The Indestructible DIY Tomato Trellis

I’ve finally found it:  A tomato trellis that won’t blow over or collapse under the weight of my tomato plants.  And it’s made from common materials from the hardware store and uses just a few common tools. the-indestructible-diy-tomato-trellis I don’t know what it is about our little plot here in Southwestern Idaho, but the tomatoes love it here. I’m thinking it’s the long, hot sunny days punctuated with very occasional rain storms.

Trapped in the Tomato Cage

In previous years, I’d used the common wire tomato cages that you find every spring in most home and garden centers.  And each fall, I ended up with a tangled mass that ended up in my recycling bin.  The plants just got too big and heavy for the cages to withstand.  Wood cages were no better.  They rarely stood up to the moisture and weather after one season.

A Better Solution: The Indestructible Tomato Trellis

Imagine this: an alternative to the tomato cage that is inexpensive, easy to build from common materials, uses few tools, and is nearly indestructible. Enter the conduit and rebar tomato trellis. I’d first read about the conduit tomato trellis in Mel Bartholomew’s popular book, All New Square Foot Gardening.  His plan suggested using one long piece of conduit, bent into a 3-sided square or rectangle.  The hollow ends would then fit over two pieces of rebar staked in the ground.  Pre-made trellis netting is then tied in the open space of the trellis.   “Good idea,” I thought.  And went about my business, and mostly forgot about it. Then I discovered Reaganite71′s YouTube Channel. This guy is awesome.  A quick browse of his site shows you how to do things like spank your tomatoes, make drunken compost, and more.  Who knew gardening could be so exciting?  And he sounds exactly like Dave Ramsey. But I digress.  He has an amazing video on how to make a tomato trellis from conduit and rebar, but instead of purchasing trellis netting, he shows you how to tie your own trellis from nylon string.  I had to try it.  Here’s the video:

Make a Tomato Trellis in About an hour with a Few Simple Tools

I was delighted that the project would take only about an hour or so from start to finish (including tying the netting).  All I needed for the project was:

  • rebar
  • a couple of 10-foot sections of electrical conduit
  • conduit elbows
  • nylon string
  • conduit cutters
  • a screwdriver
  • a cigarette lighter (for cutting the nylon string without fraying the ends) 

The Easy & Entertaining Instructional Video

To learn how to make your own tomato trellis, watch the video.  It’s very informative and entertaining, and easy to follow.

The Results in My Garden

I built two trellises for my tomatoes, and one for my squash.  They’re solid and very lightweight.  I positioned the trellises east-west (since our prevailing winds are from the west, this should help reduce wind resistance). DIY-tomato-trellis-with-conduit-can-support-squash-and-melons-too  The east-west orientation also helps my growing tomatoes shade the bell peppers I planted on the north side of the trellis.   tomato-trellises-made-from-conduit As you can see, I even started tying trellis netting between the two tomato trellises.  There are some tiny cucumbers that will grow up that portion of the netting. All told, I’m really happy with this project.  

Update: The Great Wall of Tomato

As you can see, my tomatoes grew and grew.  They were HUGE and got a teensy weensy bit out of control.  They produced so many tomatoes, I had my neighbors coming over to pick them!  The trellis setup worked so well.  Once I cut the dead plants off at the end of the season, they looked as good as new.  I left them outside all winter, and they’re ready to go this year once again!  Definitely the best tomato trellis I’ve ever used!

TomatoTrellis-1

More helpful and fun gardening videos await 

Be sure to subscribe to Reaganite71′s YouTube Channel!  I’m a devoted subscriber, and I’m currently on day 7 of  making Drunken Compost (video below).  I’ll update you in a couple of days to let you know how it’s going.  He also has a blog you can follow here.  What’s your favorite trellising method for tomatoes?  Let me know in the comments below.

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About Stacie

Stacie Humpherys is an engineer, graphic artist, and farmer who lives on her very own petite farmstead just outside of Middleton, Idaho. Say hi on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Did you ever take any pics of the trellis at the end of the season? I am going to try this this year and would love to see a great wall of tomato!

