Trellising Tomatoes With the Florida Weave

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

The Florida Weave… I have to chuckle every time I hear the name. It sounds like a bad hairpiece, maybe even a rollickin’ good dance down south (and maybe it’s both?).

But it’s actually an effective method of trellising tomatoes if you plant your tomatoes in rows. Many small-scale farmers and commercial growers employ the Florida Weave because it’s fast, simple to set up and maintain, and uses space efficiently during the growing season — as well as after the growing season when there’s so little material to store.

I first learned about the Florida Weave when I was deciding how to support my 14 tomato plants in raised beds. Last summer I caged my tomatoes, and while the metal cages worked fairly well in the beginning, I somehow managed to obliterate a few (mostly while uprooting old plants) and didn’t have enough for all my sprawling indeterminates this season. I also wanted something inexpensive and effortless, rather than buying more cages (too much money) or constructing my own towers out of rebar (too much work).

The Florida Weave used materials I already had around the yard, and with a little manpower from my handy fella, I had all my plants neatly trellised in no time at all.

With the Florida Weave, the idea is to “sandwich” your plants between lengths of twine. The twine gently holds up the plants without the need for additional stakes and clips.

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

Start trellising your tomato plants when they’re under 2 feet tall and easier to manage. Larger plants become unruly and difficult to weave around the branches. You also run the risk of driving stakes into the roots of more established plants.

Start with sturdy stakes at least 7 or 8 feet tall. I used 2×2 wooden stakes that I salvaged from other projects, but steel T-posts are ideal, especially if you’ll be weaving several plants in long rows. Place a stake between every two or three plants, and pound at least a foot into the ground (depending on how much wind your garden gets in the summer).

Use a durable, weather-resistant twine that doesn’t stretch too much, such as tomato twine or synthetic baler twine. In a pinch, you can even use sisal or plain old cotton twine, but you may have to re-tighten the lines throughout the season if they start to sag.

Starting about 8 inches above the ground, loop a length of twine around the first stake and weave the twine in and out between each plant. When you reach the last stake, loop the twine around the stake in a figure-8, making sure the twine grips the stake and the line is taut, but not pulling too tightly to damage your tomato stems. Continue weaving on the other side between each plant, back to the first stake, and tie off with a few knots.

Since that probably sounded just as confusing as it was to write it, I’ll give you this nifty little drawing that I made.

Aerial view of the Florida Weave

This is an aerial view of what the Florida Weave should look like. The top illustration shows my current setup of three plants across an 8-foot bed. The bottom illustration shows an efficient setup that can be repeated for longer rows.

As your tomato plants grow taller, weave additional lines of twine about every 8 inches up the stakes. Carefully tuck in any stray branches. I tend to reign in just the heavier ones, and let the smaller branches sprawl out naturally.

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

Now that my tomatoes have grown quite bushy, I just run the twine straight across the entire row of plants between my stakes, instead of weaving a figure-8 in between each plant. Once you’ve added a few lines of twine halfway up the stakes, the main stems of the plants are well supported and more twine simply holds the branches all in.

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

A few plants have even grown taller than my stakes and I simply let the branches drape over the twine. The trellis is supporting the weight well, and I find it much easier to find and harvest tomatoes from the “wall” of foliage that the Florida Weave creates.

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

Trellising tomatoes with the Florida Weave

At the end of the season, you can simply cut the twine, pull up the plants, and even leave the stakes in place for the following year if they’re not in the way. No need to wrestle with cages and untangle masses of tomato branches — which is how I ended up with a handful of flimsy, half-broken cages in the first place. I suppose everything does happen for a reason.

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August 19 2011      39 comments     Linda Ly
Jardín   Verduras

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  • Karen

    I’m actually planning my garden properly this time instead of planting in a haphazard manner (wherever I find space). So I think I can actually use this method. Do you think this method is good for broad beans?

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Yes, the Florida weave works well for all climbing plants or tall plants that typically require staking.

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  • Susan

    I’ve searched to see if you give specific info on your raised beds themselves but didn’t find a post. Such as how deep they are, what materials you used to box them in, how to prepare the area for the bed, etc? I live in the Ozarks of Arkansas and the ground is so rocky and solid clay that just digging a hole can put my hubby’s back out for days! We brought in truckloads of dirt for our large vegetable garden. But need to start making raised beds for more vegetables, herbs and landscaping. Yours seem to be so successful that I thought I would ask the expert! Also, do you plant in rows in all your beds or do you use the “square foot” gardening method in any? And finally, how do you sow your tiny seeds without getting them all in one spot and none in other places?! Thank you in advance!

