Caging/ spacing

keith100_gw(NY 5A)March 12, 2014

I'm planning on making some CRW cages. I think that I'm going to use 42 inches between rows, would like to space plants about 30 inches apart in rows of 18. Ill be growing 6 or more types of indeterminates , and some determinates.
My thought is to use cages approx. 22 inch in dia. My question is , is 8 inches between cages enough for good air flow? Also I'm wondering if there would be a benefit to
making different sized cages for det./ indet. Any advice or experience welcome.
Thanks in advance e Keith

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Personal experience but I think you'll find 22" to be too small in diameter. Leads to squashed plants compacted inside, broken branches, etc. I have tried several different diameters over the years and find 30-32" works best.

Spacing - 3' plant center to center if possible. Less requires quite a bit of pruning on indeterminates and that means loss of production. JMO


    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 10:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

To each his own. I plant my determinate (field) tomatoes with a water-wheel planter at 30" spacing and then use cages that are only 16" diameter, 30" high. It has always seemed to work for my plants over the last 20 years since I purchases over 1000 cages at a produce growers auction. I never noticed broken branches except when I tried to redirect growth of earlier branches back inside cages.

I grow indt varieties using entirely different management system in my greenhouses so I won't speculate on how your cages would work for them. I would not alter cage dimentions by type for the numbers you are growing.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 12:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
keith100_gw(NY 5A)

Dave, Bmoser , I thank you both. Based on your opinions I think I'll try a combination. I'm a bit space confined to 5 rows 44 ft. long. I think I'll do 3 rows of 15 indeterminates, and two rows of determinates. Based on all I've been reading crowding is no good. I was hoping for about 90 plants but I can live with

I've always used stakes in the past, cages are new to me. Do you plant dead center of the cage?
Again thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 12:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Yes,, you put in the plant first, then put up the cage. If you live where it gets windy, and that includes T-storms, I think it's best to get some sturdy bamboo poles, three is enough spaced around the cage, and weave them through the cage, just a couple of times, and then jam them in the soil as far as they will go.

Nothing worse than going out to check your plants and finding the cages toppled over, well there are worse things that can happen but that's not for here.

Are you going to keep the distance between rows as you said above? I always kept about 5 ft between rows, but then I was sprawling plants so had to keep that distance to get out the weeds that pop up.

If my farmer friend could no longer get down between rows with the cultivator then I had to do it with a Mantis tiller.

Thou shalt never use that tiller after you eat or pay the consequences. And as long as the farm had been used, going back to the mid-1800's, there were always rocks of all sizes that would appear each year, having been thrust up by freezing and thawing.

I did use cages from time to time depending on where I was growing tomatoes and always left at least a foot on either side of the cage rim between cages. As I think Moser said above, breakage occurs most of thetime when trying to shove the branches back into the cages, and that's why I left the extra space.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 1:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

My Thinking:

1) spacing between rows is just a matter of convenience to inspect, spray, harvest. It also depends on the availability of land.

2) Spacing between tomatoes, has two parts: Plants requirement and gardener/growers personal choice and convenience. The spacing consideration is MOSTLY for the top growth not so much for the roots system. A tomato plant can draw adequate nutrients from a volume of 3 cubic in ground soil (20" x 20 x 12 deep)

So all concern and talk about spacing is for the top growth. If you dont want to be bothered with pruning AT ALL, probably a 36" spacing would be required. But if you believe in managing and keeping thing under control, the spacing can be reduce to 24". That is almost a 35% saving in space. That means also you can plant 35% more/as many plants. So really, production on square foot basis of land use can be improved. .


There has been a good discussion here recently that I found it interesting:

CAGE EVERY OTHER PLANT and weave them together. For this purpose, you can have slightly bigger cages.

It s mostly crucial at the lower, near ground level to prevent soil born diseases. It is in ground level that air tends to become stagnant. By proper pruning and clearing the lower leaves that can be solved.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 1:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
keith100_gw(NY 5A)

Carolyn , thank you for that info regarding between cage spacing and why. I do intend to keep the mentioned spacing, though I would prefer more.5 ft. would be wonderful however I can't maintain rotation of crops and keep 5 rows of tomatos too. My garden is in Ballston Spa(not too far from you) and it seems lately the wind has been increasing each year . I do have a bunch of 7 ft. bamboo poles that I used to stake with, that will anchor the cages as you suggest . I enjoyed your book tremendously and am so anxious to get about 10 of your list of 100 heirlooms in the ground! It just seems like the weather wont break .Again thank you .

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 2:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
keith100_gw(NY 5A)

Seysonn ,
My soil is far from the best, and I think I'm doing myself and the plants a favor by spacing them at least 30 in. JMO. I drive 45 mins. each day to get to my garden after work , so my idea is the least pruning needed the better. I have wondered how much needed space above ground relates to space below ground that is needed for happy plants . I thank you for your insights. Maybe some day with enough compost and chopped leaves I can enjoy more plants in my limited space.
Thanks again, Keith

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 3:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm glad you started this thread Keith, I had thoughts of doing the same. I use crw cages and usually leave 5' in between rows and 5' in between each plant. I also stagger the planting of each row so that the next row the plants are halfway in between the plants of the previous row so that they get as much air movement around the plants as possible. I am thinking of cutting that back this year to 4' each way so I can get in some more plants and another row, but after Carolyn's post I'm reconsidering. I can also second Dave on the cage size as mine probably average 16"-20" diameter and it's pretty tight if you try to keep everything tucked in and don't prune any. The more squashed together it is in there the higher the chance for disease and the harder it is to harvest.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 4:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Keith, I certainly do know where Ballston Spa is and was closer when I was in the Albany area, but am now about an hour north of the Latham Circle just one mile from the VT border, on the NY side.

