Cages vs Concrete Wire?

jeff94519(9)May 7, 2007

I am planting about a dozen tomato plants and wondered which is better. Using large tomato round cages you get at the garden center or making round cages using the large concrete wire and making cages of my own. Price will be about the same I figure. Also I thought I saw a picture of someone that made a wall of concrete wire and had it leaning and the vines grow up the wall of wire. Any thoughts the tomato plants are all varieties, small to large beefsteaks, five Brandywine

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Bob_B(Sunset 14, Ca.)

You will be way ahead to use the concrete reinforcing wire. The tomato cages at the garden centers are too small and flimsy for all but the smallest tomato plants.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 5:34PM
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I agree, the ones that I made out of CRW many years ago are still good, just too short, but I learned my lesson from making them that way.

I gave my DIL some tomato plants and loaned her and my son my tiller to prepare a place for them so she will need a few cages. I told her that I would go halves with her on a roll of 5' X 150' C.R.W. She just went ahead and bought .

It is a little work, but you can make some out of it which will last for many years.
That is my preference.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 6:42PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

Yes, tomato cages need to be much larger and sturdier than those you buy, though some swear by Texas tomato cages. I think they're too expensive!

Another thing you can do is use cattle (or feedlot) panels to support your tomatoes. The link below has several pictures showing how people have used them in addition to making cages of them.

I just attach them to stakes and tie my tomato and melon vines to them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cattle Panels and Tomatoes

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 6:59PM
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On a scale of 1 to 10.

10 being best.

Garden Center Hoop Cages = 1

Homemade concrete wire cages = 5

Texas cages = 10

I own all three types but use the hoops for peppers.

You get what you pay for. I guess it depends how important it is to you and your financial situation. Some folks drive Civics and others Lexus. There's something for everyone.

Texas cages are made for you. Shipped to your door. No cut hands making them like the concrete wire. No labor at all. No wasted time driving to the HD and lugging that bundle of wire back home. Texas lasts forever. Never rusts. Folds flat for easy storage. And a hurricane won't knock them over. Best investment I ever made to support my hobby...:)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 7:52PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Considering I made my galvanized CRW cages for about 5x less a couple years ago than the Texas cages... and considering I made galvanized triangular cages big enough to hold 3 plants, at about $2.75 per plant, and they don't rust, I'll stick with them... and I drive a Chevy.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 11:06PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

another galvanized CRW cage man here...and another Chevy driver too. ;) My labor is cheap since I'm retired and they last forever and never rust. Texas cages are just too darned expensive unless you only grow a couple of tomatoes.

Don't have a place to store your cages? Hang those icicle lights on them at Christmas for decorations. Very popular down here! :-D

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 11:59PM
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Well I drive a chevy and a caddie, so I am thinking of making the concrete wire and get them chrome plated. Ok maybe not the chrome plating. I have been doing some googling on cages and I am amazed at what is out there.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 1:36AM
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It's just a difference of opinion. I have CRW cages and think they are the cadillac. I am thinking of trying some half cages this year. Saw that and that looks good and gives easy access on one side. I won't run down any as it is what works for you but personally I don't feel there is any great difference or benefit to the Texas cage besides storage and that has nothing to do with growing tomatoes. JMO. Jay

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 7:23AM
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Hey korney, you should go into business! Galvanized @ $2.75 each is a BARGAIN! I bought the regular "rusts 10 minutes after you set them outdoors" wire bundle (50') and got only 7 cages. I forget whatever I paid at HD. But it came to at least double what you paid plus all my labor and first aid requirements LOL

OK all Chevy drivers. Don't ever order the Texas Cage! They are amazing things and a tomato growers dream. They are like microwave ovens, once you've used one for a time you wonder how you ever managed before their invention! So Don't buy any of these Texas jobs!!! You'll never be the same and be hooked like me...:)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 7:23AM
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Do you own a Texas Cage?

Besides ease of storage the other advantages to the Texas Cage are:

1. DOUBLE the thickness and strength! They NEVER blow over. My wire cages do when the plants get big unless I also stake the cages at various points. So with wire jobs I need the cage PLUS stakes.

2. They don't rust.

3. Best of all, you don't have to waste valuable time making them. Time is money. I guess it depends on how valuable your time is to you and if you enjoy that sort of work. I DON'T! If you are retired and like working with your hands then I say yes go for it! If you work and have kids like me it's a different story. Tomato growing is a fun, relaxing hobby for me. Trying to bend and cut rolled up wire with bleeding fingers doesn't do a thing for me...LOL

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 7:34AM
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naturalstuff(Z6 / CT)

Yeap, those tomato cages at the garden center fall over in a strong wind and bend when plants get heavy. I used bamboo poles and it withstood 70mph winds and all the yeilds the maters produced without bending, cracking, or breaking.

