Skip to Content

Best Tomato Supports: Cages vs Staking vs Fencing

Best Tomato Supports: Cages vs Staking vs Fencing
Home » Grow Your Own Food » Growing Great Tomatoes » Cages vs Staking vs Fencing

If you are wanting to get the most tomatoes from your plant, over the longest season, and ensure that they are the highest quality, you need to consider how you will trellis them.

Tomatoes are vining plants and different trellis support systems offer different benefits. Find out the the pros and cons to each method of growing tomatoes, whether it be cages, stakes or fencing, or even letting them sprawl on a bed of straw.

Brandywine tomato plant growing up next to hog wire fencing.
Heirloom tomato plant growing up next to hog wire fencing.

Jump to: Cages pros and cons | Staking Pros & Cons | Letting them Sprawl | Hogwire Fencing System | Trellis System in Winter | Varieties that Don’t Need Support

This post may contain affiliate links, and you can read our disclosure information here– 

Trellis Systems for Supporting Tomatoes

I started my trellis journey with cages purchased from the local home improvement store, and tried them out in a variety of ways…none were overly successful. 

I also tried these methods of support for a range of tomato varieties:

  • the “basket weave” method of trellising,
  • letting the tomatoes sprawl on a bed of straw,
  • staking them to posts of rebar, and
  • using large circular homemade cages of concrete reinforcing wire. 

After years of trials (and tribulations), my husband rigged up a system for growing our heirloom tomato plants that has proven easy, efficient, and successful.  I’ll show you what it looks like below, but first here is a list of pros and cons from my experience with other methods. 

Note that some of these may be effective for the small garden and not work for a larger garden.

Pro and Cons of Cages for Tomato Plants

Large tomato cage for trellising tomatoe
Large tomato cage for trellising tomatoes


  • You don’t need to worry about pruning, pinching off the suckers, or training the plant
  • There will be plenty of foliage to provide shade for the fruit and prevent sunscald
  • Due to plenty of leaf cover, the soil will stay shaded and retain more moisture.  Keeping the moisture level more consistent will help prevent cracking and blossom end rot
  • You can easily adapt the cages to do double duty and give the tomatoes a head start in the spring. Wrap a circle of one-foot-high plastic around the bottom of the cage at ground level and secure the overlapping ends.  This will give the plants some extra heat, protect them from winds, and may help protect them from cutworms.


  • Cages fall over.  Tomato plants can get quite large (both in height and width), and they can become too heavy for the cages.  This is especially true with some of the larger heirloom plants, where it is not uncommon to get one and two-pound fruits.  The weight and size of the plant can topple light weight cages to the ground with strong winds.
  •  Takes up space.  Larger cages in particular can take up quite a bit of space in a small garden.  They also take up space in storage, if that is a concern.
  • Longer time to ripen.  By late summer, the cages are so full of foliage that the fruit is shaded and doesn’t ripen as quickly or as consitently.


Most tomato cages from garden centers are simply too small and skimpy to support a healthy tomato plant all summer, especially the larger heirloom tomatoes.

Cone style tomato cages from garden store
Cone style tomato cages from garden store

Here is what to look for in a cage, whether you make your own or find one to purchase:

  • The cage should be at least five feet tall and 24 to 30 inches in diameter.  It needs to be strong, made with something like concrete reinforcing wire.
  • Make sure the cage has a large enough grid that you can get your hands through it to harvest the tomatoes..
  • Set the cages over the plants shortly after planting the seedling so you don’t break the plant trying to fit the cage over the plant later on (under the right conditions, tomato plants grow fast).

