vegetable growing techniques
growing tomatoes on a horizontal trellis
the standard method of growing tomatoes
The standard way to grow tomatoes is to tie the tomato plants to single stakes or a vertical trellis.   If you are very short of space or only want to grow a few tomato plants then this is an excellent way to grow them.   The main drawback of this method is that it involves constant work training and pruning of the laterals.

the horizontal trellis method
Photo of a horizontal tiomatoe trellis with young tomatoe plants.
Horizontal trellis with young tomatoes planted under it.
 Photo of a horizontal trellis in early spring with Laserlite sheets
Horizontal trellis in early spring with Laserlite sheets to protect the tomato plants from frosts and to provide extra warmth during the day.
The horizontal trellis method involves suspending a trellis in a horizontal position about 25 cm off the ground and training the tomatoes to grow largely unhindered on top of it.
  • Advantages
    The main advantage is that there is a lot less pruning to do as once the plants are above top of the trellis there is no need for further pruning. 
    The frame makes an ideal cloche structure when the tomato plants are young.

  • Disadvantages
    Growing tomatoes using a horizontal trellis takes up much more space than single stakes or a vertical trellis, so you get a lower yield per square metre of ground.  

    The tomatoes are also closer to the ground, which means that they are more susceptible to disease due to mud being splashed on them when it rains. 

    Offers a convenient height for black birds to get at the tomatoes.

    Harder to pick as you have to bend low to pick them.

Building a horizontal trellis
I prefer to use the heavy duty 20 X 20 centimetre weldmesh that is used in reinforced concrete as it is strong enough to be used without needing a wooden frame for support.

  • Photo of 20 X 20 cm reinforced mesh used to support a horizontal trellis.
    A section of one of the vertical supports.  Each square is 20 X 20 cm.  To erect it you drive the sharp points into the garden bed to a depth of around 15 cm.
    To make the vertical supports cut  two 2.4 Metre lengths (the standard length of reinforced weldmesh in Australia) to a depth of almost 40cm, leaving one row of intact 20 X 20 cm mesh squares with the ends of the second mesh square sticking out.
  • To make the horizontal trellis section cut a 2.4 length of mesh to a depth of 80 to 100 centimetres (four or five 20 X 20 cm mesh sections).
  • To erect the trellis place the two vertical supports in a raised bed about 70 cm apart.  To keep them upright drive the ends of the rods into the ground about 15cm so that the top section is about 25 cm above the ground.
  • Place the horizontal trellis on top of the two vertical sections.  You can tie it down if you like but I have found that the weight of the mesh is enough to stop it blowing off.
cheaper alternative to heavy duty weldmesh
A cheaper alternative is to use one of the lighter weight garden trellis meshes, but these  will need to be supported by some sort of light wooden frame. 

Growing tomatoes using a horizontal trellis
  1. illustration of the horizontal trellis in a vegetable bed.
    Place the two vertical support sections lengthwise in a  a vegetable bed with the horizontal trellis frame on top

    Illustration of a horizontal trellis with your tomato plants.
    Plant a single row of tomato seedlings down the centre of the bed at intervals of about thirty centimetres.  As the young plants grow cut off all the laterals until the main shoot gets above the top of the trellis. 

    Illustration of mature tomato plants growing unhindered on a horzonatl trellis.
    Once the tomato plants have grown above the mesh then let the laterals grow unhindered.
    Prepare the veggie bed as you would for tomatoes and place the vertical trellis in place as described above.
  2. Plant tomato seedlings in a single row about 30 centimetres apart down the centre of the bed.  Support each plant with a small stake.
  3.  As the seedlings grow cut all lateral shoots off the plants until the main stem has grown above the top of the horizontal trellis section.
  4. The plants can largely be left to grow unhindered, draping their shoots across the top of the trellis mesh.  All you have to do now is cut off or turn back any shoots that grow beyond the horizontal trellis section.

types of tomato plants to use
While bush tomato varieties are probably the most suitable to use I have found that just about any tomato type will grow successfully on a horizontal trellis.  Varieties I have used in the past are Rouge de Marmande, KY1, Roma and Round Red.

These days I prefer to grow my tomatoes on a vertical trellis as it produces a higher yield.  However the horizontal trellis method does involve a lot less work. 

If you have plenty of space or you are one of these people who can never keep up with the rapidly spreading laterals that tomato plants inevitably produce in the warmer weather then this method might be for you.