25 February 2011

This trellis sucks

The reason is quite simple really: shade. In the top photo I am standing on the south side of the trellis. Both years we used this design, the tomato plants on this side did quite well, the ones on the other did somewhat crappy.

The north side tomatoes were destined to be smaller than the other side just because it wasn't getting that true southern exposure, but the unforeseen problem actually turned out to be moisture related. By 11:00 in the morning, the sun would be blazing everything quite effectively. However, one morning (probably around 9:00) when I walked past the north side of the trellis, I noticed that the morning dew had not yet been evaporated; about a week later the same dewy leaves were turning brownish yellow and they eventually shriveled up. At the end of the season the north side tomatoes looked like trees from a Dr. Seuss book, tall scraggly trunks with bushy floppy tops. No good.

We've tried a lot of trellising techniques over the years and it looks like we'll be trying another this year. I believe that if we had the space we would stick with the last trellis from our Downingtown garden.

It had everything: plenty of air flow, plenty of sun, and plenty of support. The only problem is that it took up more room than we can sacrifice in our tiny backyard. Maybe we can develop a city version. Hmm.


Aimee's Mom said...

Have you thought about running the trellis north and south, instead of east and west? That way both sides get sun. that is what I had to do. I had the same problem with my bean trellis - but can't rotate it because of lack of room. Or, on the north side, plant something like lettuce that would like the shade.

lisa said...

curious about your "old" trellis, how did you "hold the tomatoes to it? And did you put beans on the ends of each one. I am getting ready to do my garden and was going to do a trelis like you were taking down and realized I would have the same issue as you in relation to the sun. I would love your answer!

Kelly said...

Aimee's Mom,
I believe changing what we plant on the North side would be the best step for us. If we turn the trellis, we would still have to deal with the issue of one side shading the other for part of the day.

Go to:

This should be what you're looking for.

lisa said...

uh oh, I dont see a link where it says go to:

Kreg said...

For the past 2 years we've been using a trellis that's just a row of 7' steel T fence posts (spaced about 8' apart) with 4 lines of steel wire connecting them spaced about 18" apart. I then tie up the plants so they're pretty much flat in the same plane as the fence trellis (like an espalier planting of fruit trees). They run E-W, & I plant stuff in their shade that needs a break from summer heat. I got this idea from a PASA conference workshop.... So far, I've been very happy (we're a little sunlight-challenged by too many 60' oak trees)

lisa said...

thank you Kreg! what do you plant at the bottom of it? lettuce ect? and you only tie up the main stem correct? I appreciate your help I cant wait to get going!

Kreg said...

I usually allow 3-4 main stems & then prune all the suckers off as they pop out. The need to prune ensures that I inspect the plants pretty often for disease and/or pest problems. Some varieties are more vigorous than others (cherries especially), & I have to keep after them a little more diligently. I’ve done this set up for two years now, & I get a little better each year. Yes, anything that tolerates a little shade gets planted on the north side of the tomato plants! Spinach & lettuce are prime candidates. I also find that some spring cole crops enjoy a little shade if I try to let them go a little into the warmer months.

Kelly said...

Hi Lisa,
I don't know why the address didn't show. Hm.
Anywho, if you go to our post from June 11th 2008, I believe you'll find the information you need. The video at the bottom is where we got the idea.

Hey Kreg,
I've seen the set up you're talking about, but only in larger gardens. I'd be interested to see it's practicality in a small city plot. Maybe we'll give it a go this year.