Staking Heirloom Tomato Plants


  • Staking takes up less space than caging.
  • Simple to install.
  • The vines & tomatoes are up off the ground, resulting in cleaner fruit and less rotting.
  • Early harvest.  Staking requires you to prune the plant more frequently, which results in more of the plant’s energy directed toward ripening fruit (note: you get earlier fruit but not as many if you prune)
  • each individual tomato will be larger due to the pruning effect mentioned above
  • it is easy to see the tomatoes and easy to harvest.
young tomato plant in pot with white wire trellis behind it
young tomato plant in pot with coated ties for staking

**Tip: Using the coated wire ties shown in the above photo works like a charm to tie up the vining stems as they grow.


  • It can be a hassle to prune and train the plant up the stake with ties. You have to be diligent and timely with training and pruning or the stems will break.
  • The lack of heavy leaf cover makes the tomatoes more susceptible to sunscald problems
  • Total yield is often lower, since staking requires pruning which lowers the total leaf surface of the plant.  Less leaf surface affects the total yield
  • Staked plants may require more water, as they are exposed more to the sun and drying winds, which leads to evaporation.


  • Purchase a tall (6-8 foot), spiral tomato stake or use existing materials around home.  I have used a six-foot piece of rebar fairly successfully, as it is quite sturdy, goes into the soil easily and has a rough texture that the plant ties adhere to.
  • Try to put the stake on the downwind side so the plant will lean into it when the wind blows.
  • Drive the stake into the ground right after transplanting so as not to disturb the roots.
  • Set the stake in the ground about 3-5″ away from the plant, and set the stake deep (at least a foot) into the soil so it will not topple over during storms.
  • As the plant grows, tie the stem of the plant to the stake with a soft tie.  The coated wires they sell at nurseries work well, but nylons or cloth is fine also.  Leave a couple of inches slack so the tie will not cut into the stem as it increases in width.
  • As the plant grows up the stake, add more ties when it starts to flop over (you will know when).
  • Regularly pinch off the unwanted, outward suckers and branches.
Staking a stem of a tomato plant with a plastic tie.
Staking a stem of a tomato plant with a plastic tie.

Since indeterminant tomatoes are vining plants you could try this arch for vining plants for something more attractive that allows the maximum sun to reach the leaves and fruits.

We have had good luck using these arches for beans and cucumbers. I suspect they would work well for those heirloom tomatoes that are indeterminate (vining). I would not try it with determinate tomatoes.

Letting Tomato Plants Sprawl on the Ground:


  • Least amount of work. No staking, pruning, tieing or training.
  • More tomatoes. This method allows for the most leaf growth and the most amount of the plant receiving the sun.  The plants bush out quite a bit and develop tomatoes on the side stems.


  • Although you will get more tomatoes, many of them may not be edible.  Sprawling results in tomatoes rotting from the moist soil or getting nibbled by animals and bugs.  We tried several different mulches to let the tomatoes rest on, but the straw attracted mice and slugs and the plastic got wet and promoted mold.
  • Space.  You need at least one square yard for each tomato plant.


  • Plant the tomatoes in a weed-free area, water, fertilize and have a cool drink.
  • The medium you grow them on (bare soil, plastic, straw, etc.) will determine how many spoil. With straw you often get pest problems, with black plastic you get rot, and bare soil can carry a lot of disease. I have tried all the mediums and would not recommend letting them sprawl.
Young tomato plant growing in straw mulch
Young tomato plant growing in straw mulch

Trellising Tomatoes with Large Grid, Strong Fencing (aka hogwire or concrete reinforcing fencing)

Hogwire fencing installed in greenhouse for tomato plants, with hose running through path.
Installing hogwire fencing for staking heirloom tomatoes