And I'm glad you also enjoyed my book, now out of print, but since some places are asking in the hundreds of dollars for it, I still have two pristine copies here at home and will cash in when the price reaches maybe one thousand and deposit that in my dark bittersweet chocolate budget. LOL

I made the choices for the book back in 1998 when I'd grown only about 1200 varities and there's been many great ones I've grown since then, but many in the book are still popular today.

Carolyn, looking out the window to see if the snow has started again since they are predicting close to a foot by mid day tomorrow.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 6:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
keith100_gw(NY 5A)

(or anyone else) How have your tomatoes done with your 5x5 spacing ? What types do you grow? How many plants per row are you planting? I'm trying to determine that point where maximum crop production and minimum space required cross. I have very sandy soil, that is improving each year with lots of compost and leaves added. Last year I did very poorly .I did manage to can about 40 quarts and kept myself in tomato sandwiches about half as often as I liked. I'm trying to do far better this year. I staked and pruned to single vines at 18 inch spacing. Live and learn!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 9:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

They do well. I grow mostly indeterminate large beefsteak types and a few determinate sauce types. The 5' may be way overkill but I like the room to walk in between. I may tinker around with 4' and see how it looks before I set out plants. Really 3' is probably sufficient as far as the roots go but with cages it would make it pretty tight in between I would think.

My soil is heavy clay which holds water longer and maybe nutrients as well. I would think that very sandy soil would need several feedings as it would leach more of it out with each rain or watering.

Yes, I would space them out farther if you can and try to prune less or not at all. You won't get as many plants in the same area but I think you would see a greater return in fruit. Whatever size you make your cages you will probably want a foot or so in between the edge of each cage.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 7:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Extra spacing has nothing to do with the kind of soil you have. If you have bad soil, spacing wider is not going to help and be beneficial. For example, if your soil is clay, then the roots are not going to expand more and wider, but maybe will be restricted. Soil is just a medium primarily to hold moisture an nutrients.
If you plant a tomato n a 2' by 2' , with one foot of depth. That is FOUR CUBIC FOOT of soils, about 26 gallons, more than enough for any large indeterminat.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 9:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
keith100_gw(NY 5A)


I plan on using Dave's advice on the cage size and Carolyn advises to leave a foot between cages ,so I think the spacing will be great enough all the way around. I'm convinced (of course I could be wrong) that in the soil I'm growing in the tomato roots really reach out well in excess of 2 foot in all directions. I'm doing my best to learn and apply irrigation to them , I think the nutrients are there , if I can maintain near appropriate moisture . In the past I have tried watering each plant, now I believe that the surrounding soil draws that moisture away. This year I'm intending to water the whole patch , not just each plant. Hopefully I can harvest the crop I hope for. All the tomatoes I and my family can eat fresh, and enough to can about 150 quarts , and to do about 100 pints of sauce. Does anyone suppose it can be done with 75 mixed plants?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 9:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


That is a lot of canning but I think you should have enough if it's not just a terrible year for tomatoes. More than likely you will have a period when a whole lot is ready at one time and you can spend a whole weekend canning. :) I know I planted 66 plants one year and it was a crazy good year and was picking like 3 bushels a day for a week.

This post was edited by Whosurtomato on Sat, Mar 15, 14 at 18:08

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 6:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
keith100_gw(NY 5A)

I was able to plant a garden one season on a southern facing slope in heavy clay where folks had gardened years before , it was wonderful. It was June 1st before I could work it but the water didn't dry up over night like it does in my present sand. There were a few night crawlers and the tomatoes did great in spite of my inexperience. I think you may be spot on in thinking that sand leaches out. My plants stared out great last year and the year before, but slowed to almost a halt about half season. On the other hand next to the toms I had potatoes that did very well both years. The difference I'm aware of is that I watered the potatoes less often. Maybe their roots were forced to grow deeper/better, maybe the soil wasn't leached out like the more watered tomatoes may have been. I'm sure I don't know LOL.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 6:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
keith100_gw(NY 5A)

Wow three bushel each day for a week , that's wonderful .I hope to spread it out a bit more than that. I was able to score a brand new All American 941 canner last year on Craig's list . I'm ready!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 6:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)


I plan on using Dave's advice on the cage size and Carolyn advises to leave a foot between cages
That is quite fine.
Have a bumper crop.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 3:21AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Tomatoes from my trip to Sicily
I went back this summer to my birthplace, Sicily and...
Tell me your ultimate tomatoes
Highest yield: Best flavor: Easiest/most disease resistant: Best...
Better than a ziplock bag
Credit: Durgan from Brantford came up with the idea. Pop...
BriAnDaren Ottawa, On Zone 5
fertilizer recipe for tomatoes?
First I found something in the local hardware store...
What are you growing for 2015?
Hi all! I'm a fairly new gardener (this will be my...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™