How and When to String-Weave Tomatoes (with Video)


At the Seven Springs MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR, I used my table-top model to show people how to string-weave tomatoes. As the photo shows, I had #2 pencils as stakes and pieces of pink tinsel Christmas tree up-cycled as model tomato plants. I’ll bring the model to Kansas next. This is a good time of year to plan a new approach.

String-weaving (also known as Florida string weaving and basket-weaving) is an easy way to support lots of tomato plants. If you have long rows, this method is ideal. All you have to store over the winter are the stakes. No bulky cages or heavy cattle panels or bulky rolls of wire mesh. This system also works for growing peppers and peas. We have used it for large determinates (Roma), heirloom tomatoes, and indeterminates.

The ATTRA publication Organic Tomato Production includes a comparison of different tomato training and support systems. You can also see this on the extension page, Training Systems and Pruning in Organic Tomato Production.

String-weaving comes equal-best or second best in almost all categories: earliness, fruit size, yield, quality, protection from sunburn and pest control. It is worst as far as labor cost, although the labor is spread out through the season, so it doesn’t seem so bad. Trellising (a high wire between posts, and strings dropped down to wind each plant around) comes out best for earliness, fruit size and pest control (but worst for cracking, and thus not so good for marketable yield). Cages are best for marketable yield (so people who only grow relatively few plants could choose that method). But caged tomatoes do poorly on earliness and fruit size. The cheapest support system is no support at all – letting the plants sprawl on the ground. But the fruit quality and quantity is poor, (pests, rotting, cracking and sunburn reduce potential yields).

Tools for String Weaving Tomatoes

Put tomato stakes in soon after planting, while the soil is still soft, and you can see where the drip tape is (and which side the roots are, if you planted in diagonal trenches). We use 6-foot (1.8 m) steel T-posts, with rows up to 150 feet (45.6 m) long without any extra bracing at the ends. Some people put an extra stake at an angle tied to the end stakes as a brace. Set one T-post after every two plants along the row.

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