  • Space:  The trellis requires very little space and tomatoes can be planted close together.  My tomatoes are planted about 1 1/2 feet apart, alternating on each side of our trellis in a zig-zag formation (see photo).
  • Maintenance: You can easily weave the tomato plants through the grid of the trellis as they grow.  It doesn’t require a lot of training, pruning or tieing.  I will initially tie the plant to one of the wires when the plant is about two feet tall and then just weave it through the grids after that.
  • Reusable: You can leave the trellis up through the winter and just come back in the spring and add compost along the side of the trellis.  Many gardeners believe you have to rotate your tomato plants constantly.  I think you only need to do this if you have disease in your soil.  I have grown heirloom tomatoes successfully every year for 15 years in the same spot with the same trellis.  Same spot – new compost – healthy seedlings – great tomatoes
  • Less cracking, less disease, less nutritional problems.  The trellis allows for a lot of foliage, which shades the soil while still keeping the fruit off of the ground.  When fruit are up off the ground, they don’t come into contact with soil-borne diseases or ground pests.
  • No reaching through small grids on your hands and knees trying to find the ripe tomatoes that you can’t see inside the mass of leaves in the cages
  • Easy Harvesting: Fruit tends to ripen one to two weeks earlier.  More leaves are exposed to the sun which results in efficient use of the tomatoes food supply
  • Sturdy support: During our first three years of growing tomatoes, we would start off with beautiful organic plants in our “well-designed” tunnels and cages… and then the storms came.  Consistently.  Every year.  We finally went to iron and steel and built a heavily buttressed structure (tunnel) and hog panel trellises secured with iron T-posts.  No more problems with wind, storms or hail


  •  Start-up time.  It does take some time to build a good trellis initially.  The amount of time depends on what kind and how long of a trellis you’re building.  We took a half of a day to pound in the stakes and attach the hog panels to them, but we ended up with approximately 500 lineal feet of trellis that has never been taken down or modified since the initial building.
  • Expense.  It is more expensive than caging or staking.  I don’t remember the amount, but it didn’t seem like that much for something that will last the lifetime of the farm.
  • Training/tieing/weaving the plants: It does take some monitoring of the plants, and some time to tie them up initially and weave them subsequently.  More time than a cage would take and less time than staking.


Hogwire fencing system for tomatoes installed outside.
Hogwire fencing system for tomatoes installed outside.
  1. Equipment needed:  5-foot T posts, 16-foot hog panels, aluminum wire ties, two-handled post-driver, electric hacksaw, a good strong man or woman and a patient assistant.
  2. Allowing 1 1/2 feet between each tomato plant, use the hacksaw to cut panels in desired lengths.  We used the full 16-foot panels, which allowed 10 plants per panel.  We placed posts 9 feet apart down the length of 72 feet of panels, overlapping the panels slightly to add stability
  3. Lay the panels down flat on the ground where your trellis will stand.  Laying the panels on the ground will help you determine where to pound in the posts, and help you keep your posts in a straight line
  4. Starting 3″ in from one end of the panel, pound in a T-post approximately 18″ deep.  Go to the other end of the panel and pound in a T-post 3″ in from that end.  Go to the middle and pound in another T-post.
  5. Lift the panel 6″ from the ground, with the narrower parts of the grid at the bottom (towards the ground).  Have your assistant hold the panel in place while you secure the panels to the T-posts with the aluminum ties
  6. Dig or till in compost on each side of the panel and plant your tomatoes 1 1/2 feet apart, alternating each one to a different side of the panel.
  7. Run some T-tape or a soaker hose down the row of tomatoes so you don’t have to water from above.  This helps keep moisture consistent and prevents disease from soil splashing up onto the plants.

What the Trellis System Looks Like in Winter

Other Popular Methods of Supporting Tomato Plants:

Commercial Growing Methods of Basket Weave or Stringing

Many commercial growers use a method called Basket Weave Method for trellising or supporting vining tomato plants.

Another method for trellising vining tomato plants is known as the stringing method where the plants climb up strings that are secured at the base of the plant and then secured to a bar at the top of the greenhouse.

  I am not covering these, as they are designed more for the commercial grower and they require more in-depth information than I can present on this blog post, but the two links above are very detailed for each method.

Grow Determinate Tomato Varieties that don’t require support

Most tomato plants are considered either determinate or indeterminate (a few varieties are also considered dwarf). 

Most ”heirloom” tomato varieties have an indeterminate growth habit, which means they will continue to grow in height throughout the season (sometimes considered a vining habit). 

If you have a long growing season, and continue to fertilize, indeterminate tomato plants can get quite tall, anywhere from six to 20 feet high (in Minnesota, mine will usually grow to around six or seven feet).

Determinate tomatoes however, will stop growing at a certain height, usually around three to four feet.  Determinate plants tend to be quite bushy and have thick stems that will support them without the need of stakes or cages. 

