Redwood and wire grid trellises can be a good design option to support large tomato plants

A Unique DIY Tomato Trellis Design


Over the years I’ve grown a lot of tomatoes. In the process, you can imagine I’ve developed my own way of doing things and stumbled upon “what works for me.” This year we are building a DIY tomato trellis that checks all the boxes and I can’t wait to take it for a spin!
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The weather is finally turning around to be tomato weather. Last weekend we transplanted out the first tomatoes of 2022 and I’m sharing the DIY tomato trellis we designed and built specifically for our raised beds. I do want to start off saying this isn’t a trellis for all situations, or the most budget-friendly. Overall, this trellis is the culmination of what I’ve been observing and desiring from my tomato growing space. It is custom-built for our raised bed and for how I prefer to maintain my tomatoes. Furthermore, if you’d like a quick rundown on how I grow tomatoes here in Southern California (zone 10b), make sure to check out Tomato Growing FAQs

Finally, I’d like to note that this DIY tomato trellis design is also better suited to indeterminate tomatoes—meaning tomatoes that grow all Summer long and produce tomatoes throughout the growing season. Indeterminate tomatoes can grow taller, more vine-like, and therefore are the type of tomato I plan on using this trellis for.

On the tomato growing list for 2022 (right now) are the following: Black Krim, Blue Beauty, Piennolo Del Vesuvio, Pineapple, Rosso Sicilian, Ten Fingers of Naples, Black Strawberry, and Italian Heirloom

Update 2023: We are using this trellis again this year! Watch us re-assemble the trellis and get the garden ready over on YouTube

Tomatoes do best when they have a sturdy trellis to support them during the growing season

Hooray for tomatoes! I’m telling you, these tomatoes look bigger already! Or is it just me? I’m thrilled to be sharing this DIY tomato trellis design with you today.

What do you want from a DIY Tomato Trellis Design?

The main idea here is to create a sturdy DIY tomato trellis that allows the tomatoes to grow more wild, yet easily supported off the ground. Just two years ago, we built a temporary frame structure with wire mesh over a thin, rectangular raised bed (pictured below). After growing on it all Summer, I realized I really loved how well the tomatoes were supported as they grew upwards through the wire. Traditional tomato cages have too much space between wires, and our tomatoes would outgrow them far too fast and droop all over! Other tomato growing systems, mainly ones with strings or twine, felt really limiting to me because the tomatoes were growing on a more two-dimensional plane rather than allowed to grow freely, like bushes.

In this DIY, the tomato trellis is basically a wood box frame built to fit our raised bed with wire mesh attached horizontally every foot or so up the frame. Our raised garden beds were made from redwood, so we chose to use redwood again for the wood frame because it will age to match the color of our raised beds.

wire mesh and wood combine to be a sturdy tomato trellis

This was our original design! The tomatoes grew impressively, and we had no issues with support. That experience is what led us to create this year’s DIY tomato trellis design.

What We Used to DIY this Tomato Trellis

Due to the custom nature of this trellis (it had to fit our specific raised bed dimensions) I’m not going to be doing a step by step tutorial on how to build it. It’s my hope that you can feel inspired by this design idea and make it your own based on the raised beds or area you are working with. But also, don’t forget to share your projects with me on Instgram (tag me @freckledcalifornian) or leave comments here to keep me updated on how it’s going!

This multi-level redwood tomato trellis will allow the tomatoes to grow freely

Here’s a closer look at the trellis design and assembly. It’s made from redwood and wire mesh. You can see how the washers hold down the wire mesh at each level.

Determining the dimensions for the trellis frame

The sturdiness of this trellis comes from the frame. Sam selected redwood so it would age to match our already existing redwood raised garden beds he built almost seven years ago!

If you look closely, you’ll see that the trellis looks like two ladders connected by cross bars. That’s pretty much what it is! We started our DIY tomato trellis build by creating the ladders first. Make sure to sit down and draw it all out with measurements.

If you’d like to know our specific measurements, the whole structure sits on top of the raised bed, so we knew that the ladders would need to match the raised bed width. In this case, it was approximately 24 inches. We also wanted the trellis to be as tall as the garden arch next to it for visual reasons, so that meant each side ladder needed to be 5 feet tall (and that’s in addition to the height of the raised bed).

In regards to how many wire mesh “levels” or ladder rungs would be best for the tomatoes, I chose 5 levels spaced at 1 foot intervals. As I’ve said before, this just comes from experience growing tomatoes and also our past experience with a setup like this.

Assemble the Side Ladders First

After measuring and cutting all the ladder pieces, we connected them using pocket screws (Sam really likes pocket screws). This requires a special jig to drill holes to hide the screws. Pocket screws are not necessary, as you can just use 2.5” decking screws to assemble the ladder by driving the screws through one piece into the other.

building a diy wood trellis for tomatoes

Here are the two ladder pieces that Sam was checking to make sure they are matching. This will ensure that our DIY tomato trellis design turns out even.