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      I was lucky to move into a house whose previous owners already had raised beds built! Ours are approx. 4’x8′ and 8″ deep. I’d guess that they’re cedar but I’m not really sure. We have other beds that are made with railroad ties and we’ve also built our own with brick. You can use any material you want, really; just make sure you use a rot-resistant wood if you go that route.

      If your soil is exceptionally rocky and hard, I’d suggest Googling the lasagna composting, sheet composting, or sheet mulching method of prepping soil for a garden (all the same method, just different names). I don’t know if you were being literal when you said brought in “dirt” – most likely you’ll need to amend it with compost before you use it in a raised bed.

      I usually plant in rows, but sometimes I will just stick plants wherever I find room – this tends to happen mid-season or in between seasons as I’m pulling out old plants and replacing them with new seeds/plants. I am not disciplined enough for square foot gardening! LOL… My garden is not the neat and orderly thing you see in magazines; it’s fairly haphazard with plants growing everywhere!

      For handling those tiny seeds, try making some seed tape: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2012/03/make-your-own-seed-tape/

      Enjoy your new garden!

    • Steve

      Susan, I’ve used the straw bale method on my red clay here in CA. It’s easy, sorta, will save any hole digging, and will eventually feed your clay enough to make it into good soil. Just get a bunch of bails of straw and put them anywhere you want to grow. I have rather long arms and find that 5 bails, turned up on the narrow sides without twine makes the ideal width for a bed. You can place the bales flat so the twine is on top to cover a larger area with each bale but I think it’s much easier to not have to have the twine in the way,

      You must get the bales in place well before you plant so that you can soak them down and keep them moist for a good 3 weeks. Otherwise they’ll cook your seedlings. Soaking them and keeping them moist gets them to go through their initial decomposition, which cause them to get hot. So put them in place about a month or so before you plant and soak them after they’re in place. Don NOT try to soak them and then move them. They go from fairly light Oh my GOODness! with water.

      I like to mix about 50/50 compost and planting mix to add to the planting holes to give the roots a nice easy start. Since the straws are oriented up and down when the bale’s on it’s narrow side, they’ll easily separate giving you a nice planting hole. Just shove the trowel in and pull back, stick in a handful or so of the compost, then the veggie start. Finish by filling in the rest of the hole with the mix and spreading it on top of the bale around the plant.

      You can also plants seeds directly in the straw on top and the sides for the most use of the bales. After everything’s planted, I like to cover the entire top of the bales with the planting mix. The vertical orientation of the straws makes it easier to plant but also makes them natural wicks to evaporate your water. So instead of mulching the soil with straw, you’re mulching the straw, which is your soil, with soil. This also makes a good planting bed for tiny seeds that might get lost by falling too deep to grow back out of the straw.

      Run a tube or 2 across the top of the bales for irrigation, then add all the little drippers and/or micro sprinklers to cover all the plants and you are ready. If you have one of the containers in your system for adding fertilizer during watering, that’s the easiest way to feed your plants. Also you can skip the planting mix and use straight compost in the planting holes and across the top. They’ll get some nutrients from the straw as it breaks down, especially once the worms get up in there.

      My ground is quite uneven so the bales tend to lean one way and the other, leaving gaps between them. This is not a problem. It’s an opportunity. I take all the leaves except the very top ones off my tomato plants and then plant them deep in these cracks, filling around them with the mix. I had a real wide gap between 2 end bales the first time I made a straw bale garden so I took some prunings and drove them in the end of the gap to seal it. Then, starting on the inside end, I buried my tallest tomato with it’s roots on the ground and the last leaves a couple inches above the bales. As the plants got shorter, I continued to plant them with their roots on the ground but filled in around them less and less. As they grew, I removed the lower leaves and filled in around them until the gap was filled. The little 8 inch plant at the end had little trouble catching up with the big guy at the other end and was a huge producer.