Determinate tomato growing in container on the deck.
Determinate tomato growing in container on the deck.

Determinate varieties will produce a large amount of fruit in a relatively short timeframe (around 3 weeks), whereas indeterminate varieties will produce a lesser amount of fruit over a longer period of time.

I usually recommend determinate varieties to people who want to grow tomatoes in containers, as indeterminate tomatoes require taller staking or cages and that can be tricky in pots.

If you want to grow indeterminate tomatoes in containers, it is best to grow them near a trellis or fence that you can train them up, or use very large pots that will allow large cages.

Determinate varieties that I have grown and found to be sturdy enough to not require staking include: 

  • Bush Champion (hybrid)
  • Raspberry Lyanna (heirloom)
  • Principe Borghese (heirloom)
  • Oregon Spring (hybrid). 

Determinate varieties also tend to be smaller fruit and the fruit is often earlier.

Dwarf (or patio) tomatoes never need staking, but they only grow two or three feet tall and produce small tomatoes (cherry size).  I have grown the Totem variety as a dwarf tomato and it did very well in an unstaked pot.

More Help on Growing Heirloom (and Hybrid) Tomatoes

Conclusion on Supporting Heirloom Tomato Plants:

Grow some tomatoes.  Experiment.  Do what fits your space and your personal comfort level of maintenance.  Fencing works best for us on the farm, but staking in pots may work better in urban environments.

Just know that the taste of homegrown tomatoes that you can pick at their peak ripeness will always taste better than grocery store tomatoes.

If you like my articles about cooking and gardening, subscribe to my weekly newsletter, where I share free recipes and gardening tutorials.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Sue Koci says:

    Great info! I’ve been trying for many years to find the best tomato training method.
    How tall are the hog panels you’re using? Noticed some are on or very close to ground and all the holes are the same size. Your instructions say to raise the panels 6″ off the ground. Can you please clarify?

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences!

    • Hi Sue, The hog panels we used were 6 feet tall, which lost some of their height when put in the ground. They should be inserted in the ground deep enough that they are stable, but still rising 6″ off the ground…if some of mine look like they are close to the ground it is probably because they have been there a number of years and the soil has built up around some of them. There is a good article on this in a recent Fine Gardening magazine (the magazine is a special edition dedicated to tomatoes – it’s pretty good)

  2. Oh, and I have read that my tomatoes have the potential to sprawl 10-12 feet. So do I pinch off the top growth at a certain point, aim them back toward the ground, or just pray that they will flop in an orderly manner?

    • Hi Granolagirlatheart, The question of to pinch or not to pinch is somewhat debatable. I don’t pinch at all, especially not the leader. Frost comes mid to late Oct here in MN so they don’t get 10-12 feet tall. They do outgrow their trellis but I gently weave them back down. Pinching the suckers is something else that I need to do a lengthy post on. Pinching “can” give you bigger and potentially earlier tomatoes, but now as many. I have too many tomatoes to baby them, so I don’t pinch. I’ll try and post on that in the coming weeks.

  3. Gary Pardo says:

    Do “hog panels” fall under a different name? Where do you buy them from? Thank you.

  4. Dan Plough says:

    I have come up with a great way to do most of my vine plants. I go to the local tire store and purchase old tires. I take them home on one side of the tire I drill hole in the rubber to allow the water to seep out of them. I then work the ground below the tire, set the tires down and fill them up with good soil. I put my plants then inside the tires and stake them up. Oh I also attached gopher screen on the bottom to keep the gophers out of my plants.

  5. amber says:

    could you use this same method for cucumbers and peas? thanks so much!

    • Jason says:

      I know a guy that uses the Heathglen trellis system for tomatoes, peas, anything viney, It seems to work out real well.

  6. Ligia Giles says:

    First time raise bed farmer, shoud stake the plant or cage if it is stake how tall should be the stake

    • It depends on what it is that you are growing and what zone you are growing in. For indeterminate tomatoes with a long growing season, you need something around 8 feet tall. For pole beans you would need to stake also, but not for bush beans. Look at the individual type of plant that you are growing and read about how tall it would get and go from there. Re stakes vs. cages, I line out the pros and cons in the article.

