do dwarf tomato plants need caging and staking?

kawaiineko_gardener(5a)January 30, 2011

By dwarf varieties I'm referring to compact and determinate varieties of cherry and grape tomatoes.

Do they have to be caged or staked?

The one I'd like to grow is a grape variety called tomato totem; the dimensions of the plant are 12"-18".

Also what size containers should the dwarf varieties be grown in? I don't have the space to grow them in the ground; I use container gardening because that's the most feasible option for me with gardening.

I was thinking of using a container with a capacity of 1-5 gallons for a dwarf cherry tomato plant? Would this be big enough size?

How many plants would be able to fit in a 5 gallon container with dwarf cherry tomato plants? Only one? Or could I do more than one without overcrowding?

I'd like to know what size container is the right size to grow them in so I don't cramp the plant and grow it in too small a space.

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Since you are growing in containers, I would recommend caging them. I work on a farm and we grow 10000 tomato plants a year and many grape tomatoes at that and we never cage or stake them. But then again we have the land to let them be. You will grow much nicer and more tomatoes if you cage the plants and lessen the stress on them.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Personal Gardening Blog

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 11:33PM
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sprtsguy76(Santa Clara Ca. 9b)

Dwarfs usually dont need any caging but I usually like stake them with a single 2-3' bamboo stick and I'm done. Some dont even need that. Det are a different story, some stay very small/short and some can be sprawlers, so I think its more important to know what to expect from any single variety so you have ample support in place. Lime Green Salad is a det but grew like a sprawler for me so a small cage would have worked nice the season I grew it. I have not grown the variety you are questioning but 12-18" sound pretty small and compact so maybe a stake or two would suffice. As far as container size for dwarfs, I use anywhere from 1-5 gallon depending on the size of the dwarf.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 11:47PM
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deep_roots(5a IN)

I grew Dwarf Tumbler Hybrid tomatoes last year, with 3 planted in one EarthBox. They sprawled, but were left to overhang the container. You could go either way. A small wire cage, like used for peony flowers, would probably be ideal.

happy gardening,

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 9:46AM
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I grew some in containers and on the ground. I was short of cages and let some sprawl. Cages protect the plants from breaking and the plants on the ground were attacked by slugs. Your stakes or cages can be short, but use them.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 11:12AM
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spiced_ham(z5 OH)

I grow quite a few dwarf plants each year (my own breeding project) and they will stand upright until they get heavy with fruit. At some point the stem can't resist the weight and they bend over like a cut down christmas tree. Three ring tomato cages are perfect, especially for buckets. If you are not going to move the plant you can string a cable/rope or two between two stakes and tie the plants off to the cables in a modified Florida Weave. I find that a bit of tieing/wrapping with twine is needed when using a single stake in order to support the branches.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 5:58PM
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Last year I grew Tumbling Toms, which didn't need staking or caging because they simply fell over the sides of the containers. The Tiny Tims in pots were stand alones, too. But my Bush Goliaths in pots definitely needed stakes. Check the projected height for the varieties you're planning to grow in pots. If they're projected to be more than 20 inches at maturity, staking or caging will be in order.

As far as container size goes -- use the largest container possible. 5 gallons work great!

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Dirt: Growing Tomatoes in Pots

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 8:52PM
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Well the only reason I ask is because the tomato cages from the seed catalog companies are so expensive.

I mean I'd like to make them myself, for a lower price, and get the same quality as what you would order from a seed catalog company. However is this even possible?

Would by making them myself, the quality be inferior with the cages? Also I know this is offtopic, but what
nutrients do tomatoes need the most of for big and healthy fruit?

If it is possible to make good quality cages that are equivalent in quality to what is sold in the catalogs, can somebody refer me to a link of how to make them?

Are the tomato cages from these seed companies really worth it? I mean will they last for a long time? I tried using cages from the local hardware store last year; they were very flimsy and not very good quality. I've never used these tomato cages from seed companies, but do I have worry about them falling apart after using them for only a very short time?

Also I know this is a tomato growing forum, but I'm wondering if dwarf varieties of eggplants (Hansel, Gretel, and Fairy Tale are the ones that come to mind) and dwarf
bell pepper plants need caging too?

I know that they're bush-type plants, but would they have to be caged to support the weight of the fruit?

The dimensions for the pepper plant I want to grow is very small; only 8"-10" tall.