    • I think I did take some photos; I’ll have to dig them up! The tomatoes went crazy! The plants were huge and heavy and prolific. The trellises held up really well throughout the season, through wind and rain storms. I’d love to see photos of your trellises this season! Thanks for your comment! :) -Stacie x

    • Hi again, Mike! Check it out — I did find a photo of the trellis with the “great wall of tomato”! I’ve updated the blog post above. :)

  2. You’ve got me thinking about building my own sturdy trellis this year, but I have a probably stupid question – do you train the plants to weave in and out of the nylon string? Or do you need some type of clip to hold them to the string?

    As you can tell, I’m a ‘mater newbie. :-) Thanks!

    • Hi Tracy, thanks for your comment! Not a stupid question at all. I simply wove my plants in and out of the trellis netting; I didn’t use any trellis clips. Vining tomato varieties work best with this setup. Many heirloom varieties are vining tomatoes. I planted Super Sioux, Brandywine, San Marzano, and an heirloom cherry tomato (can’t remember its name right off the top of my head). Any other questions, just let me know! :) Best, Stacie

      • Stacie:

        Thanks for sharing. I’ve already built mine and I’m excited to plant my tomato seedlings. How do you recommend starting? Should I use a stake? A cage? Neither?

        Also, do you have any tips for how to “weave” the vines in and out of the trellis? I’ve never done it before. It seems that this is crucial as the trellis doesn’t surround the tomato plant. Thus, if the branches and leaves start growing outwards, the trellis will be less effective.

        Thanks!!!

        • Hi Mike, thanks for your comment! What kind of tomatoes are you growing? This trellis setup works best with vining (indeterminate) varieties. Bush (determinate) varieties tend to grow outward instead of upward and wouldn’t work as well. When I started my vining tomatoes, I simply planted them near the bottom of the netting, and let them grow up. My netting was about 8 inches from the ground. Each day or two when I was in my garden, I would weave the branches in and out of the netting. I didn’t have to use any stakes or cages at all. Once the tomatoes reached the top of the trellis, they were well-supported. As you can see from the update photo, my plants went really crazy and the trellises still held them up in the worst of our Idaho winds. Let me know how it goes! Best, Stacie

        • Hello all, there is a small vegetable garden store that we started going to last year. I am very green when it comes to gardening, but these folks have been doing it for decades and they swear by the netting. What they do is build a frame up top and use the netting in a “V” shape so the plants are supported as they grow up. This results in single plants that have a spread of about 14 feet. The V shape allows for easy access to the base of the plants for pruning and fertilizing while allowing the plants to expand up top. We plan on building something like this to encourage our plants this year.

  3. This year we are going to use cattle panels for our tomato trellises (and for beans, peas, squash, small pumpkins, etc). Each panel is supported by three t-posts. Yours looks very similar, but much more affordable. :) We are just starting the garden here this year as we moved in too late last summer to start it, so thought we would try something new. We are planning to keep the panel trellises in place for many years…

    I too would love to see how yours looked at the end of the season!

    • Hi Katie! Thanks for your comment. :) I’ve just updated the post with a photo of my “great wall” of tomatoes. It was spectacular. A cattle panel is a great idea. While a bit more expensive, I like it because you could burn your plants at the end of the season instead of cutting them out of the trellis like you have to with my setup. Would love to see photos of your tomatoes on your trellis setup! — Stacie x

  4. Ken (nadoj) says:

    I am using a BTE (Back To Eden) garden so I don’t think I will burn the tomatos off. I love your trellis idea. Thanks for posting and for the information!

    • Hi Ken, thanks for the comment! I need to watch the Back to Eden film. It looks really interesting. What types of veggies will you be growing this year? I just got some chickens so I’m excited to utilize their manure in my garden! Best, Stacie

  5. Hi in beginning of spring I watched a vid online about these metal conduit trellis. I made a couple for my tomatoes and peas. They are amazing. I hope they last through the year but are time consuming tying the nylon. Am I able to leave the nylon string on the conduit through the winter?

    • Hi there, thanks for your comment! I left mine outside all winter and they look great. If you wanted to, I think you could pull the trellis up off the rebar and take apart the three metal conduit pieces, leaving the trellis netting attached to the metal, and store it in a shed or garage for the winter.

  6. Hi Stacie!

    Thanks for this great post! I’m gardening for the first time this year and this is EXACTLY the post I was looking for! Thanks soo much for this info and awesome pics!

    Aloha!

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