  7. Marge from Oregon says:

    Great advice and photos; I think you’ve convinced me to try your trellis system instead of building cages. But I’m still confused about dimensions in the directions. You recommend 5′ T-posts and say that your hog panels are 6′ tall, but the photos show T-posts that rise above the height of the panel. Also, your March 30, 2014 response to a question says that the panels should be inserted in the ground for stability but still rise 6″ off the ground (the directions indicated the panel being wired in place 6″ off the ground as well). What am I missing? Help! Thanks.

    • Hi Marge, you’re right and my recommendations are not absolute. Indeterminate tomatoes will grow until frost, so their height is going to depend on where you live and what kind of summer you have. My best advice is to go with the tallest posts you can find. We ended up doubling the height of the hog panels last summer because they were too short for our growing season. I’ll try and share a photo later this week of what they look like in 2020.

  8. Charles Bowen says:

    Heirloom tomatoes in a 5gal bucket . Cherokee Purple and Yellow Stripey . They can grow 9’ tall . Will pinch the top out at some point . What is the way to support ?

    • Charles, Most tomatoes, including heirlooms like Cherokee Purple and Yellow Stripey are indeterminate tomatoes, meaning they will vine and grow until frost. The height they end up getting depends on the growing season where you live and how much of a head start they have when you put them in the ground. I would not plant indeterminate tomatoes in a 5 gallon bucket. It is not enough room for their root systems and you won’t get as many tomatoes and you would still need a support system of some sort. If you want to go the container route, get as big of a pot that you can and lean it against a fence or a trellis that they can climb up (you’ll need to tie the stems to the support system as it grows. Otherwise just grow in the ground and put in a trellis or support system. I prefer the hog panels listed in this post but there are a number of support systems you can use. You’ll need something strong. Those particular tomatoes are large and a good crop can get heavy.

  9. LuAnne Barnett says:

    I am a first time gardener. Do you plant your tomatoes in a row or a section?

    • I plant my tomatoes in rows a couple of feet apart. Because I grow so many tomatoes, it ends up being what might be called a “section”. They are in 3 rows that are 90 feet long and spaced 3 feet apart. For the home grower, just take advantage of whatever your space allows. It doesn’t really matter.

  10. Jacqui McCarthy says:

    Trying to understand this thread about using hog panels for tomatoes. Someone also asked once. But the reply was just as confusing. 6’ tall, stuck in the ground to hold them in place , and are 6” above the ground????

    • The 6’ posts are pounded into the ground. You then hold the panels themselves up about 6” above the ground and attach them to the posts. That means the grid where the panels start will be 6” above the ground so the plants have some room to grow upward before they are tied to the panels.

  11. D. Boisvert says:

    Due to space constraints I need to do container gardening.
    What type of tomatoes do well in a 5 gal. bucket?

    • The easiest tomatoes to grow in a container of any size are determinate varieties. There are a number of tomatoes that are determinates, so you have to look up the variety name to see what it is. Determinates grow to about 2 1/2 feet, they have stocky stems and the tomatoes are generally fairly small. The determinates I grow in pots are called “Patio”, “Totem” and “Principe Borghese”. There are many others however. If you can get a bigger container than a 5 gallon bucket you’ll get more tomatoes. Other tomatoes will grow in a container but they will need staking and they’re not as easy.

  12. Great information. I have tried every imaginable trellising technique and I grow mostly heirlooms. I have cattle panels that I could use, but six feet is not tall enough. How to your extend your panels? Do you cut one in half horizontally and place it above the full size panel? Thanks in advance for you response.

  13. Megan says:

    The guy who named Cherokee Purple grows his in 5 gallon fabric pots. (Craig LeHoullier)

    • Tony says:

      @dorothy stainbrook,

      5 gal buckets will easiest root bind just about any tomato plant. Even Dwarf Determinate have roots that rin a 4 ft diameter circle around the plant and even transplants with their damaged stunted tap root can go at least 2 ft deep.

