Top Bar Support System For Growing Heirloom Tomatoes
For the last five years our raised beds have been the summer and fall home for most of our heirloom tomatoes. It is time to rotate them this year. So as I have been asked so many questions about our growing methods, this year I find it easier while starting a new area to do a bit of show and tell.
For gardeners who have had some experience with growing heirloom tomatoes, they quickly come to find out how much they vine and tall they can get. It is amazing how the older varieties can easily reach well beyond 12 to 14 ft and sometimes higher than that. This is the reason for developing a Top Bar Support System.
This method is sort of a indoor greenhouse way to grow tomatoes in the outdoors. The plants are pruned and trained into one healthy main stem and tied to a single rope. The rope is tied to the top bar down to a stake that goes into the ground.
In the new area where we have been working to put together a new home for the heirlooms, we have made a few modifications. The beds are outlined with simple pavers and not as deep nor as wide as our previous raised beds. However, we have kept the height to just about 10 ft. and the same for the length.
The soil was loosened and compost worked in to each area. We also lined the bottoms with paper to help prevent any weeds or grass from coming up. Bermuda grass is a huge problem for us and because of last years drought it found its way deep into the earth and much harder to remove.
The other modification that were made was using a 2×4 to tie off the bottom of the rope instead of a stake driven into the ground. The board is simply screwed into the side posts.
As heavy tiers and clusters of tomatoes work their way up the rope it can put a lot of stress on the bottom stake and all it takes is a heavy wind to pull one or two stakes from the ground. So we are confident that the bottom board will be able to hold up better during some of those strong southern gulf coast winds.
The little stake that you see in the picture to the left is simply the little support I used while hardening off the plant while it was still in the pot. Now that the plant is pruned and in the ground I will begin the process of training and tying the main vine to the rope as it grows.