Bamboo poles is the way to go and just tie them up with pantyhose or something.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 8:05AM
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Does anyone here have stock in the Texas Tomato Cages company? or is a salesman for same? Sounds like that they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but many can not afford 30 to 50 of them to grow tomatoes in.

FWIW last week Lowes had 5" X 50" long CRW on sale for 40 bucks, or the 150' roll (which will make 37.5 nice sized cages for 84 bucks. Basically buy two rolls, get one free. Add a little tax and title and you get about 2.41 tied up in each cage, plus a little bit of labor. One of my little Grandsons can take my small set of bolt cutters and some big pliers to bend the ends with and make a cage in 10 minutes or less.

The wire that I bought (pictured above) was already rusted to an attractive "Construction orange" shade. Given time on duty in the garden, lovingly embracing my prized tomato plants, that crass rust will add a minute amount of iron to the soil while changing to a lovely rustic, deep brown patina that will not stain your hands or clothes.

I would classify it as the "Hummer" of the garden in comparison to the "David Bradley Texas Tomato Cage".

See 1. (b.) and 2. below.
Bill P.

One entry found for patina.
Main Entry: pati·na
Pronunciation: p&-'tE-n&, 'pa-t&-n&
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural pa·ti·nas /-n&z /; or pa·ti·nae /-"nE, -"nI/
Etymology: Italian, from Latin, shallow dish -- more at PATEN
1 a : a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color b : a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use
2 : an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character
3 : a superficial covering or exterior
Learn more about "patina" and related topics at

Of course this in no way is meant to suggest that anyone desiring to sand and paint, dip or have chrome, silver or gold plated, their cages should be deterred in any way from doing so. ":^)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 9:35AM
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Sure I can answer your question. No problem at all.

NO I do not work for the company. I live a good 1500 miles away from the company. I do not know anyone affiliated with the company. I do not know if it's a public traded company or not. I do not knowingly have any investments in the company. (If it is public held it would be possible that one of my mutual funds invests in it but I sincerely doubt it's a publically traded company).I am not trying to promote the company.

There may be one important difference going on here. I actually OWN and USE both the wire cages AND the Texas. They are both currently outside in my garden next to each other. Can you say the same? I am only pointing out the obvious differences between the two.

I understand that cost is a major factor for many people. I wish they weren't so expensive myself because then I'd replace all my wire ones (I have em so I still use them with stakes) with these beauties! But for those that have the free cash and inclination to have the best I think this is the way to go.

Can your grandson make the cage by himself? I felt it helpful to have an extra person. I am a klutz with tools. But we klutzes enjoy growing tomatoes as much as handymen do...:)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 10:24AM
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That clears that up big dj. I understand what you are saying and it is nice to be able to go first class if you can. While you and I may have that option if we so choose, many more probably do not. I do not see any thing wrong with spending as much as one wants to on a hobby, if they can afford it, be it growing tomatoes, travel, photography or what ever.

I also see no reason to be hyper critical of something that is all some folks can afford, or perhaps more than some can afford. Yeah they do rust, but some can deal with that for the difference in price. Personally, I am quite happy with them.

Yes, my grandson can make the cages by himself, it is not too hard if you leave the roll on that little equipment trailer that it is on. Naturally, it is a little easier and faster with two people working on it, one that knows when to hold em and knows when to fold em! ":^)

I think that in the long run most can make do with either to grow tomatoes in.

Good growing and happy gardening to you bigdaddyj.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 11:18AM
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I am sorry to you and others if I came across "hyper critical" against the wire cages. That surely was not my intention! Let me clear that up, OK?

I started out as most do with the three and four ring jobs they sell everywhere. And here I might be offending someone who uses those but I have no other way to describe those flimsy wire hoops other than jokes! No way it can properly support a large tomato plant and man some of mine can get 9' tall easy! I don't prune much at all and mine are monster size bushes grown organically in raised beds of mushroom soil and compost.

Then I learned about the concrete wire ones that u can make yourself. So I did just that and made my own despite my lack of handyman ability. (Man I remember getting all cut up and I should have worn gloves) But those concrete mesh containers are light years better than the cheapo hoops! I was very happy with them. I still am. With a rebar stake placed against the prevailing winds it does a fine job.

