Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tomato Weaving

The garden has been pricey this year..a tiller attachment for the tractor (hooray for Craigslist and a used one!), the deer fence and I've lost count of how many bales of straw I've bought.  When it came to supports for my tomatoes I didn't want to spend a fortune.  My plan was to have twenty tomato plants.  Somehow I only started 18 from seed and then one had an unfortunate mishap with the garden hose, so I have 17 tomato plants.  Getting even the cheapest tomato cages was still going to be expensive, plus the frustration of them not working well.

As I contemplated how to hold up my tomatoes, they continued to grow and the beginnings of a tomato formed.  I needed to search for a effective and cheap method.  I thought about making my own cages out of cattle panels.  Here's a great tutorial for how to make these: sturdy tomato cages.  However, making 17 would be a lot of work and then I would have to store 17 cages that don't collapse.

Another option I considered was the Florida weave.  This method involves putting tall stakes in the ground after every two or three tomato plants and then weaving twine between the posts to hold up the tomatoes.  This website has nice illustrations: Florida weave.

I had a couple of fence posts remaining, so I would just need to buy rebar and twine.  I wanted to use rebar instead of wooden stakes because they will not rot or break.  This method was definitely my cheapest option.  I had one concern with the Florida weave technique.  My tomato plants are a mix of determinate and indeterminate varieties.  The indeterminate varieties grow much larger that the determinate ones.  I did not plan ahead and separate the two types in my row of tomatoes, so the variation in height may make it difficult.

J and I took Domino for a walk and I explained my tomato support dilemma (which I'm sure he was completely enthralled by).  He was probably thinking which method was going to be the least amount of work for him!  The cow people (what we call the family that rents the farm at the end of the road for their cows) drove up and coincidentally asked us if we needed some rebar.  Why yes!  He works in construction and had a bunch leftover from a job.  That was how I decided to go with the Florida weave method for my tomatoes!

After our flash flood last week the garden was a soggy mess, which was a perfect time to drive the fence posts and rebar into the ground.  I have to say we did a horrible job making a straight row, so I think I have to call my technique the crooked Florida weave.

Instead of twine, J thought I should use wire because we had a bunch leftover from the fence building.  I have to say that weaving with a heavy spool of wire was not fun.  I may buy twine for future weaving.

Also I'm a bit concerned that if it gets really windy, the tomatoes could get cut by the wire.  The good thing about the wire is that since it is sturdy, I don't have to pull it really tight around the tomatoes.  So far it seems to be working, but of course the tomato plants are not very big yet.  I'll let you know how it is holding up by August.

This post is shared at Green Thumb Thursday at Grow a Good Life.


  1. This is an interesting method of supporting tomato vines. I've never tried this before so I may just give it a whirl. Thanks for sharing. Have a great day!

  2. Lucky you, getting that rebar for free - I just bought a bunch of it for my trellises and for holding down row covers & it is not cheap!

    Last year I supported my indeterminate tomatoes by winding them around vertical strings. It worked out ok but I felt that they would have benefited from some extra support. This year, to give them that extra support, I am thinking of incorporating a widely spaced Florida weave on top of the vertical strings. I haven't found anything online about actual experiences of people that have used a Florida weave - I've only seen instructions and that type of thing online - so I will be intently reading about your experiences using this method!

    1. I will definitely be repaying my free rebar with lots of tomatoes. How do you hold up the vertical strings? I will post later in the season about how the Florida weave is holding up. Good luck with your tomatoes!

    2. I use a conduit trellis - I tie a length of string across the bottom then run string vertically between the bottom string and the top of the trellis - I usually let 2 suckers plus the main stem grow, so that's 3 strings per plant.

  3. Thanks for sharing this at Green Thumb Thursday - durn maters, always needing so much support! They're worth it, though. Come link up again!