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All Things Garden

How to Make the Best DIY Tomato Trellis (Stake Weave Hybrid)

There are so many ways to support and train tomato plants: cages, strings, stakes, wire panels… we’ve tried them all! But let me tell you about my favorite DIY tomato trellis system. We came up with the design last summer, and it was a HUGE success! It’s tidy, effective, sturdy, and makes harvesting a breeze! It also looks pretty darn slick in your garden.

This post will show you how to make the best DIY tomato trellis ever (IMHO) along with tips on how to prune and train tomato plants during the growing season. I also made a video tutorial to walk you through the entire simple process – but don’t miss the photos and details below!

If you need more tomato tips, be sure to check out our Organic Tomato Grow Guide.

The Training Method

This tomato trellis works best for vining or indeterminate tomato varieties. On the other hand, bush or determinate tomatoes are best not pruned and grown in cages – like these sturdy DIY tomato cages. The training style we’ll use on this tomato trellis is a hybrid between the Florida weave and single leader methods

In a single leader method (sometimes known as single stake or single string method), tomato plants are heavily pruned to remove ALL “suckers” or side branches. Heavy pruning significantly reduces the number of fruit each plant produces. However, the fruit is higher quality in flavor, texture and size. Plants are spaced as close together as 12 inches apart, and the one remaining leader stem is trained up a stake or string. It takes a lot of diligence and pruning, and single-leader plants can reach unruly heights. 

With a Florida Weave, tomato plants are minimally pruned and spaced 24 to 36 inches apart. A stake is placed between each plant, where they’re tucked or sandwiched between horizontal rows of string or twine for support. Without pruning, the Florida weave will create a wall of tomatoes that can be quite dense and heavy.

Our stake-weave tomato trellis and training system harnesses the best aspects of both methods, explained below. 

A side tomato branch or sucker is shown growing in between twine for support. Clusters of fruit are hanging in various stages of ripeness, some of the fruit are missing from the vines as they have already been harvested.
A combination of stakes and twine supports the tomato plants quite nicely…
A raised garden bed with a wall of tomatoes growing, they are reaching the top of the support structure and many clusters of bright red fruit visible amongst the green foliage.
…while the frame gives the stakes and twine added stability.

Tomato Trellis Benefits

  • Spacing tomato plants 18 to 24 inches apart and training them into a slender vertical wall maximizes space in the garden or compact spaces. It also allows plenty of room along the base of the tomatoes to grow companion plants such as basil, marigolds, peppers, bush beans, or other flowers and herbs.

  • Moderate pruning keeps the plants manageable, the fruit quality at its best and easy to harvest – but it’s also more carefree and forgiving than the single-leader method.

  • Less foliage means better airflow, and therefore reduced disease and pest pressure. Yet leaving several side branches per plant also offers enough foliage to protect most fruit from sunburn or sunscald.

  • This tomato trellis design is really versatile. It’s easy to adapt to raised beds, in-ground gardens, or along a wall. It can also be made with a variety of materials.

  • We chose not to permanently install our tomato trellis in the garden. Yet the design is easy to take down, store, and reassemble each season.

A close up image of a plant with Roma type tomatoes growing that are in various stages of ripeness from red, to yellow, and green. Basil is in the forefront, growing as a companion plant.

Supplies Needed

  • A sturdy frame with a horizontal top support that’s at least 6 feet tall off the ground or soil level. We created an A-frame tomato trellis using 8 ft redwood 2×2 boards, though you can use other materials or designs to create yours (e.g. metal conduit pipe, PVC, a straight T-trellis, etc). See more details about our frame below. 
  • 8 foot tall garden stakes (we use these ones) – or stakes tall enough to extend at least 18 inches into the ground and also reach the top of the trellis frame. Use 1 stake per tomato plant, plus two – one extra at the end of each row or bed. You could also use rebar, wood stakes, fence T-posts, or other long sturdy materials that you’re able to drive or dig into the ground. 
  • Garden twine (mid-weight jute or hemp) for the horizontal weave portion, as well as to secure the stakes to the frame.

  • Soft garden wire or tomato clips, to tie the main leader stem up the stake

Tomatoes growing in a raised bed amongst rosemary, eggplant, and peppers. They are using a PVC support system for the vining tomatoes. Beyond is another raised bed with a large trellis growing hop vines.
An example of an alternative frame style that could be used with our stake/weave combo system – made from metal conduit and held together with a Gardener’s Supply connector kit.

Our tomato trellis frame

Using 8-foot 2×2″ redwood boards (true measurement 1 3/8″ x 1 3/8″), we created an “A frame” on each end of the bed. We cut the legs at a slight angle so they’d sit flush on the 4×4 corners inside the raised bed, and also at the top where they meet the horizontal support. Screws hold the boards together at the top, plus a metal brace to help further secure them. We also added a short horizontal piece of wood across each pair of legs (to make the “A”) for stability. 