But then my hobby grew. I needed more cages. I didn't want to go through that misery again of making my own. (My misery may be another's idea pf FUN and I realize that) So I investigated. Someone here mentioned the Texas jobs and gave a rave review. I looked at the website. I decided to try them out. The rest as they say is history. These things are FANTASTIC! I am spoiled for life. I appreciated someone here mentioning how good they are. I am trying to return the favor to anyone out there who thinks as I do by passing along my review. That's all.

Good growing to you too Bill. My cukes are up. Peppers all planted. My fall planted garlic will be ready soon. Snap peas looking good. And my 22 tomato plants are looking fine...:)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 12:13PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Please also keep in mind that there are many that cannot even afford CRW, let alone Texas cages. I sell my extra plants locally and have people that come and buy maybe just 1 or 2 plants, and the average cost is in the $1.25-$1.50 range. It's hard to tell these people that they should REALLY go out and buy a roll of CRW. Even those that buy 10-20 plants it's hard to convince them.

As for the Texas cages, we discussed this in the past, regarding cost and functionality. Personally, I think they should have both more horizontal rings as well as verticals, and that would considerably change cost as well as functionality--they wouldn't fold anymore if they increased the verticals. To me there's a lot of shortcomings for the sake of being able to collapse them. True, they are heavier gauge metal, but I never saw the need for anything over 10 gauge wires. As for the wide-open spaces, the branches go where they may wish, not where I wish, meaning on a CRW cage I can make a branch hold position at say a certain o'clock position around the cage to shield a cluster of fruits from sunscalding, or raise a branch 6 inches to access a cluster easier. I can also use the cage to support clusters, since CRW has theoretically 11 horizontal wires.

You can also extend the CRW cages up to roughly an additional foot if you make certain cuts to [pre-existing] cages. More info if interested, with a pic showing how.

I live in Buffalo and there's always a breeze off Lake Erie, as well as some wicked winds & storms (both summer & winter) and have never had a cage blow down, no matter how big the plant. I've never used rebar or anything to anchor them and they have withstood 50+mph winds. I occasionally supplement the plants with a bamboo pole in the center, but just to support the plant from collapsing inside the cages from super-heavy fruit-loads. With a roll of CRW and an $8 bolt cutter from Harbor Freight, I used to make a cage in less than 5 minutes--cut 11 wires while still on the [vertical] roll, pull pull piece off the roll, and bend the ends to fasten.

The possibilities are nearly endless what can be done or made with a roll or sheets of CRW--yes, they are usually available many places as 5ft x 10ft sheets (or larger.) I've made round cages, triangular cages, stalls, partitions, igloo-type domes, coldframes/high tunnels, 7ft+ long rectangular pens that you can open to enter, horizontal grids, etc. The triangular cages are even more tip-proof and the cost per plant is even less than dedicated cages for each plant.

As for being able to collapse the cage when the growing season is over, I have a different take on this--I'M A PROUD TOMATO GROWER, WHY PUT THEM AWAY? YOU EMBARASSED BY THEM? I leave mine be and only remove/move them if I have to retill the spot, and I can usually just stick a garden fork or "Garden Hound" down thru and give it a few twists to loosen the soil. Even the "stalls" & flat panels slip apart if needed.

Hi. My name is Mater Mark. I grow heirloom tomatoes with CRW and exclusively drive Chevys.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 12:18PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

I like those triangular tomato cages, Mark. What are the dimensions? 3'? 4'? For those who'd like to put them away over the winter, they could be constructed so they're foldable, couldn't they, with just a couple more steps?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 12:23PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

I used a 10ft sheet to make the triangular cages, so about 3.3ft per side. I just bent the sheet twice while on the driveway and connected the ends. If you want bigger ones, you can take as much as you want off a roll, even three separate pieces to make them foldable. The galvanized sheets costed around $8-$10/sheet.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 1:53PM
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tomstrees(z6 NJ)

I used to buy the small $0.70 cages ...
But after buying the materials myself, and building them - there is no way I could EVER go back to using those things ... yeah - homemade cages are just that good ~


    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 4:14PM
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How are you bending the CRW cages into the round shape so nicely?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 4:57PM
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Deepsand, if you notice the picture that the link in my first posting in this thread (third down from the top) leads to, you will notice that if you buy a roll of CRW it is already curled somewhat. After you cut it off and bend the ends of the wire into a hook shape, it is not very difficult to just squeeze it together enough to hook those ends where you want them then close the hooks down with pliers. By the time you get to the last of the roll, you will probably have to spread, or straighten out the roll a little to hook it into the correct position.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 6:33PM
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Oh I got ya...I thought those where the flat ones used in concrete...thanks for the tip...

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 7:04PM
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The rolls are used in concrete, it is just in a roll. They roll it out and walk on it, then tie it down to pegs with wire to hold it off the ground. You can buy it in short panels also, and that might be a little more difficult to roll up into a cage.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 7:27PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Yes to what Bill said a couple posts up.

All the galvanized round cages near the bottom of my pic were from flat sheets; actually, all the galvanized CRW in my pic, whether triangular cages, round cages, stalls/partitions, or the long 10ft 3-row sections (did you see those, by the fence, 18" apart converting a 3ft wide raised bed into 2 rows 18" apart?) are all from flat sheets.

It's hard to tell in my pic but I have all the galvanized stuff just mentioned, plus bare CRW cages, white urethane painted round cages, and Rustoleum dark green hammer finish painted round cages. The dark green hammer finish paint goes over bare metal with no primer needed. It's a metallic too.

You could probably bend them around a barrel or garbage can or something. I did mine with my bare hands by grabbing each horizontal wire (with 2 hands like snapping a stick or a pencil) and just bending the centerpoint between the 2 vertical wires a little bit. It's a lot of work that way-- about a hundred bends per cage--it took maybe 15 minutes to make a cage instead of 5 minutes if from a roll. You could also lay the sheet on the driveway, put a board across the wire and lift up and do a narrow 5ft tall area of bends at once, then reposition and continue--each square in CRW is usually 6" x 6". When you get close to completing the circle, do the last foot or two by hand.

The tradeoff is this: If you buy it in rolls, it will be precurved to an extent, a hundred plus pounds per roll. If you buy galvanized, it's easier to find in 5ft x 10ft flat sheets than rolls. It's hard to galvanize, you can't just "dip" a roll because it will stick together.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 8:33PM
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frugal_gary(alvin tx)

I sort of like the cattle panels, but concrete wire is fine also. One thing to remember is to be VERY CAREFULL when messing with this stuff! Cuts and gouges can get very expensive.
I would like to find someone with a bending machine that could take an eight foot peice of cattle panel and fold it into a neat looking 2 x 2 x 5 foot square.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 8:46PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Take it to a sheet metal shop and ask them to bend it in a Brake... you may even end up with perfect 90 degree corners.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 9:19PM
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If I were younger - - I have toyed with an idea of building my own brake, powered by hydraulics with an old car or truck power steering pump run by a belt from an electric motor, or compressed air, (I have a couple of good air compressors). Or a small hydraulic pump, resevoir and cylinders are not too prohibitive in cost.

I do not think that it would be too hard to set something up to feed wire off a roll on a spool (with a rod through the center of the roll), across a table or track with a stop to position the wire and have a part shear the wire into where you want it cut off, then another part fold the ends over, release and repeat. I enjoy doing things like that and had previously thought it through enough to figure out that if you found a market on eBay or else where you could ship them flat and let the buyer hook them into the circular position, (it is really not all that hard to do) and squeeze the hooks shut.
I may mention the idea to one of my sons and grandsons.
Just musing.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 11:28PM
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vall3fam(9 CentralCA)

I've found that the flat panels (8' x 4') work well for my use. HD has them for about $4.00 each and there are no sharp edges or pokey wires on them. We just bend them around and connect with strong zip ties. It is easy enough to lie them on their side and push them into a circle. One person can do it alone (ask my DH!)

With the zip ties, I just cut the ties at the end of the season, walk on the panels a little bit to flatten out, and stack against the fence for storage.

I hold them down by driving two 18' wooden survey stakes, one on each side, into the ground about a foot, then attaching the stakes to the cage with another zip tie. A pack of 50 survey stakes is about 7.00.

The photo doesn't show the stakes attached yet. Also, another use of the flat panels can be seen to the right of the photo, where I have one stretched between two T-posts. I just tie the tomatoes to the wire as they grow.

Another method I'm trying this year is 6' x 1/2" rebar stakes. I'm pounding these in about 18" and tieing the maters to them as they grow. Those only cost about $2.50 each.

All of these methods have multi-season use, so the initial investment is well worth the money.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 1:26AM
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I like that flat cattle panel idea. I'm dead set against cages, never having anything even close to a good experience with them, and prefer two-dimensional solutions that don't risk snagging my watch. I'm using bamboo canes again, this year, but it doesn't provide enough support for too many suckers that way.

I think my ideal solution would be like something six foot by 12 foot, flat (so I don't have to flatten it myself).

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 6:56AM
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Is there any advantage to having a "wall" of tomatos versus the cage cylnder concept? You have to reach in a cage or you have to pick them on one side or the other? I guess this debate acn go on until forever. It is just a matter of choice, space, prefence, economics. If your doing two or three plants, a cage is fine and a panel is over kill. If your doing 25 plants several walls would be better I would think.

This is all therory in my head, I still have them in the 4" pots and seeds. Still tilling the soil and preping

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 6:46PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

That's tough to answer, even after thinking about it for a while. For me, the three panels form 2 rows. I can anchor the center panel by cutting and bending the tines down into the ground and attach the ends to something already there, like another cage or the next partition. If I can grow plants 18"-24" apart, that's 10-12 plants per 3 sheets, or at $8/sheet, $2 to $2.40 per plant. If I cut the sheets in half and make round cages, that would be $4 per plant. So one advantage is cost.

Also, I can just take one panel off, plant 5-6 plants, and reinstall the panel in place to close it up. That's less work, plus possibly less danger of trying to put a round cage over a plant, without "pricking" it or poking it accidentally.

If I have to till the bed, same thing. Take one panel off till that row, plant, reinsert panel.

I'm talking about panels here, that form caged rows. Others may use a panel with stakes on each end and try fastening the plants to the "wall" by weaving it or with ties, but that's not what I'm doing, so cant comment on that way, other than weaving is a pain come cleanup time.

And for just 5-6 plants, you can use 2 panels and plant between them. Or see the "partitions" in the bottom right of my pic... they'll never blow down that way either, and there's no extra cost anchoring them.

I think it comes down to how handy you are, how much you want to spend or save, and what's available to you.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 9:20PM
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john90808(z10 So Cal)

Jeff, you are right on the money. It really does come down to personal preference, available funds and garden-specific situations.

Me personally, I do a mix of CRW, stakes and twine. I will be trying out a Florida weave this year in place of vertical twine in one area of my garden. I usually stake smaller toms that I grow in large containers (cherries and the like)....and my CRW is placed around large garbage cans (another container) and that works well for that particular situation.

Good thread and many great ideas.....thanks to all and happy gardening!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 9:30PM
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Another idea. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Not always, sometimes it is just for convenience, or perhaps a "better mouse trap".

The thought occurred to me that there should be an easier way of bending the ends of the wire for the CRW cages by hand, rather than pliers. So, I cut off a couple of pieces of this short enough to be able to easily fold the wire back enough to make a good hook. Works well, two of my grandsons are out there making a few more cages now. We will keep nibbling away, a few per day till the roll is all gone.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 6:16PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

bumped for a related question

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 6:16PM
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Hi folks,
I read through most of this thread and am impressed with your generally high regard for the Texas Cages.

First off, I really don't have much interest in constructing my own cages -- putting up rabbit fencing for my sunflower garden has pretty much discouraged me working with wire any further. I'm looking for a ready-made alternative to stakes for my tomato plants. Oh, and I drive a Ford Truck. =)

I'm particularly interested in the opinion of someone who has worked with the Texas Cages and knows how they fold up for storage. The smallest model is 18" in diameter, but I don't quite have that to work with. I'd like to know your thoughts on deploying them somewhat folded!

I just sent this email to the Texas Cage folks, and I'd like to know what you think as well:

Hello from New Jersey,

I have two questions about your tomato cages. I have a very very small garden on the side of my house in which I grow Better Boy tomatoes, bought as small plants from a home improvement store (tried growing from seeds with no luck). They were very successful last year (my first attempt), even though I didn't stake and tie them until later in the season. This year, I staked them as I planted them, but they're already growing too large to really manage!

See the attached photo of my small garden. I measured the width, and it is only 13.5 inches at the narrow section. My first question is, do you think that your small model cage, 18" by 4', would work in here, if I were to put them in the ground somewhat folded, creating an oval shape with the cage??? My second question, if the answer to the first question is favorable, is do you think that I could remove the stakes and apply these cages this year, or would I have to wait until next year? The attached photo was taken about 5 weeks ago, and the plants have grown very large since. I've also done a lot of pruning since first planting, and tied the main stems to the stakes last weekend.

Thanks, I look forward to hearing back from you!!!

Here's the photo I attached:

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 12:01AM
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Greetings from Tiny Delaware!

Your space is just too narrow. You need at least 18 inches for the smaller Texas Cage to work well and as they are intended. Sorry.

I have 12 of the large Texas jobs out there now. They make my concrete wire homemade ones look like feeble old rusty thin nothings. The Texas are great. They flatten/store in a snap. Sure they are pricy to many on this forum but worth their weight in gold to me. If you are in Southern Jersey and want to see mine in action drop me an Email. I'm about 30 minutes from the DMB. I'm leaving for the weekend but will be back early next week.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 12:02PM
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I have had a garbled vision that i would like to throw out for Mark, Elaine, and anyone else who wants to offer constructive criticism. As with all things, its weakest point is COST, and then Practicality.

Why Mark and Elaine: because like like Mark, i have been toying for a long time with the idea of flat galvanized CRW sheets, 5' x 10', 6inch, priced $13-15 each.

Elaine, because she has introduced me to another size, 4'x8', [presumably also 6inches sq and galvanized?], that i did not know was available. Price?

Third option:cattle panels: longer,more expensive,$21 each.

My plan involves heavy duty metal fence posts augured in at some (structurally)appropriate intervals. These are the thick sort of U, 8'. Across the top of the posts run a slab of dimensional plastic lumber of appropriate size.

Leaning against the 2x6 or 10 board,at an angle of 85-75 or 60-65 degrees [i do not know what is structurally appropriate, and this is the weakest point engineering-wise in terms of strength/durability]. This lean-to shape, with one end spiked into the soil and the other attahed to the headboard, may, over time sag in the middle because of the weight of the vines.

To mitigate this weakness, one may bend out the sheet in the shape of half a curve,the end on the headboards sandwiched between another plastic board, and the opposite ends of the galvanized sheets digging into the earth, offering more compressive strength. [I don't know anything abouth engineering, just guessing]. This form could also be used as a 3-season hoophouse/season extender.

So each 5 or 4 feet sheet will have at its center 1 tomato plant. With the leant-to design, the vine will 'sprawl' in a semi-erect fashion along the slope of the panel. In the curved mode, it will have to guided with more careful tying.

Now, Texas Cages currently cost $200/6 with extenders, delivered. Costing out my design, i arrive at a figure somewhat greater than this for materials and transport and equipment alone. The disadvantages are that the structure is fixed, and that is also its advantage in that it can be used as a hoophouse and crop rotation for those who have a large garden. For smaller operators, this design is overkill.

TT cages can also be used as a season extender to a limited extent, by draping them with spent greenhouse film discarded by local nurseries where such is available or plastic from furniture/mattress dealerships.

Given the rapidly increasing price of galvanized and cattle panels and galvanized fencing rolls of all types, one is put in a vexing quandary. Not that i could afford $200 for 6 cages!!!

What do you all think? Thanks much.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 7:07PM
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I paid $100 for six LARGE 24" Texas cages plus $28.50 shipping.

You don't need extenders. They are like six feet tall as is and will easily handle the biggest plants you can grow. I never prune and these cages do a great job on my monster size plants without the extra 2 foot extender.

Good luck with whatever u decide...:)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 7:21PM
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I have a similiar setup to the one against the chain link fence. I use the (relatively) cheap tomato cages that you can get at Home Depot, Lowes, etc. Because the cages are not large enough, I wire one on top of the other with twist ties -- use the top one upside down. I tie the cages to the chain link fence, so they don't topple over. It works very well. Just keep pushing the plant inside the cage and place new branches on the higher rings.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 10:22AM
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foose4string(z7 MD)

I finally bit the bullet a few weeks ago and bought a roll of CRW. I think it was $86 dollars at Lowes. I had about 14 cages made in less than couple hours, and working by myself at that. It wasn't nearly as hard and messy to do as I had imagined. Bought the cheapest bolt cutters Lowes had, dawned my worked heavy duty work gloves, and started snipping and bending away at it. Cut and bent the bottom rung in a few places on each one to provide some built in stakes(big thanks to the person posted the diagram!!!!). I don't know why I didn't do this sooner.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 12:54PM
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I saw a design I liked at Home Depot but they were too puny in height and in gauge.

Got some 6" x 6" x 5' Welded wire mesh, flattened it from the roll, cut 3, 18" x 5' pieces so that each 18" piece had 3" of straight wire sticking out from each side.

Trimmed 2 of every three of those flush and used fencing pliers to form a hook on those remaining.

On the other side an eye.

Fit them together and closed two of these joints worth of eyes to make hinges. Left the remaining as hook and eye.

Trimmed the bottom rung flush with the verticals to provide 6" spikes.

Finished gives you a 4.5', trinagular, cage with 9, 6" spikes in the ground and the 6 x 6 space is perfect for training, picking and pruning.

So far, 45 mph winds never budged em but for some parts thats just a nice breeze. They might need a anchor stake.

They collapse to 18" x 5' x ~1.5" and will easilly store in the garage rafters.

It took about a twelve pack to make 6 including the obligatory time to admire the finished work and oh yeah, I drive a Ford :-)

The only thing I don't like about em is that they burn the plants in some spots and thats another reason why I'm thinking about upside down.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 10:30PM
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tazmo(z4 NH)

This is a great thread. I love the resourcefulness, engineering, and imagination people have for raising their prime crop, especially when irrigation is introduced.
We're on at least our 5th year for the CRW, non galvy. They weren't fun to make, but took shape well (being from a roll) and stack nicely in a pyramid when not in use.
A small mig welder and a very heavy roll of 3/16" welding wire will make the next few cages for the tomato plants that really should have gone into compost (My mailman just accepted the 5 leftover red cabbage plants but passed on the leeks). The trick is to not let the plants take over your tilled soil. Otherwise, you'll just end up terrorizing the neighborhood by leaving vegetables on their doorstep come fall. Or is this why people get chickens?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 12:34PM
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tbt3(z9 FL)

Just built my own for this year thanks to the advice on this posting. One thing I might add--the hardest part is bending the wire to make the hooks to connect them in a circle. I did one this way and then decided to buy some of those plastic "zip-ties" where you feed one end into the other and pull and lock them tight. The benefit is that I could always cut them and make my cages of a smaller diameter or cut them and flatten them for storage. Most of all, it is WAY easier on the hands than bending!!!


    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 5:27PM
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Hi - does anyone have experience using this type of cage? Seems like there areadvatages with respect to storage and the type of stake to which the cage is attached. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 10:30AM
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tomstrees(z6 NJ)

there is no competition that home-made cages work better than those tiny little cages they sell at the garden centers. Even the bigger TX cages can barely contain my plants.

Spend the money - go with concrete mesh ...

    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 10:45AM
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tomstrees(z6 NJ)

sorry - forgot the follow up pic:

~ Tom

    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 10:47AM
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I use galvanized wire bought at Southern States Co-op stores sold as "Tomato Fence". It is 4' tall and rolls are 20' long with plenty of room between squares to remove the fruits. I believe 6"x4". I cut them in half for pepper cages. I can make about 6 or 7 cages per roll. The current price is $12.99 per 20' roll.

I stake them with redwood (what I have) 6' stakes and if I want to let the plant grow really tall instead of topping it,I can tie it to the stake or let it sprawl over to the next cage. I have about 60 tom and 50 pepper cages at the moment. They seem to last forever with proper care.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 12:58PM
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where do you guys find the galvanized CRW?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 11:43PM
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Rust does matter. My concrete wire cages are in year 13 and very brittle. Pieces are starting to twist/bend off when the cages are handled. Of course mine are outdoors all year. I don't expect my cages to last more than another year or two. By year 15 my cages will be useless. Still, 15 years is pretty good.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 8:19AM
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macheske(6/7 NorthernVA)

Well, I went ahead and made some CRW cages. I made them to a diameter of 2'. It looks like the diameter is too large. What diameter do you suggest? took about 1.5 hours to make 14 cages by myself. It was very easy. I used the bucket on my tractor to hold down one end while I rolled out the other and cut the material with bolt cutters and then used a small piece of hollow rod in a pair of vice grips to bend the ends. No cuts or scratches!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 8:22AM
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macheske , I make them smaller for determinates and larger for indeterminates. I made them 2' dia one time and the tom plant collapsed inside the cage and fell to the ground after bearing fruit. I grow snap peas in them now.

I go for 12" for det and 16" for ind. YMMV

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 9:15AM
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I remember this post from last year and it's sad to think that Bill P. aka gonefishin is no longer with us. He will definitely be missed at this forum and I like him love my CRW cages!!! Theresa

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 4:22PM
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Hi,I live in Great Falls,Mt.I checked all over and all I can find is 150ft rolls of CR wire.I only need about half of what the roll would make.If I bought the roll and made all the cages 20 in dia that the roll would make.What would be a fair price to sell the extra cages for? I have no idea what a fair price would be.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 8:15PM
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brandyray(Coastal NC/8a)

Don't know too much about tomato cages, but I found a cheap local source of bamboo and I am thinking about using it to make teepees for my plants. They usually just sprawl on the ground, but I have too many this yr to do that. Or I could use the bamboo to create a rustic fence (like split rail) and tie them to it. I guess I will decide when I go out there to do it. It does seem to me the fence idea would require less bamboo.
And, tomstrees, I don't know what you feed your tomato plants but those look like trees! An inspiring pic. Brandy

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 11:23PM
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To make a 16" dia. cage what length of wire should I cut off the roll?


    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 3:28PM
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macheske(6/7 NorthernVA)

9 squares should get you just about right. The circumference is 4.2 ft so if you cut 9 squares you can bend the ends half way on the free end and get just about 16".

