WHEN IT COMES TO STAKING TOMATOES, I rely on the wisdom of the late, great Joan Crawford, who famously shrieked “No wire cages — EVER!” Okay, she was talking about wire hangers. Still, I loathe tomato cages. Most are poorly soldered — my partner nearly poked an eye out on a loose wire while bending to pick a tomato. Furthermore, all but the really expensive “Texas” -type cages are too short for indeterminate varieties. I like a tomato support that permits air and sunlight to reach the plants. And that’s why I built — with no carpentry skills whatsoever — the tee-pee trellis pictured above.
This structure is similar to the one I built last year from sumac saplings. But the new model is sturdier, I think. It’s taller, too, standing seven feet above the soil level. True, vines must be tied to such a support. But that’s a fun job.
If you wish to build a tee-pee trellis, arrange 3 poles in a V-shape at each end of a bed, and pound them one foot deep into the ground. Arrange another pole as a cross beam on top. Then place pairs of poles along the cross beam. Tie the poles in place with heavy twine. If you can’t tie a knot, just tie a lot.
My trellis was built from sturdy, 1″x1″x8′ poles, obtained from a local lumber yard. Tall bamboo would be as good, if you have access to it. My poles are made of pine. These were easy enough to install, and they will be easy to disassemble and store for winter. I suspect they will last for many years.
Of course any tall trellis is bound to add romance to a kitchen garden, for it provides a pleasing vertical element. Birds are enchanted by tee-pees — more than once I’ve caught them perching on the poles, surveying the landscape below.
If you’ve grown tired of cheaply built wire tomato cages, why not build a simple trellis of your own? The tomatoes will thank you for increasing their sunlight and air, the birds will thank you for providing new perching-quarters, and even Miss Crawford will thank you for going “wireless.”
Is a tee-pee trellis for you? Or do you prefer some other tomato-support system? Speak your mind in the comments field below.
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