      On Indeterminate that are actually plants directly from seed in well aerated high organic material soil will have the main tap root good 4ft+ deep with the spider roots spreading out 6 ft. Think of an inverted cone 4 ft tall 6 wide at the base. That is the typical root structure of an undisturbed Indeterminate plant like mortgage lifter etc plants. It’s also a proven fact by numerous university ag dept studies that pruning beyond clearing tge bottom 6-12 in off the main stems to prevent soil born diseases will de rease productivity.

      It all starts with the soil prep as that’s what is thefoundation for roots perf. In every veggie it’s the roots that determin plant produce and health potential. Pruning annual set plants like tomato also has a negative effect o the root structure and causes certain hormone or seasonal chemical reaction. You want to last round of tomatoes for the season to hurry up and ripen? Trim the hell out of the vegetation and stems without fruit. Same happens if you damage the roots.

      Cattle panels are without a doubt tge best most se use and easy to manage way to train tomatoes. I personally arch them between 2 raised beds to make an arch covered path. This allows tge vines stems to climb and run-up that arch with only a bit of help from the gardener. The fruit tends to hang down Makin it easy to pick unless you are vertically challenged but you can adjust the hieght by the distance or length of the panels. Use zip ties as a cheap way to secure tge vines. Zip them loose not snug. Run a drip line down the row of plant bases. Plant basil around the bottoms of the plants. They will prevent weeds and I swear they g8ve the tomatoes a more rich flavor. It maybe they make the plant healthier or add compound that helps but every tomato plant that has had health basil around it has always produced great tomatoes. Now I plant them between all my tomatoes . I plant o ions between the rows of paper plants. Same effect as both grow huge and prolific. Those two combos perform better that any other plant combos I have tried to date.b others help and do well but not like these in effect of the fruit and plant.

      Use mulch leaf or straw make sure if it’s strait wss not sprayed with roundup or other herbicide. I have next to no weeding in season on my tomato basil combo beds that I straw mulched from the beginning. I add more mid season right when the tomatoes are ripening and growing i.e. mid-late July zone 6b-7a. Once those plants start putting on fruit water every other day to every day depending on heat. I prefer to use a liquid all natural fertilizer tomato specific and that ge5s added to the water in a ratio that allows for EOD use. Just think how much water it takes to keep a plant growing ft per day in 80+F temps that has many 6-8 ft stems with hundreds if beaches and fruit.

    • Growing in 5-gallon pots can certainly work, but I found it to be more difficult to take care of heirloom tomatoes for the whole growing season this way. They require quite a bit of soil and nutrition to be healthy for a long growing season and when I moved to larger containers they did much better. That, and I find the 5-gallon buckets to be pretty unattractive, but they are inexpensive for sure. If you can grow them in 5-gallon buckets in your region and take care of them the whole growing season this way, it is certainly a viable option.

  14. Steve Felker says:

    Hello. How do I attach tomato to hog panel? Tie with string to plant to panel as grows? Thanks. Didn’t see that.

  15. justin says:

    i personally grow a small garden and in the last few years have gotten even smaller going from around 100 tomato plants down 15 then maybe 5 at most during the fall. Point is I have stuck with the string method religiously for years now even with a small garden. The biggest draw back I feel is if a person wants to grow more then one stalk it becomes a bit of a hassle
    simpel build. If your only doing one row place two polls in the ground and one horizontal on top at just above your preferred max hight of plant then put small steak in in-between where your tomato plants will go plant your tomato plants when they get 6″ or so tie strings to stakes. one stake will do two plants. From there run string to plant candy cane up the plant to horizontal pole. as your plant grows continue raping plant around string happy gardening

  16. Rick says:

    I will try cages after reading your article. What gage do you recommend? ONLINE shopping is frustrating, do you have a link or source that sells cages that meet your specs?

