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Growing tomatoes vertically in a Mittleider garden

Growing tomatoes vertically in a Mittleider garden

We’ve got half a bed of tomatoes in the garden that needed twine to train them to grow vertically.  The tomatoes are planted 9 inches apart and alternate which direction they will be trained to grow.  Growing them this way ensures they will get adequate light and space when pruned properly.

Growing tomatoes vertically with 170 pound bailing twine in a Mittleider garden
Growing tomatoes vertically with 170 pound bailing twine in a Mittleider garden

We will also be growing other things vertically in this manner such as cucumbers, squash, pole beans and melons.

Growing tomatoes vertically with either t-posts or a-frames

So what do you need to grow those tomatoes vertically?  First of all, you are going to need a structure that is capable of supporting the weight of the plants and the fruit that they will eventually bare.  It is built from treated lumber comprised to 2x4s and 4x4s.

For the gardener who decides to grow a single row of vertical crops you will need to build a t-frame.  The Mittleider Gardening Course book discusses building t-frames on page 132 and has illustrations of them on page 278.

Growing tomatoes vertically under a-frames in a Mittleider garden grow box
Growing tomatoes vertically under a-frames in a Mittleider garden grow box

You can see the A-frames we built over our 18 inch grow boxes in this video:

What twine do I need?

The twine you need for growing tomatoes vertically needs to be rated at 170 pounds or better.  The common 110 pound is cheaper and often more readily found on shelves, yet it is too small in diameter and will end up killing your tomatoes.

To help identify the correct twine for growing vertically in your garden look at the package.  you will see numbers similar to “9600/170”   That means that on one roll there is 9,600 feet of that twine which is rated to support 170 pounds.  Do NOT settle for the 110 stuff.

Here in our garden we use Tytan International twine.  It is orange in color and is generally sold in a two pack. Especially relevant in your choice of twine is something that is UV stabilized.  UV Stabilization helps ensure your twine can be used year after year and won’t breakdown under frequent exposure to the sunlight.  Rather than replacing twine every year buy something UV stabilized.

This is a picture of what we use in our garden.

baler twine for growing tomatoes vertically
baler twine for growing tomatoes vertically

 

Rather than buying this online you can try and source it locally at a farm store.  In my area we have Orscheln’s, $31.99 at Tractor Supply and even grain elevators and Coops that sell grain and other ranch supplies to farmers.

 

Growing tomatoes vertically in a Mittleider garden

The tomatoes are transplanted into our little Mittleider in garden green house. Recently we started the process of growing vertically to maximize the space and production of tomatoes. In the picture below you will see the heavy square baling twine we use to grow vertically.

 All the tomatoes are grown in one row with 9 inches of space between them. The twine is tied off at the bottom on a wire attached to our t-posts. The wire runs the length of the grow box and is 3 1/2″ above the grow box.  At the top of the t-posts are two more heavy gauge wires running the length of the grow beds.  We then alternate every other tomato plant and use a releasing knot to train the tomatoes to grow away from one another and maximize space. This ensure they get maximum air and sunlight.  In this picture below you can see the “V” pattern formed with the twine.  You’ll also notice extra twine hanging from the top. This allows me to lower the plant as we pick all the tomatoes from the bottom and the plant has grown all the way to that top wire.  And if you do your part they will grow that tall.

In the bottom picture you see where the twine is tied to the bottom heavy gauge wire.  If you tie the twine to the tomato plant you risk damaging it in two ways.  As the tomato grows the stem is going to get thicker.  If your twine is tied to it you risk the chance of strangling the tomato. Additionally, if you’re tied off at the plant you risk damaging or even pulling out the tomato if something or someone pulls on the twine. 

When wrapping  the twine It’s important to wrap the twine around the plant and not the plant around the twine. By doing the later you risk damaging your tomato plant.  Also, as you wrap towards the top take extra care not to damage or break off the growing rip, also known as the terminal bud.  Doing so I’ll stop the growth of your plant.   I stop sever inches short of the terminal bud to ensure that the twine doesn’t damage it. 

You can also grow other crops vertically such as crooked neck squash, eggplants, cucumbers and even melons.  We will have posts on growing the vertically in the future. 

growing tomatoes vertically with balng twine
using baling twine to grow tomatoes vertically