Don't you love learning a new gardening trick? We do, too—and that's especially true when the trick can be applied to our much admired and labored over tomato plants. The must-learn gardening method we're about to share with you is called the Florida Weave. Sure, the name sounds like a shawl, but this tomato technique is actually an effective trellising system that is easy to install, allows air to circulate between plants (thus reducing disease), holds plants upright and off the ground (also reducing disease and critters), and is quicker than tying each plant to one stake. As if those reasons weren't enough to get on board, the Florida Weave also allows for even ripening and easy clean-up. At the end of the season there is less material to sanitize and store—goodbye, bulky metal cages!
The general framework is to add stakes to each end of a row of tomato plants. Next, you'll loop the twine around the stakes at different heights. This twine gently holds the plants up and allows them to thrive. The best tomatoes for this system are indeterminate and semi-determinate varieties. Allison Krivoruchko, certified Marin Master Gardener, loves growing Carmelo and Roma varieties using the Florida Weave system. "When I use the jute twine, the tomato stems don't break off when they became heavy with fruit like they unfortunately sometimes do with traditional hard metal cages," she says of her most obvious reason for preferring this tomato-growing method.
Convinced that the Florida Weave system is worth a try? Then you'll need to know how set up the trellising system in your garden. To start, set young tomato transplants about two feet apart in a single row. Next, drive a seven or eight foot stake about 12 inches into the ground at each end of your planned row. If your row of plants is long, add additional stakes in between every two plants. Steel fence "T-posts" are the preferred choice as they won't rot and can better handle being pounded into the ground, but wood stakes and tall bamboo work, too.
When your plants reach about a foot high, tie some hefty sisal or jute twine to the first stake roughly nine inches high and loop and weave the twine in and out between each plant until you get to the last stake. Then, pull the twine tight and then triple loop for strength. Continue weaving your way back down the opposite side of the row. Once back at the beginning, tie off the twine and cut it free. "You'll need to keep adding more lines of twine approximately eight inches higher every week so your tomatoes don't fall over," says Krivoruchko. Also if your twine begins to stretch, you may need to cinch up your line again.
At the season's end, all you do is cut the twine, remove your plants and stakes, and thank your tomatoes for a bountiful season. And since jute or sisal twine are made from natural materials and not from nylon, you can add the twine to the compost bin after taking it down. Green and effective? That sounds like a winning system to us.