I designed our tomato trellis to be plenty sturdy (especially once the stakes are connected to it), but not directly attached to our raised beds. I didn’t want to drill holes into the raised beds. We also like to take it down at the end of the season while we grow winter crops instead. Plus, we try our best to practice crop rotation so we aren’t necessarily growing tomatoes in the same bed next season! However, feel free to add additional support if needed – such as with T-posts, or by screwing the trellis to your garden bed.

The view of two garden beds lined up next to each other, each with an A-frame tomato trellis in each bed. The raised beds contain tomatoes, marigolds, zinnias, and beans. The raised beds next to them contain squash, beans, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers, and onions.
In hindsight, we could have put the cross support (“A” piece) lower on the trellis for even more stability across the legs. Or, we can easily add additional horizontal support in the future if needed.
The top portion of an A-frame structure is shown with all of the large plant stakes thatched to the top of the frame with twine.
Stakes are firmly secured to the top of the trellis frame with several layers of twine.
A four way image collage, the first image shows the top corner of a wooden A-frame made with redwood 2x2's and a green plant stake along the end. The second image shows the top of the A-frame from the end, the two side boards and the top board have an L bracket attached to the ends to further strengthen the frame. The third image shows the green stake on the outside of the frame, attached to the frame with twine used as thatching. The fourth image shows the bottom of the frame sitting on top of the 4x4 corner of the raised garden bed. The bottom of the leg for the frame has been cut at an angle to sit flush with the corner piece.

Tomato Trellis Assembly and Use

  • Space stakes and plants every 18 to 24 inches. In a 4×8 foot bed, we plant four tomatoes spaced about 22 inches apart.

  • Add an additional stake at the end of each row of plants. This stake can be slightly closer (12-18”) if needed, since side branches from only one tomato plant will grow in that section of the weave. See photo below.

  • Using twine, firmly tie the top of each stake to the horizontal support or frame. I wrap the twine around many times to make it tight and secure.

  • Next, add horizontal rows of twine, spaced 1 foot apart up the entire length of the stakes. Use two layers of twine per row so you can tuck branches between them. Also try to keep the twine as tight as possible (it will naturally stretch out a little with time). You can add just a few rows at first, then add more as the plants grow too. 

  • Plant one tomato plant at the base of each stake. We usually prune off the lowest 2-3 branches and plant our tomatoes deep, burying several inches of the stem.

Raised garden beds are visible amongst gravel hardscape, there are arches, a fountain, a table and chairs set up as well. The raised beds have tomatoes, flowers, beans, squash, kale, and many other unidentifiable vegetables growing in them. The surrounding area has large oak trees growing amongst the landscape.
Here we’d only strung up 5 rows of twine so far, but continued to add additional rows above as the plants grew taller.
A view of the A-frame tomato trellis made with redwood 2x2's, large green plant stakes, and twine. The plants have reached the second row of twine with a few reaching the 3rd row. Marigolds, zinnia, and beans are growing in the bed as companion plants.

Pruning and Training Tomatoes Up the Trellis

  • As plants grow, continue to secure the main central leader to the stake using reusable soft garden wire or tomato clips.

  • Remove at least half of the “suckers” or side branches. Keep one central leader and 4 to 6 side branches on each plant. To remove suckers, simply pinch them off when they’re still small. See photos below. It’s best to remove the lowest 2 to 3 suckers, favoring those higher up the plant instead. Keep a couple on each side of the plant. Remember that sucker stems eventually grow their own suckers too!
  • While they’re still small and pliable, gently tuck the side branches between the layers of twine or string on either side of the plant. Don’t force it! If you miss a row and the branch has grown too long to weave without breaking it, simply skip the row and tuck it up into the next one.

  • Check the plants about once per week during the growing season to tuck, tie, or trim branches as needed. Continue to prune and remove most of the suckers as the plants grow. Judge and adjust pruning based on how crowded things become.

  • By the end of the season, the plants will reach the top of the trellis and may start to flop over. That’s okay! We just let ‘em hang.

  • Don’t prune or top the central leader – that signals the plant to stop growing. At the very end of the growing season, we gave our tomato trellises a “haircut” and pruned all the branches along the top frame. This forces the plants energy into ripening the remaining fruit rather than growing larger.

  • When tomato season is over, simply cut the plants out and leave the roots in place (no-till style). Remove and compost the twine, and store the trellis frame and stakes away for next season!