      After using bales for a few years, I ended up getting a little tiller and tilled all the good black soil on top into the the red clay beneath, and pulling it all away from the beds into mounds. Then I laid tree prunings, artichoke stems big and hard as bats, oyster, muscle, crab and clam shells, most of a large bag of ground oyster shell, shredded and non-shredded paper and cardboard and a bunch of used, rusty wire for iron into the holes I’d excavated. Then I tilled a huge amount of home grown vermicompost from a 55 gallon drum and a few garbage cans into the mounds of soil and pulled it all over the beds so they ended up about a foot high. If I’d only known about huegelkultur thenm they would’ve been much higher.

      Since then I’ve let things go to seed, collecting a great deal and letting the plants replant for me. When it’s time to remove a dead plant, I never pull them. Okay, almost never. I cut the plant at ground level and let the roots stay in the ground to feed the worms, soil and plants. I also leave weeds in the garden as long as they aren’t shading out the veggies, especially the deep rooted perennial weeds. Their roots go deep into the soil bringing up nutrients the veggies can’t reach. And a great many of those weeds are actually much more nutritious than the veggies and quite tasty.

      And cutting, or breaking up dead veggies and weeds, depending on how dead they are, provides mulch and food for the soil. So my straw bale beds have graduated to lazy gardener beds with loveage, carrots and many other herbs and veggies replanting themselves and running everywhere. My foolishly letting the lemon balm and other herbs go to seed ended up with them coming up all over but that’s not a problem either. It’s an opportunity to easily yank or dig up a bunch of free chicken food, for which the chickens are very grateful.

  • Becky

    Brilliant! Love that you are teaching this new Floridian about the Florida weave. I am absolutely going to try it for the next tomato growing season in September!

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Best of luck! (And love that your next tomato season starts in September… gotta love that warm Florida climate.)

  • Ingramter

    I actually tried this technique this year for my tomatoes in, of all places, FLORIDA!  It has worked wonderfully!  My honey even attached permanent stakes to the end of my raised bed so I could do this whenever I plant tomatoes!  My plants are HUGE and loaded with tomatoes and blossoms, much easier to harvest too.  Thanks for the tip!!

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      So happy to hear it!

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  • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

    Beautiful garden! You can try the Florida weave with your beans and cucumbers too.

  • lisa herring

    OMG! What a fantastic idea. I am not only a fellow young, Florida, gardener, but I am kinda into pugs too ;)  My DH and I are trying stakes this year (cages sucked for us last year as well), and this looks like what we will use next year. The Florida weave. haha cracks me up.  I would love for you to check out my garden pics here: 
    http://busymomsdoitbest.blogspot.com/2012/05/just-cant-get-enough.html  I look forward to reading more in your blog! 

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  • http://littlecoffeebeans.com/ Lisa

    Thanks for the detailed graphic. Love this idea and I’ll be talking my husband into doing it. I loathe those metal ones too. We’re doing over 30 tomato plants this year and this method will make it a piece of cake!

  • Tomato

    Your graphic which shows the string being woven between three plants is actually a variation called “Missouri Weave” (which is usually done on 2 plants between stakes).

    I recommend that at least the end stakes be made of a sturdy metal. This is important especially with longer rows, open sites and indeterminate varieties. Wet plants get heavy and a row of string weaves tomatoes will act like a sail in strong thunderstorm winds snapping wooden posts.

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Interesting, I’ve never heard of any variation called a Missouri weave. I’ve always seen it as a Florida weave, whether you weave 2 plants or more.

      I do agree that the end stakes should be as sturdy as possible. In gardens prone to wind or summer storms, steel T-posts are my recommendation.

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  • Scrappytudestudios

    I wish I’d know this earlier in the year! Can’t wait to try it next year when I expand my garden!

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com Linda Ly

      Let me know how it works out for you! I’ll be using the Florida Weave again next year as well.

  • http://justabouthome.wordpress.com/ Liz

    This is a great idea. Thanks for sharing! I only have 2 tomato plants this year, but this will help me expand!

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com Linda Ly

      Especially since this method takes up so little space! Good luck with your BIGGER tomato crop next summer! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/VTFarmGirl Alison K

    Looks great. I am so fed up with wire cages. Would love to see what this method looks like with mature plants…

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com Linda Ly

      I just took some photos of my plants today, and added them at the end of my post. They should give you an idea of how it all looks mid-to-late season!

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