October 2020

The Florida Weave: A Dance with Tomatoes and Twine

IMG_0006When I first started growing tomatoes, I bought those little conical tomato cages. Right from the start I began having problems with them. My tomatoes grew and grew and spilled over the tops of their cages, toppling them over. So back to the hardware store I went to get taller and sturdier tomato cages. But, since I grew indeterminate heirloom tomatoes which tend to grow long vines throughout the entire growing season, even the sturdiest, most heavy duty tomato cages still toppled over from the combined weight of plant and fruit.

I began reinforcing the cages. I planted tomatoes in a grid overlapping the cages slightly at the top. I pounded tall electrical conduit rods into the ground, weaving the rods through the overlapping cages which stabilized them and prevented them from falling. I further reinforced the mesh of cages by tying them together with the long thin bags that the daily newspaper came in.

And then I discovered a new way to trellis my tomatoes – the Florida Weave. I like that name. It sounds like the name of a dance – a dance for a gardener and her tomatoes using no cages, just stakes and twine.

I plant tomatoes IMG_0001about 18” apart in a row. Every two tomatoes, I pound in a wooden stake using a brilliant tool – a post pounder. At the ends of the rows, I pound in metal stakes at an outward facing angle.IMG_0003


When the tomatoes are about a foot tall, the dance begins. As with any dance, one needs the right attire. For this dance, instead of dance shoes, I use box of tomato twine. Twine comes out of the top of the box and the box  has belt loops for attaching to a belt.


I tie the twine to a stake at the end of a row. Then I walk down one side of the row, spooling twine out from the box at my hip, weaving the twine around a post, against the tomatoes, around the next post, forming a figure-eight with the twine and sandwiching the stems and branches of the each tomato plant between lengths of twine. Diagram_1


I tie off the twine back at the starting point and then wait for the tomatoes to grow some more. When they have grown another foot, I go back out to dance with the tomatoes again.


And so, as the tomatoes grow, I trellis them every foot or so with a weave of twine.

An added bonus of using the Florida Weave is that I no longer have to struggle with stacking bent tomato cages at the end of the season and finding a place for the accumulating stacks. I grow a lot of tomatoes and those stacks of cages were so very awkward. In fact, last year, I gave away all my tomato cages. At the end of the season, I simply cut away the twine, pull up the stakes, and store them in a corner of my garden shed.

While the Florida Weave is usually recommended only for determinate tomatoes, I have successfully used this method with my indeterminate heirlooms. I’ve also used the Florida Weave with other vining plants, such as peas. I love the simplicity and beauty of this trellising method and the routine of tending to my plants as they grow.


2013 Garden Layout

This year’s garden layout is a jumble of different shapes and sizes.

I designed my large vegetable garden in 2009 in a well mannered grid, with all rows going east–west. Then in 2010 and 2011 things got a little more disorganized. The kale jumped its boundaries and began expanding in all directions. I created a zig-zag path that went through the garden. In 2012, I planted some vegetables in north–south rows and some in east–west rows. The kale continued to expand its boundaries. The cardoon started spreading. And a lone asparagus plant came up in the middle of everything.

Now, in 2013, I decided to be done with well mannered rows. I like a cacophony of shapes and sizes. I dropped raised beds at various places. I created triangular shaped beds with pieces of wood. I scattered little fences in a couple of places. I’m letting the volunteer asparagus, grape, and mulberry grow. Rows point east–west and north–south (I guess I can’t seem to get away from some order).

So I now present – the 2013 garden.