the stressed main plants in the dog days of summer and be ready when the weather starts cooling down again.

Kay

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Post  1airdoc Sat May 26, 2012 5:07 pm

Great idea, Kay. Do you put them in pots or put them directly in the garden? Do you have new squares for them?
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Post  walshevak Sat May 26, 2012 5:22 pm

The fall tomatos will go into buckets so I can take one or two determinates into the small greenhouse when the weather starts getting cold. Hope to extend the season a few weeks. Depending on how many I decide to start, I may actually plant one or two in a flower bed. I'm all out of squares. Razz

Can't find it right now, but Acara replied to a post with his way of propagating tomatos from suckers.

Interesting thing has been happening to my tomatos that I planted in the lay down way. Some are sending up a plant from the area close to the root. I pulled two today instead of cutting and they came up with roots. One just a few but the other had a good sized rootball. I'm assuming suckers at some of the lower leaf areas of the stem decided to grow. So I'm ahead of the game.

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Post  1airdoc Sat May 26, 2012 10:23 pm

Here are photos of my problem:
Here's the new tomato bed. Most of the plants are about 4 1/2 feet tall at this point. I planted them on April 1, which is about 2 weeks ahead of our average date of last frost, but I got away with it due to warmer weather and protecting them on a couple of cold nights early on.
Tomato string trellis question Trelli10
This is the first year I've put the tomatoes in a SFG. I've never had tomatoes that exceeded 6 feet before, so I didn't think anything of having my trellis at that height. In fact, I had some bean trellises that were 7 feet (higher, actually, as they were on the elevated box and on a hill), and I vowed I would not have trellises that high again. The tops of these tomato trellises are about 6.5-7 feet above the ground on the downhill side of the bed.

Here's my most exuberant plant, a yellow pear. See how close it is to the top? And our growing season will extend into September. Maybe I'll have to make another bed for those rooted suckers later in the season. I wasn't really planning on that, though.
Tomato string trellis question Trelli11
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Post  camprn Sat May 26, 2012 10:27 pm

Hmmm, I just had a thought Doc. With that yellow pear, if you lop the top it should quickly put out side shoots, which you can then weave between the trellis string...hmmm Tomato string trellis question 27650

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Post  quiltbea Sun May 27, 2012 7:42 am

@1airdoc.........I think you should lop off the tops, but instead of removing ALL the suckers, leave a few for later fruiting. Those suckers are actually new plants and will produce more tomatoes but a little later on. I'd leave a few suckers about midway up the plant. You'll still get plenty of tomatoes for your long summer growing season and those already growing will ripen sooner.
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Post  Squat_Johnson Sun May 27, 2012 9:38 am

Here is what mine looked like at end of August last year. I let then go over the top of the trellis, and hang off the other side.

Tomato string trellis question String10
They are totally pruned back due to a blight issue at this point. They started producing again after that.
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Post  jkahn2eb Sun May 27, 2012 11:20 am

Squat - that's awesome.

I'm starting to gather ideas for my garden. My issue is summer heat, so I use sun shades all summer long. Currently I use temporary PVC poles staked in to the ground to hold up the shade cloth. In the fall/winter I plan to replace 'em with a permanent, more-sturdy-during-high-winds wood poles....

... but now I see the logic in where beams might cross for string trellising.

Tomato string trellis question 27650
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Post  garden girl Sun May 27, 2012 11:27 am

Squat - That is one AWESOME trellis structure you have for your tomatoes! Did you build it yourself? I'd love to get some plans for that. We have really strong winds here, and my garden takes a thrashing from them. It can be a real struggle to keep my pvc or even light-weight conduit vertical structures staying upright!
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Post  Nicola Sun May 27, 2012 11:51 am

I would like plans for both Squat's and the OP, 1airdoc's trellises. Squat_Johnson, that looks like each is an enlarged sawhorse, with (what?) going across the middle, blocked from view by those lush plants. And airdoc, I can see the conduit to begin, but way extended, and what kind of string, how long, how often along the frame?
Okay, I'll stop with the questions now.
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Post  Squat_Johnson Sun May 27, 2012 11:55 am

I built them using these instructions:
http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/3367/build-an-a-frame-tomato-trellis
(I put two bars across the bottom)


speaking of wind...
Be aware that this structure will catch some wind. It should use 2x4 lumber for the header. Anything wider is a sail in the wind. It should be bolted/screwed to the boxes. One of mine was blown into the next bed one windy day. I was lucky to be out of the way, I had just walked past...
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Post  1airdoc Mon May 28, 2012 11:39 am

The conduit is just typical size and is 6 feet tall on the sides with a single 8 foot length connecting the two sides. I used one of those per each 8' row of squares. I have them anchored over 4' rebar, at least half of which is pounded into the ground. Although they are very stable, I have a "guy wire" cord attached from the middle of each frame to the ground on the side from which the prevailing wind blows (we get some pretty violent summertime storms). I'm not sure the guy wire is necessary; my bean trellises are anchored in the same way, but without the cords, and they didn't move all last summer despite winds.

The spacing of the cords depends. I have one cord for each vine, so on the single vine plants, I have a single cord over the center of each square, spaced every 12 inches. For the two-vine plants, I have two cords over each square spaced every 6 inches. At ground level, I tied a cord from one side of the trellis to the opposite side of the trellis. This gives a base on which to tie the verticle cords hanging from the top of the trellis. I used some nylon woven cord for the strings. It's about 3/8'' diameter (I was afraid the thinner cording might cut into the vines).
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