EUGENE, Ore. — The heat of summer is upon us, which means young tomato plants will soon double and even triple in size.
“And if you're a gardener in the Willamette Valley, you know that tomatoes can grow six to eight feet tall if you have adequate soil and drainage,” Ryan Brey from Oregon’s Constant Gardener said.
Getting your tomatoes off to a good start means giving them a framework for support. You can do that with either a manufactured or custom built trellis.
“The whole purpose of a trellis is to help support the plant for sun exposure and make sure there's adequate air between the branches so you're not encouraging fungal disease,” Brey said.
One problem with the traditional wire cages is that after about one season, they can get a bit flimsy.
That's why if you're in it for the long haul, you can look for a stronger gauge wire cage or you can build your own trellis.
You're just looking for something that'll keep the fruit off the ground.
“Tomatoes in the Willamette Valley, if they're lying on the ground, they're susceptible to disease and also insect or slug damage,” Brey said.
Building your own trellis is fairly inexpensive. You can do that with anything from PVC pipe to wood stakes. I chose bamboo poles. Three to four stakes around each plant should be sufficient. From there, you can tie cross pieces with garden stretch tape. As the plant grows, you can use the tape again to train the vines to the stakes.
Once your tomato plants grow to about three feet tall, you can cut off the leaves on the bottom foot of the stem. Those are the oldest leaves and they are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems.