Tomato Cages

awestruckApril 17, 2014

I am learning how to garden and realize that the tomato plant I am growing is like a vine. Some have suggested that I make a cage to go around them (I have them in 20 gallon fabric containers). Someone also recommended to not buy the ones already made at the store. I wonder what the disadvantage would be by using one of the tomato cages they sell in the store. Does anyone here use tomato cages for their tomatoes? What are the alternatives? Thanks.

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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

In general, those round, tapered 3 ring cages you find at the store a far too flimsy. The rings break off easy and in general just too weak for any respectable tomato plant. (I.e. I had a tomato last year rip one out of the ground and carry it with it as it grew up towards the sky before it started coming back to earth lol). They do have their uses, however, I have found they make great cucumber trellises when turned upside down ;).

They definitely aren't my first choice but they are what I have on hand and I'm not going to put money into making new, sturdier ones this year. Instead, this year I will be staking my tomatoes, and I am also growing smaller varieties.

There's a few different options out there, from staking and caging to trellising, but I will let those with more experience in those methods elaborate. I have always used the crappy pre-fab cages and always been disappointed, just too lazy and too cheap to use anything better (I got all of mine for free when I re-appropriated them from my mother who I don't recall ever growing anything lol).

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:38AM
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Bought cages aren't tall enough for indeterminate plants, most get over 5 feet tall.Best to use wooden stakes and garden twine, tying as they grow.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:39AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Yeah. Those cages , even the most expensive ones, are WEAK and too short for most indet maters. They are good for peppers and eggplants.

I have made a few from CRW. They cost a little more and require a little work. If you buy a big roll (@ $110.00) you can make real good ones for about $3.50 each. But who needs 30 cages or more !!!. So I do staking. I make 6ft stakes from cedar lumber, for about $2 each. Other steak options are : EMT and ReBars(5/8" diameter min).

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 4:18AM
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I made crw cages and they are wonderful. You don't have to buy a roll, for a little more they are available in panels.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 4:42AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Agree with all the above, plus since you are in a container they are doubly difficult to use unless you can tie them off to something permanent. As the plant grows it has a tendency to tip over.

I have seen some really heavy duty wire, tall ones with 4 and 5 rings in various colors down here that might work but will still have to be tied off to something to remain upright.

What is the name of the variety you are growing? That way we can tell approx. how big it will get.

There are lots of other options available. Look at all these Photos for ideas.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 10:18AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

After many years of growing large indeterminate tomatoes in 20- and 25-gallon containers using 8-foot plastic coated steel stakes from a big box store, I finally scraped together enough money to buy Texas Tomato Cages. They are expensive -- currently $169 for six -- but will last a long time. It was the best investment I ever made in my garden. With the stakes, you need to prune to no more than three main stems and you lose production. High winds can knock them over if they're in a container unless you can attach them to something outside the pot anchored in the ground. You can use three stakes per plant set in a triangle with twine wrapped around and could prune a little less.

The medium TTCs are 20 inches in diameter and fit perfectly in a 20-inch smart pot. They are 6 feet tall. They hold up to 50 mph wind gusts and don't rust. I no longer prune, and I am getting much better yields using real cages. A slightly less expensive choice is Burpee's XL Pro tomato cages. They are 58 inches tall and 18-inches square, so you need to have a pot that is closer to 24 inches in diameter to fit them inside the container. They sell for three for $49 plus shipping, but you can often find coupons and free shipping online. I am using them as well as the TTCs, and they work pretty well, but don't seem as sturdy. I wish I'd bought more TTCs instead of the Burpees when I expanded my garden from 6 tomatoes to 12. If I had any tools or skills, I'd make cages from CRW.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 1:29PM
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Try my PVC cages. They work great and stand up to
wind better than the TTC.

Here's the URL to a post of what one person did with PVC.

And a link (below) to my cage plans.

Here is a link that might be useful: PVC cage plans

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 4:59PM
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ju1234((8 Dallas TX))

Today I found some welded wire fence locally in Dallas 24" X 100 feet, 16 Ga, 2X4" mesh size (for $27). I plan to use fencing pipe to make a frame and then tie 3-4 horizontal sheets of the wire fencing to the frame. Hopefully that will support all my tomatoes.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 11:17PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

24" X 100 feet ..
Sounds like rabbit fence. I got some to make cages for peppers and eggplants. Three times wrap will make 6ft tall. That is good. For support you can also use 1/2" EMT.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 11:58PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

The best tomato cages are from 6" remesh wire. I made some 20 years ago, and they are still the best. Sturdy, and you can reach through the openings easily.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 12:33AM
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Thanks for all the suggestions. I bought a cage yesterday, but it isn't all that tall. I found some at Walmart, but didn't see a price on them so I just got some 6"poles. I have wrapped around a plastic netting. The types of tomatoes I have are Amish Paste, German Lunchbox, Dixie (yellow), and will have black krim and creamy sausage icicle if they come up. I am pretty sure they are all interdeterminate.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 3:43AM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

Hardware stores sell the 6" remesh. And some poles are sturdier than others. I have 6' rebar poles to hold my remesh cages upright in the wind. If your plastic netting is large enough to reach in and pull a tomato out, that should be fine. Best of luck on all your tomatoes this year!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 10:07PM
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Here is something I made, inspired by those "Ultomato" cages, but bigger.

The vertical pieces are 7 feet tall plastic coated metal stakes, the horizontal pieces are bamboo (the top and bottom ones) and branches from from trimming an overgrown tree.

All the joints are fastened by plastic zip ties. The stakes are hammered about a foot into the ground. One of the stakes is also attached to the container by zip ties.

The container is a made from a broken garage vacuum with drainage holes cut into the bottom. I wrapped the thing in a blanket made of reed blinds to hopefully keep the soil temperature reasonable in hot summer days here in So. Cal. and also for looks.

The 3 stakes were $1.50 each from the Daiso Japan stores. The bamboo sticks were $0.99 total from the local 99 Cent store.

The thing seems pretty stable but we'll see how it works as the tomato (Celebrity) grows. The thing can be taken apart for storage fairly easily. The bamboo and tree branches likely won't last more than a season. I suppose they can be replaced with more durable material if so desired.

The spaces between the levels may be a little big. Thinking about adding extra levels made from branches or maybe just tie some sisal twines around the vertical stakes forming triangles parallel to the existing ones. One good thing about the stakes is that the notches on then make it hard for things tied around them to slip up and down.

The reed blinds were also from Daiso (bought 2 at $1.50 each).

This post was edited by DHLCAL on Mon, Apr 21, 14 at 10:10

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 10:36PM
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I use Texas tomato cages. They are expensive, but are so convenient to use and to store. I have 18 of them, and wish to have 6 more. They are sold in different sizes and have extensions to make them taller. They also stored flat! I usually only install first layer when I set my tomatoes out and use it at as a structure to emergency cover if case of bad weather. (Old hose comes very handy, see picture), and when tomatoes overgrow first layer, add next one.

Here is a link that might be useful: You can check the store here

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 6:10AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I am impressed with all the creativity. DHLCAL, I think your set will probably work well. And I love the idea of using the hose the way galinas did. When we had temperatures that dropped into the 30s two weeks after I planted out last year, I was able to wrap row covers around the bottom half of my Texas Tomato Cages and it worked well.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:24AM
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Dennis Leary used to tell a joke that marijuana is not a gateway drug because smoking weed doesn't lead to other drugs, but instead leads to carpentry as the smoker keeps thinking up new ways to build a better bong.

Growing tomatoes and other vining plants have a similar effect on me.

This is my second year growing tomatoes (along with other vegetables). Pretty sure a few years down the road I'll end up with some sort of tomato jungle gym.

This post was edited by DHLCAL on Mon, Apr 21, 14 at 20:54

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 8:49PM
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double post

This post was edited by tlhouser123 on Tue, Apr 22, 14 at 20:41

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 7:06PM
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Thanks for sharing all your ideas and suggestions. I am totally new at this and learning continually from my mistakes! I did the pole thing around my trailing tomato plant and wrapped netting around it only to realize from the posts of others that the posts were too short and the netting does not provide an opening to reach inside to get the tomatoes out. So, I will try something different. On the other tomato, I bought a tomato cage, but not sure if it will be tall enough. If not, I guess the plant can start trailing from the top of the cage! All the rest will have tall poles or larger cages depending upon my pocketbook and creativity! Thanks again for all the suggestions and pictures.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 11:17AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I have several problems with cages. OR to me they have several disadvantages:

----- Good and Functional ones, if you buy them ready made, are expensive.

---- Good and Functional ones if you want to make yourself,require a lot of work (transporting, cutting, forming). If you make them out of PVC, they are made up of so many pieces and fittings, gluing ....

--- Winter storage is yet the biggest disadvantage of cages, unless you have a big barn or something.

They do offer, however, convenience, (once made, or paid for) during the season as compared to staking.

For the reasons above , I prefer staking/weaving combination. It require some extra maintenance work (tying , weaving), but they are easy, to make, cost less and are easy to store( be it wood, Rebar, EMT ..)


    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 11:41AM
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Whether to stake, cage, trellis or even just let the vines sprawl is a matter of personal preferences and circumstances. Some people enjoy building a cage, others are willing to pay for a ready-made model or spend their time pruning and tying a staked plant. We all also have different space availability, soil, rainfall, wind, temperature, etc. All these things factor into a home gardner's choice of tomato support.

For me, I do find it fun to hunt for material to build different types of cages (and other garden structures like raised beds and trellises). So, this is what I did.

The one important thing is just to have the chosen method work more or less as intended, along with all of the associated costs and benefits, instead of suffering a nasty surprise-- like the support being too small or flimsy for the plant or get blown over by wind due.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 5:10PM
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