Indoor greenhouse trellising system adapted to outdoor use

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $5,899.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Alan Nolte
Nolte Hills

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: cucurbits, tomatoes


  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal summary:

    My plan is to construct a trellising system designed for an indoor (greenhouse) setting in an outdoor environment. The problems I will address with this project are as follows: Greenhouse space is at a premium and costly to construct, however, the trellising system designed for indeterminate tomatoes (in a greenhouse setting) is superior. I prefer the indeterminate tomato varieties for use in outdoor production area as well as the greenhouse. I currently grow indeterminate varieties outside and my project will focus upon the adaptation of the indoor trellising system. I will solve the problem of the use of traditional trellising methods, such as the Florida weave, which is ineffective for tomatoes which reach heights of 6-8 foot and beyond. The construction of this type of system will eliminate the problem of loss due to overcrowding of the plants as well as provide a means of support for the tomato vine. This system is versatile and can be implemented on a large scale for a commercial grower or scaled down for a backyard gardener.

    My land base is limited and tomato production lends itself well to vertical production, increasing my usable production space by going upward rather than outward. I will follow the tomatoes with cucumbers (which will not be a part of my research). However, the cucumber production will increase the profitability of the investment of the outdoor trellising system, thus increasing profitability for my operation and for others who wish to implement this system. I will report revenue from the sale of the cucumbers as an aside.

    I know of no other research based upon this concept. Other methods of trellising are based upon tomato cages, cattle panels and other means. The indeterminate tomato will outgrow all of these systems.

    As this system is semi permanent, I will also employ the use of plant grafting. With this method of production, I will vary the rootstock, as required to keep the system viable and productive for a number of years. I note a marked increase in production with the implementation of the grafted plants. In the greenhouse, at least 2 more clusters per vine have been documented. As a portion, of my research I will note the overall production and determine if this rate is found in the outdoor production area as well. Outdoor plants will be grown on black plastic mulch with a dripline irrigation system. Greenhouse plants will be grown in poly bags.

    Benefits of the trellising system will include increased growing capacity. One trellis will provide 400 ft, of row. When two wires are installed to run the length of the distance between the end poles, this doubles the trellising capacity to 400 feet. Tomatoes would be spaced on 2 ft. centers thus the capacity would be 100 plants per wire x two wires would equal 200 plants per trellis.

    Plants will be suckered and reduced to a central leader. This leader will be trained on the support. Labor costs will be significantly reduced to the semi permanent installation of the system compared to traditional staking which typically takes 3 people to do the job of driving the stakes, then time to do the Florida weave technique, and finally time to pull the posts at the end of the season.

    Environmental impacts will be lessened with less disturbance of soil. Landfill materials would also be reduced, due to the fact that the use of the Florida weave method requires several thousand feet of twine on an annual basis. The twine is not compostable or reusable.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.