Bamboo Tomato Trellis

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Introduction: Bamboo Tomato Trellis

Bamboo tomato trellis/"cage" - pretty, easy to build and very cheap. This trellis has a natural look that will add a fun aesthetic element to your garden. This is a great alternative to traditional tomato cages which typically run $12 each.

Your tomato plants need to have a trellis/cage for support - otherwise your plants will rest on the ground and your tomatoes will rot.

This project is very "green" - bamboo is a plant that grows very quickly and is invasive in NC - you don't have to feel guilty about cutting it down! The twine is compostable, and the bamboo stalks, if stored inside over the winter, can be used for a few seasons.

The only thing you have to buy is the twine a few dollars/roll.

Tools/supplies needed:
Sledgehammer
Scissors
Ladder
Twine

Step 1: Harvest Bamboo

I live in NC and bamboo abounds - many of my neighbors have an endless supply of unwanted bamboo growing in their yards. I spread the word and acquired approximately 40 stalks between 6-24 feet in length (for free!).

use a saw to cut down the bamboo near its base. Then, saw off all branches so that you have a straight pole remaining.

Next - be sure to put allow your bamboo to dry out (to prevent it from growing in your garden) by leaving the stalks raised above the ground for a few weeks*.


*This is our first time using bamboo for this purpose - we didn't not allow the bamboo to dry thoroughly because the tomatoes were desperate for support. I'm hoping that since we're only keeping the stalks in the ground for the season that we won't run into the problem of having the bamboo grow in the garden.

Step 2: Place Support Poles

My bed is 4' x 10' - I have three poles placed along the short ends, and three along the longer ends. Strategically place your poles so that they are near your tomato plants. The poles should be at least six feet tall that you use as support beams.

Step 3: Hammer in Support Poles

Use a sledge hammer to drive in your support poles. Mine go through the raised bed and are probably 3-5 inches into the ground below. I am going to be removing these at the end of the season (and I will store the poles for next year), so I was not to worried about them being extremely sturdy.

Step 4: Tie on Cross Beams

I used natural twine (purchased at Home Depot - my only expense on this project) to tie the supplementary horizontal support beams to the vertical poles. I am not a not master - I took approximately three feet of twine and did a variety of cross wraps to secure each joint.

The first round of horizontal poles should be approximately 6 inches above the ground. Each successive round of horizontal poles is 6-8 inches above the pole below it.

Step 5: Continue Placing Horizontal Poles, at Least Three Layers

Continue to place the horizontal poles. As you can see below, I've created a star-shaped pattern. This gives each plant a nearby pole to lean on. When necessary, i've tied some wayward plants loosely to the nearest support beam.

At this point in the growth of the plants I've created there layers of horizontal poles, but I expect to add more as the plants continue to grow. If you can't tell from the picture below, I have horizontal poles going around the perimeter of the bed, one pole extends across the middle, and two are on the diagonal.

Step 6:

Be sure to saw off an extra bamboo that extends past your bed (for safety). Either use a trusty saw - or your trusty pooch.

The garden in the pictures is the Duke Community Garden at Duke University - a garden managed by undergraduate and graduate students. For more information, please check out:

https://wiki.duke.edu/display/garden/Home
http://www.thedurhamnews.com/news/story/197071.html
http://www.newsobserver.com/978/story/1547396.html

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    16 Comments

    I did this too! my neighbor had a ton of fresh bamboo cuttings that we used. While installing I became tired of lashing, so I drilled holes and used zip ties. that worked so well. now if only I could get my tomatoes to grow!

    second what Daphnek says! not only does it create a stoner lash, but you don't have to be as particular with your wrapping lashes.

    Excellent idea for the trellis! For curing bamboo:

    "The quickest way is to use a small propane torch and heat the bamboo
    until the resin rises to the surface. You can then wipe of the sticky
    sap with a cloth. I have also held the bamboo over a large woodstove
    with the same results. In either case the key is to heat the
    bamboo...not so much that it blackens or catches on fire though..." source: http://www.appalachianbamboo.com/curing.html

    I have personally used this method for curing bamboo to make hiking sticks and windchimes, and I can attest to its effectiveness. It actually changes the bamboo at the molecular level and hardens it significantly.

    I purchased a 3 foot long propane torch that hooks up to a 5-gallon propane tank. Cut the stalk you want to treat, and be sure to equalize the pressure in each node by drilling holes (either a small side-hole at each internode or punch out the nodes from the inside of the culm). Then heat and wipe, heat and wipe... As you heat it, you will watch it change from dark green to light green to yellow to tan, when it gets brown, you're done. The sap that seeps (and that you wipe) creates a glossy finish on the surface, which protects it even further. The browning of the bamboo much improves the appearance and almost gives it a wood grain look.

    I read to soak the bamboo shoots in a bucket of water with borax mixed in so that it will soak up all the borax solution so that the borax salts will crystalize inside the bamboo fiber and harden it considerably. I think this would also help kill the bamboo to keep it from rooting in your garden.

    Actually tomatoes would no rot they would look "dirty" I have done that many times. I do it because when they are allowed to vine you get more tomatoes They only rot if you do not pick them in time. I am a master gardener and some of us prefer to let them roam.
    But since I have bamboo I will be making something like you have here great job!!

    I used your idea for our gardens this year, has been working great!I made the upright stakes very tall (about 8 foot above ground) so that as the plants grow, we continue to add supports for the plants. Bamboo was free (neighbor has tons that he continually thins) and the jute twine was like 3 bucks a roll. Thanks for the Great Ible! Also, this Ible got me interested in bamboo work and have since started with making functional bamboo trellis work, and even native american style flutes that I'm still figuring out what I'm doing. Thanks again!

    So glad you liked it! I've since moved to MA and work for a school garden non profit and I just put up a new bamboo trellis at the school. Good luck with the flutes!

    You want to soak the bamboo in the ocean in my neck of the woods to prevent fungus and bug infestation.  That will also help preserve the bamboo and it won't grow either since the salt water will kill it. 

     zap straps work well too, but they are not bio-degradable

    Another solution to the problem of sprouting stakes, at least according to my crazy chinese dad, is to make sure the stakes are planted upside down- that is, with the root end in the air. Dunno if it's true or not.