Build an A-Frame Tomato Trellis

Grow your best tomatoes with this easy DIY trellis.

| May/June 2018

  • tomatoes
    Grow beautiful tomatoes with an easy DIY trellis.
    Photo by Getty Images/focusphotoart
  • tomato trellis
    An A-frame trellis will keep your tomatoes off the ground without the risk of snapped vines.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • cutting board
    Cut a spiked "foot" on each of the leg boards.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • leg set
    A finished leg set.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • leg set
    Use a carriage bolt, washer and wingnut to connect two boards for a hinged leg set.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • tomato trellis
    Take care to keep your cuts square and inside the pencil line.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • chisel wood
    Use a chisel and mallet to gently break out wood inside cut area to form notches in the ridgepole.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • tomato trellis
    Make several small cuts, about 1/8 inch apart, in order to chisel out notches on the ridgepole.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • tomato trellis
    Both cutouts will share the same short face and one cut side.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • tomato trellis
    Set the ridgepole on top of leg sets so that cutout notches settle down around legs.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • tomato trellis
    Transplant tomato plants directly beneath the ridgepole, taking care to space them evenly apart.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • tomato
    Twirl the twine around the leading stems as the tomato plants grow throughout the season.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman

  • tomatoes
  • tomato trellis
  • cutting board
  • leg set
  • leg set
  • tomato trellis
  • chisel wood
  • tomato trellis
  • tomato trellis
  • tomato trellis
  • tomato trellis
  • tomato

Gardeners love to train their tomato vines into the air. Tomato vines produce better when we lift them off the ground for several reasons: The plants stay healthier, the fruits stay cleaner, and there's less loss to pests and rot. Harvesting elevated tomatoes is easier on your back, to boot.

There are several different ways to train your tomato vines, each with its own difficulties. The classic, staking, requires tying the vines to a tall wooden stake. Ties can slide down the stake or strangle vines, or the vines can snap at the ties from their own weight. Cages made from panels of hog fence or concrete reinforcing wire mesh contain rampant vines, but they also create an impenetrable thicket, hiding the ripest tomatoes in the exact center of the cage. Fence-type trellises do create a manageable flat hedge of tomato vines, but they require more material and still risk broken branches when they grow too long before they're woven back into the mesh. And let's not even discuss store-bought "tomato cage" wire cones; they're too flimsy for supporting tomatoes and work much better as pepper cages.

A-frame trellises actually use the tomato vines' own weight to safely suspend them above the soil. An A-frame consists of four legs and a connecting ridgepole; a good example of an A-frame is an old pipe-frame swingset. While you could certainly use an old swingset as a tomato trellis, they can be hard to find these days, and they are hard to store in the offseason. Use the following instructions to build your own collapsible trellis from 2-by-4 framing lumber. Each trellis stands just over 7 feet tall and provides enough room for two to three tomato vines.

Materials

• 5 boards of dimensional lumber, 2-foot-by-4-foot-by-8-foot
• 2 stainless steel carriage bolts, 1/4-inch-by-3-inch
• 2 stainless steel wing nuts, 1/4-inch
• 2 stainless steel fender washers, 1/4-inch
• 4 stainless steel eye bolts, 1/4-inch-by-1-1/2-inch wood thread
• Sisal baling twine



Tools

• Pencil
• Tape measure
• Combination square
• Angle finder (optional)
• Wood saw, hand or reciprocating
• Drill
• 3/16-inch twist drill bit
• 1/4-inch twist drill bit
• 1-1/8-inch spade drill bit
• Screwdriver bit
• 1-inch wood chisel
• Mallet
• C-clamp

The legs

1) Select two straight 2-by-4s. Label one 3-1/2-inch "inside face" on each 2-by-4. Clamp together with ends and sides flush, labels on inside. Measure 16 inches from one end and locate the center of the 3-1/2- inch face. Using 1-1/8-inch spade bit, drill a hole 1/2-inch deep into one 2-by-4, taking care to keep the drill at right angle to the board. Using 1/4-inch twist drill bit, finish drilling through both 2-by-4s, creating a stepped hole.






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