A main tomato stalk is being trained up a green plant stake. Superimposed circles have been made around the suckers growing long the main stem with the word "suckers" off to the the side.
Suckers are the new leaders that grow in the nook right between the main stem and a leafy branch.
A close up image of a tomato plant illustrating the difference between the main stem and sucker or second leader. Each section of the plant has the portion of the plant labeled with superimposed words on the specific parts of the plant.
Remove most of the suckers so that each plant has a main leader plus 4-6 side branches/suckers
DeannaCat is using her hand to move a tomato sucker in between the twine portion of the tomato trellis system. The plant is still fairly small with a few unripe fruits and flowers. Growing beyond the plant is a cosmos with white seashell shaped flowers.
Tucking a side branch (sucker) into the weave system, while the leader stem is secured to the stake with soft garden ties.
A view down a pathway with raised garden beds on each side. Large flower plants with red and purple/blue flowers are hanging over the edge of the raised beds into the pathway itself. Tomato plants are growing, their green and red fruit visible amongst the foliage. Beyond is a wall of green due to various other garden beds in the background as well as a large grape vine.
We admittedly got a bit lazy about pruning and removing suckers as the summer went on. You can see how bushy things got, especially on the right there! We ended up using some twine across the legs of the A-frame to hold up branches that were spilling into the pathway.
Raised garden beds with two tomato trellis systems set up in each, although one of them is only partially visible. They are both fully grown in with tomato plants, the fruit is visible amongst the green foliage. The tops of the plants have been cut off and they are laying on the ground in front of the bed. Basil  is growing in the bed in front of the tomatoes.
After topping the plants near the end of the season. We wanted the remaining fruit to hurry up and ripen so we could plant our fall/winter garden on time!
DeannaCat's hand is holding a beautiful large and round red tomato. Below there is a wicker basket and a couple large wood bowls full of various red, green, maroon tomatoes of various shapes and sizes.

Have a fantastic tomato season!

That wraps up this lesson on how to make the best tomato trellis ever. I say “best” in jest, but I really do love it – and hope you do too! If you give this tomato training system a try, let us know in the comments below. Or feel free to ask any questions you may have. Otherwise, we wish you a wonderful growing seasoning ahead. Enjoy!

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  • Cristina

    How tall is the finished A-frame on top of the bed? I’m getting ready to build this but thought I’d need stakes longer than 8′.

    Thank you!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Cristina, the redwood frame is close to 8 feet tall as the green stakes used for the tomato supports are 8 feet in length. Towards the end of the season, the plants are definitely growing over the top of the trellis but we just typically let them go at that point, maybe try and prune whatever suckers we can when we see them but mostly just harvesting a lot of tomatoes. If you need taller supports for the tomatoes, you can find rebar in 10 foot lengths. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Farrah

    Excellent guide! Can you grow other vegetables with this same trellis (like Persian cucumbers or something like that)?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Farrah, you could use this trellis system for cucumbers but we typically use more traditional grid type trellising for cucumbers, check out our article on how to grow and support cucumbers here as well as our article on how to build your own trellis here. Hope that helps and have fun growing, let us know if you end up growing cucumbers with this trellis system this season.

  • Kim Parker

    Really good video! I currently grow with cattle panels, but I am adding a new row of tomatoes this year and I am going to check into supplies for this. Cattle panels are great, sturdy and last forever, but the metal gets hot sometimes in summer. I like that your system won’t heat up with the sun. Thanks for sharing!

  • Russ Verkest

    I really like the “Best DIY Tomato Trellis” you are showing in this latest article. The one made from Redwood boards, (hybrid between the Florida weave and single leader methods).
    Can you please state the length and width of the actual raised bed you have these in?
    I have been using DIY 4′ x 16′ raised beds for several years, and I put 2 tomato plant rows, and at least 5 plant per row. Yours look more like 3′ wide beds, and only one row of tomatoes. Definitely makes more sense, sine you can more easily access both side of the plant.
    I plan to make new beds for the coming season, so your recommentations would be most appreciated.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Russ, the dimension of the raised beds are 8×4 feet. Glad to hear you enjoy the trellis system and hopefully you will be able to make a few new raised beds just in time for the growing season, you can see how we make our raised beds here if you are interested. Hope that helps and have fun growing!

  • Mary W

    I love everything about this, especially the ability to grow beautiful pollinators along side. QUESTION: I’m fairly short and normally squish horn worms on a regular basis – how do you handle them? I couldn’t reach up that far.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Mary, surprisingly we see very few hornworms on our tomatoes, however, we typically keep a small step ladder nearby if we need to reach the top of the trellis. However, keeping your tomatoes more pruned up, even if they are taller in height, may be easier to spot those pesky hornworms. Hope that helps and have fun growing!

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