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 6:27PM
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Thanks Rick.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 8:45PM
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tomakers(SE MA Zone 5/6 or ?)

I always use 5' lengths for my tomato cages giving a diameter of approximately 19". These have worked well for me for many years. I know some of mine that I gave away because I thought they were getting too old are still in use. They HAVE to be at least 20 years old now. I just priced another roll of CRW from the building supply, about $100. 30 cages from a roll gives a final price of $3.33 plus your labor (less than 10 minutes per cage).

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 2:35AM
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plant-one-on-me(MI 5b)

I was trying to think of a way to make these so I can easily flatten them. If I took flat pieces and used zip ties to make triangular cages do you all think it would work? If so how large would you cut the pieces? In the fall I cut simply cut the zip ties and hang the flat pieces on the back of the garage. There is no way DH is going to keep cages up all year long in our tiny yard. Thanks in advance. Kim

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 9:06AM
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If you scroll up this thread to June 18th, I gave a detailed desciption of how I made mine and why.

Here are a few pics of the finished product.

A couple hints, A small set of bolt cutters is the right tool for the job of cutting this stuff. Safety glasses and gloves should be worn.

They work great but since I expanded to 40 plants this yr. I'll be using Florida Weave for most.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 9:50AM
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lightt(6/7 Northern VA)

I've only made round cages so this is opinion only as compared to Daves actual experience, so beware!!

I have decided I prefer the cages I constructed using 11 squares (66 inch circumference, 21 inch diameter, and an inside area of 2.4 square ft) better than the smaller ones of 10 squares (60 inch circumference, 19 in diameter. 1.9 sq ft). Making a triangular cage, three 18 inch panels will yield a little over 1 sq ft and seems a little small unless you are pruning. Three 24 inch pieces would give you 2 sq ft which (at least on paper) sounds better to me.

The very first cage I made I used the protruding wires for hooks to fasten the cages together and felt they were a royal pain to deal with. They never seemed to stay fastened to the other side of the cage but would "hook" absolutely ANYTHING and everything else! After that first one I cut the protruding wires off flush and used cable ties to secure the ends. You lose six inches of CRW for each cage you make but I think it is a lot cleaner. I also dont cut the bottom laterals to make spikes. The stuff in my raised beds is too fluffy for them to be secure and the soil(?) in my yard is too rocky to drive the wire in -- and once again, in my opinion not having all those nasty spikes makes a cleaner and safer(!) panel.

I also found using a three dollar metal cutting blade on a circular saw to be far superior to the rather small bolt cutters purchased specifically to cut the CRW to make my cages. The saw allows a closer cut and if necessary you can use the side of the blade to quickly grind any sharp areas.

Terry Light
Oak Hill, Virginia

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 1:19PM
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Terry, good points.

The next batch I make will have a couple or all three sides 6" wider. Not that I had troubles but a little bigger wouldn't have hurt.

I also probably would not cut the spikes but rather stake the cage with rebar and hold them up a foot or so to gain height.

I've not found zip ties to be useful for heavy work in the weather and would use the wire itself as described above, or hvy wire, or hog rings.

A simpler deal is just making them in slightly different diameters so that they can be stored inside of each other in the off season. Not quite as compact for storage but not nearly as hard to make or erect.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 2:17PM
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I have cages over ten years old and they look as good as new. It may have a lot to do with our dry climate. They have always been stored outside. Most of mine are 19" and work fine. I'm going to make a few new ones this year and will make two half and connect with the plastic ties we use to bundle electrical wires. Then in the fall can just snip them and store them one in the other if it works well. May try making some triangle ones that fold also. I have never had much trouble with the cages falling over. I usually have 44 cages out and may stake 6 or so at the max. So to me not a problem. I think at the time I built mine 10-12 years ago I had around 100 dollars in the 44. Maybe just over. Just think of the cost of 44 Texas cages. I have never hurt myself making them but realize it is along the lines of ranch and farm work for me which is not normal for many. I will continue to drive the Chevy and invest the saved dollars. JD

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 3:04PM
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horse_chick(Sunset 26)

I have learned my lesson the hard way.

This is my last year for flimsy tomato hoops. I came home from my mom's to find my plants windblown in all the high winds yesterday. More then a dozen green fruit came off the plants. Some 1 pounders. I'm NOT a fan of fried green tomatoes...sigh

I will be growing my fall crop with the CRW and they will be in the ground NOT in the pots.

All is not lost. I pounded rebar through the hoops into the ground. They won't go anywhere again until my harvest is complete.

Live and learn...

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 8:34PM
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