The Florida Weave

When I was growing up, we only grew determinant tomatoes and we let them sprawl on the ground. The rows were about 5′ apart and each of the plants were spaced about 3′. On a farm, we had lots of room so this method worked for growing tomatoes.

Now that I’m working with a smaller garden, I’ve tried all kinds of things to support tomato plants. The tomato cages that they sell at all the big box stores are OK for determinant tomatoes but they’re flimsy. Last year I used them and when the plants were large, a wind storm came and the cages were all bent to the ground creating a jumble of wire and stems.

I’ve grown indeterminate tomatoes plants on large stakes – that worked well but it’s tedious to tie the plants to the stake and to pinch off the side shoots. I’ve read about using concrete reinforcing mesh to make your own cages but that seemed like a lot of work plus I’d have to find some place to store them in the winter. There had to be an easy, inexpensive way to support tomato plants.

Florida Weave (picture from Seed Savers International)

Florida Weave
(illustration from Seed Savers International)

That’s when I read about the Florida weave. I know this sounds like some southern dance or a new hair style from Miami but it’s actually a way to support tomatoes. In Florida where they grow tomatoes commercially, the tomatoes are planted a few feet apart and stakes are put in rows between every two or three plants. As the tomatoes grow, workers use twine to create a grid that supports the plants.

I really like this idea. All you need are stakes and some twine to support tomatoes. So I’m giving it a try. I got some 5′ posts and put them at the end of the row of tomatoes and also between every two plants. I then wove some jute twine around the posts to create a support system for the plants. You’re supposed to add more levels of support as the tomatoes grow but because of the frost damage back in May, my tomatoes are all different sizes! I just wove the twine every six inches up the post. As the plants grow, I tuck the stem into the space between the twine. This seems to be working well.

Tomatoes Supported by the Florida Weave

Tomatoes Supported by the Florida Weave

The Florida weave only works for determinant tomatoes; indeterminant varieties get too big. After growing both kinds of tomatoes for years, I’ve stopped planting indeterminant varieties – my reasons are for another post. Since all my tomatoes are determinant, the Florida weave seems like a good way to support them. I can already tell that there’s good air circulation between the plants. Time will tell if this is the way to grow tomatoes but for now, it looks good.

The Florida weave just might be a keeper!


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