Tomatoes are a whole lot more fun to grow when they’re well-supported, easy to prune, and convenient to harvest. OK, so tomatoes are really, ridiculously fun to grow no matter what. Which is why most of us turn to the ubiquitous tomato cage at some point early in our tomato obsession to up our game and grow more of them. The thing is, cages are expensive. And they take up a ton of space in the garden. And… they’re a pain to store out of the garden in winter. Luckily, they are also replaceable with an incredibly cheap and easy-to-build trellis structure.

A trellis is not just cheaper and slimmer than a cage though: it creates even more verticality in your garden, makes finding and removing pests so much easier than an overgrown cage, and facilitates denser planting so you don’t lose production out of your plants.

Still not convinced? Take a few minutes to check out this video by successful market gardener Curtis Stone on managing an intensive Tomato garden. Notice the lack of cages!

Let’s get to it!

Tomato Trellis Component List Basic Design

Building a tomato trellis is a very simple DIY project and easy to customize to your garden. Just take a quick look at the basic materials required and you’ll see what I mean.

  1. Two tall t-posts or wooden stakes per tomato row. These should be at least 5 feet tall and will be driven into the ground (or secured safely in some other way) at the end of each row of tomatoes. These must be rigid so a thin gardening stake won’t work.

  2. A two way 90 degree angle pvc elbow or a three way pvc tee per post. These will very simply sit on the top of your posts to help you easily connect your posts.

  3. A wooden dowel or metal pipe with a length slightly longer than your tomato row per row. This will be stuck into the pvc pieces to connect the tops of your posts.

  4. Strong Twine. Amount will vary depending on how long your rows are and how many plants you grow. This will be run straight down from the pipe for the tomato plant to grow up.

  5. One plastic gardening clip or gardening stake per tomato. Tie each piece of twine to this to create tension.

Tomato Trellis Basic Design

With your components in hand, it’s time to build. A trellis for each row should take you about 15 minutes to put together.

  1. Drive your posts or stakes at the end of your tomato row. The distance between the stakes must match the length of your rod (item #3 above). Make sure it’s extremely secure as it will need to stay upright in the wind even when laden with hundreds of tomatoes. Be safe!

  2. Stick the pvc pieces onto the top of the stakes. Depending on the size of the pvc piece and the fit with the stake, you may want to secure these in place.

  3. Place each end of the rod into the pvc pieces. If the distance between the stakes was correct, there should not be enough give for the dowel to easily fall out.

  4. Cut pieces of twine to the same length as the height of your dowel plus 6 inches. You’ll need one piece per tomato plant.

  5. Tie a piece of twine to the dowel directly above each tomato plant

  6. Clip your garden clip on the bottom of each tomato plant with the larger circular area. It should be loose around the stem.

  7. Pulling the twine tight, attach each piece of twine onto the smaller circular area of the garden clip.

  8. Repeat for each row or simply add a third stake and cross-post to make longer rows

That’s it! With your trellis in place and each plant clipped to its length of twine, all you have to do now is periodically tie the growing plant to the taught twine. Do so loosely to allow the plant’s stem to grow in circumference without being strangled.