    In south Texas I plant Tycoon, Celebrity and Ruby Crush which get over 6′ tall and of course Sweet 100 and BHN 968 (cheerie)
    Thank you

    • Norm says:

      @Rick, you find these panels in many farm and ranch stores. A few big box stores like Home Depot carry the panels, but more often than not they have rolls of wire fence which is different than the panels. Be careful, some lumber yards/box retailers sells decorative panels for decks and porches…that is a different product and expensive! 🙂

    • If you are doing the linear trellis system you use hog panels and get them as sturdy as you can find (I don’t know gage but my husband thinks they may be around 10 gage). If you are doing the circular cages you will need to find something that is bendable, so that would be something like a 12-14 gage.

      Re where to find them: In Minnesota we get them at Fleet Farm or one of the feed mill stores. In Texas you may have something called Tractor Supply where you can get them, but I don’t know for sure. Some sort of farm supply store.

      Hope that helps.

  17. Norm says:

    I like this system, but if you are growing indeterminate tomatoes, panels 16′ long are only 4′ tall, so raising the panels 6″ is still too short. I also don’t like the fact that many of the panels (hog, cattle, horse, etc) are different sized squares on the bottom (smaller/tighter pattern). I try to purchase utility or feedlot panels which have squares the same size throughout (though they do tend to be more expensive). We cut our panes in 1/2 and stand them on end; so they are 4′ wide and 8′ tall. They work well for beans,too, if you like to rotate crops. This, of course, means you need more panels and posts (and the posts need to be longer), but we think it is worth it for a smaller family garden. If you are growing for a food bank or farm operation it might be more or too expense, but for the small grower we like it better than 4′ tall panels.

  18. Michelle from Michigan says:

    Thank you for this post and for continuing to respond to questions! Your post and responses to others has helped me a lot!

  19. Melodie says:

    We have a hot summer growing season here in Utah. My tomato plants don’t usually get taller than 5 feet in the growing season. I am going to try the fencing method this year. Would 14-gauge welded wire be strong enough to support the vines and fruits along with t-posts placed closer together? How close would you suggest putting the t-posts(5-6 ft)?

    • The 14-gauge wire should be strong enough. Our posts are 8 feet apart but that’s because the hog panels are quite stiff. When you get whatever gauge wire you’re using hold it up at 5, 6, and 8 feet apart and select the spacing that doesn’t allow bends in the wire.

  20. Chuck says:

    Do you run your tomato fence system north/south or east/west?

  21. Rick J says:

    Put down the hack saw, wether hand or electric. Buy a bolt cutter! Easier, faster, and no changing blades.
    Rick J

  22. Kay Van Coevern says:

    I use hog panels that measure 4’x16’. For my tomatoes, I run the panel on the long side and weave the vines through the squares. If the vines get taller than 4’, I let them drape over or prune. In my experience, in western Washington the growing season limits plant height. For folks who need a taller support, I’d recommend using those same panels but stand the panel on the 4’ side and make an arch. Have about 4-5’ at the base, between each end of the panel. The top of the arch is a good 6-7’ high then. I use t-posts to stake the sides. Using this method for my pole beans has been terrific. I make an arch tunnel of 4-6 panels and I can pick inside and outside of it. I bet this would work well for those really tall plants in other areas of the country.

  23. Carlo says:

    Hi, I am definitely wanting to do the fencing method, however I have been warned about the sun heating up the metal and burning the plants. Get a very hot summer where I am. Have you experienced any issues with the metal and heat burning and damaging the plants?

    • Hmm, I have not ever had that happen, and I’ve been using this system for heirloom tomatoes for 20 years. What I have had happen however, is something called sunscald. It was when the tomato fruit was exposed to the hot sun without much leaf cover. I would recommend not pruning all your suckers so that you get plenty of leaf cover.

  24. Tina says:

    I would like to point out that what you have are cattle panels, which are 50 inches tall. Hog panels are 39 inches tall, and will have people going to the feed store asking for the wrong item. I also am using this same system, and grew 50 plants this year in an 8 foot bed. Obviously they were planted very close, but I still had tons of tomatoes.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.