For fairy tale eggplant the length and width of the plant is only 18"-24". There is also an eggplant called twinkle which is only 24" with the height; I don't know the width of it, as the product description doesn't specify this.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 5:40PM
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sprtsguy76(Santa Clara Ca. 9b)

I agree with you, the cages sold by most seed companys are really expensive. Yes you can make them your self for cheaper with a little work. And their just as good if not better. Myself I like to by a 100-150 roll of concrete reinforcement wire, this will cost you some dough but the amount of cages you get out of a roll will be well worth it. You can make them in small, meduim and large diameter and you can stack them to make them taller. As far as nutrients go I like to use something thats all in one, assuming your mix is well limed Miracle Grow works just fine. You can use all in one slow release pellets too. Whatever you decide just make sure the fertilizer you use has all macro and micro nutrients in reasonable porportions. You can stake or cage your peppers, I like to just stake them unless they are vigorous growers.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 10:19PM
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erlyberd(Z5 CT)

My Tiny Tims got away from me and broke their stems from the hugh masses of fruit and they were staked just not tyed all the way to the top. These were grown in roughly 3 gal containers if that makes a difference. Very productive for a 12-18" tall plant.

This year I'll try some sort of cage system to support all that weight.

Kaw, Caging/staking is relative to a point on fruit production. A heavy producer needs lots of support. A very productive pepper plant will break stems too!

Thinking spring!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 1:02AM
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Last year I used pruned branches to support many of my tomatoes. Don't trim the small ends. The fan of twigs at the end matches the spread of the tomato plant.

In addition, I had rows of plants supported between two rows of chicken wire.

Anything that's long enough can be used as a support. Also, it's acceptable to use more than one stake. :)

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 10:36AM
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Thank you for the information with the tomato cages. Where can you find concrete reinforcement wire? Are there other names for it besides that? I just ask because I'll be asking about it at the hardware store, and they might know it by a different name.

Regarding the size of the tomato cages, what size would be best for eggplant and bell pepper plants? The ones I mentioned were both dwarf varieties. I've never made tomato cages before, so what would the dimensions with length, width, and height need to be for a large size tomato cage, a medium size one, and a small one?

Can you use tomato cages to cage bell pepper and eggplant plants?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 6:19PM
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Bets(z6A S ID)


For your dwarf tomaotes in containers (especially if you find the ones that are labelled heavy duty), you can probably use the tomato cages you buy locally, they just aren't big enough or heavy enough for most non-dwarf tomatoes. I do use them to support pepper plants, but some peppers may be too large for them. I know of gardeners who use cages for peas, beans, cucumbers, and squash.

Another name for concrete reinforcing wire (CRW) is concrete remesh. Here a couple of videos that show people making CRW tomato cages.

Making CRW Cages

The fellow in the next video is making them from the 5' x 10' sheets, which will cost more per cage, but may be a better way for someone who only has a few tomatoes or wants to spread the initial investment out over time. One other "disadvantage" to using the sheets is that you have to roll them into circles where the rolls of remesh are already curved (more about that later.)

Making tomato cages from remesh sheets

The second video shows the fellow cutting the remesh with a grinder, I have used a jig saw to cut cattle panels, so I think you could use one on the remesh, or a sawsall, but the bolt cutters are hands down the easiest way to cut them.

The link below is to a good page that shows yet another way to make the cages from the rolls. If you don't have a couple of helpers to stand on the wire while you cut it, you can use several cinder blocks or some other heavy items to hold it down. If you unroll it the way most people are inclined to, when you cut the wire, it can snap up and stab you with the nice points you just made. So the use of some kind of weights is important, along with a good bolt cutter (a small one is OK, but regular wire cutter don't work well, you'll wreck you hands.) Heavy jeans, eye protection, long sleeves and good gloves are other safety itmes to consider. If you don't have access to a pair of bolt cutters and don't want to buy them, look into renting them, you can do all the cutting in a short time and then form the cages and bend the ends as you wish.

As you can see, you can cut and bend the wire ends in different ways, you just have to decide what works for you. I know of a gardener or two that don't leave the wires for twisting but use zip ties to hold them together and then they cut them at the end of the season so they can open the cages to nearly flat and stack them in less space to store them over the winter. Some people make their cages in 3 sizes, like 18", 22" and 36" diameters so they can nest them to take up less storage space. Others leave the cages in the garden.

As for cutting off the bottom ring(s) to leave wire to push into the ground, you can do that. I prefer to use rebar stakes driven into the ground 12-18" on either side to anchor the cages.

Of course, your mileage may vary.


Here is a link that might be useful: How to make CRW Cages

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 1:59PM
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Bets(z6A S ID)


That should have read Some people make their cages in 3 sizes, like 18", 22" and 26" diameters so they can nest them to take up less storage space.



    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 2:03PM
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