After building one ladder, Sam used it as a surface to build the second one. Essentially, he laid the finished ladder down, and then took the pieces for the second ladder and laid them on top to get proper and matching spacing. 

Now that we had our two ladders, we had to decide the length of our trellis in order to create the side braces/crossbars. You might notice, I opted to install crossbars only on the bottom row and top row. Essentially, this was due to budget and bulkiness. For some reason, I didn’t want to have too many wood cross bars, but just enough to provide rigidity. You could always add more braces, depending on what you are going for. Once again, Sam used his favorite pocket screw tool to attach the ladders with the crossbar pieces. 

Securing the trellis to our wood raised bed

When your trellis frame is built, it’s time to secure it to the raised beds just to make sure it doesn’t wander or slide anywhere. I didn’t want to drill any holes in our existing raised garden beds, so the solution was to use wood stakes. We set the trellis in place over the garden bed and, on the inside of each of the feet of the trellis, Sam put a wood stake into the soil of the raised bed. Next, He screwed the stake to the leg of the trellis to hold it in place. By doing this in all 4 corners, it made it so that the trellis can’t slip around. Honestly, I’m sure there are other ways to do this, but this simply worked for us!

Additionally, we aren’t super windy here, nor are we extra concerned about anyone trying to climb or lean on the trellis. It’s possible, especially if you have wind or little ones, that you might want to secure your trellis more securely. 

stakes inserted into the raised bed can secure a trellis for growing vertically

Here, Sam is using a 2″ deck screw to attach the wood stake to the DIY tomato trellis frame. The stake has been inserted the raised bed soil, to provide support.

Adding Wire Mesh Grid to the DIY Trellis Frame

It should probably be said that, before starting this project, keep in mind that the wire mesh only comes in one width, and you must work that into your own trellis design/dimensions.

We knew the wire wouldn’t come in the perfect dimensions, so we did our best to make sure to measure our wire to the “closest whole square” without being too wide. Once you know your dimensions, the most arduous task is clipping each wire individually with wire cutters in order to “cut” your wire panel out of the roll.

After making one wire mesh panel, I suggest taking it over to your trellis for a rough fitting.

For safety purposes, you’ll need to keep in mind that cut wire is sharp. You know, let’s just wear eye protection for this whole DIY, okay? If you are concerned about sharp edges, you could also file the wire ends to be smooth using a simple metal file if you feel it’s needed. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that the width of your frame will influence the width of your wire—-and so it’s better to sit on the inside of the frame rather than be too wide for your frame and have wire sticking out the edges.

wire mesh is an easy material to make diy trellises for the garden

The 2″x 3″ wire mesh comes in a roll.

using wire cutters ensures a clean cut on your wire grid

You can see that I’m trying to cut this wire mesh so that I don’t have a random wire piece sticking out of my piece.  Try your best to keep whole squares.

How to attach the wire mesh to your trellis frame

To complete the design, we just need washers, screws, and your screwdriver! The washer is wide enough to essentially hold down the wire underneath (see photo below).

With the help of a friend, starting at the lowest rung, hold one end of a wire panel on top of the ladder rung and screw down a washer. Don’t screw the washer down too tight to start. We actually found it helpful to have  little wiggle room for adjustment! Next, move on to the other side of the trellis, and secure the other side of the wire panel to the trellis. Finally, don’t forget to go back and securely tighten all the screws. In the end, we used two washers per side.

After repeating this for all the wire mesh levels, you are done with your tomato trellis! Congratulations!

washers are a good option for securing wire mesh to the trellis frame

This is how the washers hold down the wire mesh onto the wood tomato trellis frame.

Training your tomatoes to grow through the wire grid

As the tomato plants grow, I simply stay on top of training the small leaf tips through the wire grid. Some tomato growers remove the bottom leaves of tomatoes as they grow, but I have found that this can leave the tomato plants susceptible to sun scald if you have the stems exposed to direct sun for long periods of time. In other words, adjust this practice to your specific growing situation!

As I’ve said before, I prefer to let my tomatoes grow wild, which is why I love this DIY tomato trellis design. You can also read about other Southern California specific tomato care practices over at Tomato Growing FAQs. Honestly, it’s a very personal process for many gardeners, so it’s important to try things and figure out what works for you!

New Tomato Growing Tips + Inspiration

This year (2022) I tried some new things when I went to transplant the tomato seedlings. Well, I guess one is new and the other isn’t. First, I sprinkled mycorrhizae in the planting hole. I love using mycorrhizae in my garden, especially Plant Success Organics granular, and it’s very easy to sprinkle some in the planting hole. Second, instead of watering with plain ole water after transplanting, I actually watered with a kelp and fish emulsion that mixes into water. I happened to be transplanting towards the end of the afternoon, where there was enough light left in the day to dry the leaves, but no direct sun, so I also let the water drizzle over the whole tomato plant! I’ll keep you posted on if I felt this made a difference at all!

It feels good to have some 2022 tomatoes in the ground! How about you?

Update 2023: We are re-using this trellis, and you can see us assemble it and prep the garden over on youtube.

Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

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