Stakes vs Cages

LostOwlJune 6, 2013

New member here.
I started a little late this year, transplanting tomatoes on June 1st.
We are experimenting with stakes vs cages. My family has always been cagers; a friend is an old staker. Here is the experiment:

4 Rutgers, Determinate
4 Jetsetters
4 Better Boys

2 of each of these will be caged (A&B), and 2 staked (C&D). Water and feeding will be the same for all plants. We are looking at the output of the caged plants vs the staked plants in these areas:

First usable fruit from each variety.
Total usable fruit from each variety (count)
Total usable fruit weight from each variety
Average weight of fruit (total weight divided by count)
Largest usable fruit
Last usable fruit

My daughter will be using the data in a homeschooling project.

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Centurion_(Verde Valley AZ Z8)

What are the dimensions of your cages?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 12:02AM
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LKZZ(7b)

Well, that should be an interesting experiment. Cage size would be an important factor in your analysis data.

We homeschool too.
Hope to here about your results.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 7:55AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Agree that cage size is an important variable. Even more important is what do you mean by "cage". The 3 ring things? Waste of time. Lots of different types of cages available and the results will vary drastically.

Will you be pruning the staked plants?

Another variable for her to study is the amount of work/time involved in maintaining the 2 different methods.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 10:00AM
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daveinco(5)

As digdirt mentioned, I think a very important variable in this study is your pruning methods.

I would also consider your output normalized by the square feet required for each growing method.

I'm very interested to hear your results, please report your progress and conclusions!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 10:12AM
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Centurion_(Verde Valley AZ Z8)

Looking forward to you results, LostOwl. Can you post pics as well?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 1:52PM
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LostOwl

Regarding cage size, I am not sure. We are using my 76-year-old father's (he has used them for many years) and I have will pick them up tomorrow. We will use his instructions for pruning; I will post those details.

The stakes are in; they are wooden and about 6 feet high. The tying and pruning will be done by a 70-year-old friend of mine, an advocate of that method.

More details and pictures will follow, as well as details about the cages.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 5:25PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

If no pruning is involved or it is going to be equally done, then cage or stake will make no difference. They are just supports.
One day, I would like experiment this:
-- Take two identical plants. Maintain one with No pruning and the other with well disciplined pruning and keep data on production .

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 7:19AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

-- Take two identical plants. Maintain one with No pruning and the other with well disciplined pruning and keep data on production .

Been done by many both in published controlled research and informally by home gardeners.

YMMV in your garden.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 12:39PM
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lucille(Houston)

I think that is an outstanding project!! (And I look forward to the results). I can't picture how they might differ but plants have their own system, who knows whether the additional horizontal support bars might produce differently as opposed to those on stakes and ties.
Imaginative, important, and it sounds like fun.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 6:11PM
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sweetlyperfect(5a)

Oh, how cool! This is such a great idea for your daughter and family! I homeschool my two daughters and what fun this project would be for you all. We are going to follow your project updates along the summer. What about posting pictures along the way? We would love to see that if it were possible! Not to mention, I'm curious what 75 year old tomato cages look like. :) Happy tomato experimenting!
Laura

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 7:07PM
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sweetlyperfect(5a)

Oh, how cool! This is such a great idea for your daughter and family! I homeschool my two daughters and what fun this project would be for you all. We are going to follow your project updates along the summer. What about posting pictures along the way? We would love to see that if it were possible! Not to mention, I'm curious what 75 year old tomato cages look like. :) Happy tomato experimenting!
Laura

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 7:09PM
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macbettz

A good control would be to let a group sprawl (no caging/staking).

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 9:00AM
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LostOwl

We've had a lot of rain the past week, and the tomato patch is very wet. My father said the cages can wait a bit, but I have put one in to get pictures. They are about five feet high and 18 inches in diameter. He made them from concrete rebar mesh about 25 years ago. Some are showing their age! The staked tomatoes have not needed tied yet, but they will get their first pruning this week. Despite the late start, all the plants have taken hold and look good.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 7:06AM
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Centurion_(Verde Valley AZ Z8)

18" diameter and 5 feet tall? Those should be good cages.

This post was edited by Centurion_ on Sat, Jun 15, 13 at 9:56

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 9:12AM
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LostOwl

Still working on the cages; we have two in. They are in bad shape, but we are going to use them...they will certainly contribute some iron to the soil. Still, they have taken a lot of straightening and repair. This is probably their last use. Stake pruning has not yet been needed. We've had a lot of rain this week with more coming, so the ground has been very wet. All plants are showing good growth.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 7:38AM
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bobincentralMA

Hi, Believe it or not, try Stakes and Cages - they both have advantages and I use both for each plant. Cages really help propping the leaf branches on and letting them rest with sun exposure and stakes help keeping the plant straight. Having both helps stability because Heirlooms grow 6 feet and get very heavy. Also, great air circulation helps alot with plant health. I get 7 foot spikes as they need 12 inches in the ground and get the tall cages that are five feet. Good Luck, if you got the space, it's worth it.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 11:12PM
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LostOwl

The first picture is up; taken last weekend. The cages are all in, and we had the first causality. My wife dropped a cage on one of the Better Boys, and broke it off. Rain has stopped, and today promises to be sunny. The stake-tender is worried we may already be showing some first signs of blight, and treatment will begin.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 8:23AM
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LostOwl

The caged plants are getting much bushy as the only pruning is removal of stems below about 9 inches. The staked tomatoes are being pruned regularly. Most plants are about 18 inches high, although a caged Jetsetter and caged Rutgers are both taller and thicker than any other plants in the garden. Blossoms are seen are the Jetsetters, both stakes and cages, although the caged are showing more.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 10:12PM
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GreenThumb85(6b Illinois)

I would do stakes..I have lost around 15 roma's because the stakes snapped my plants as they grow. If you just move the twine to keep them upright when using stakes then you should be good.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 7:52AM
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lucille(Houston)

"The caged plants are getting much bushy as the only pruning is removal of stems below about 9 inches. The staked tomatoes are being pruned regularly."

As I understand it, this was an experiment, and you were going to measure output of cage v. stake.
I think if you are pruning one but not the other, you may be introducing a variable that will invalidate the experiment, because the pruning may affect output.
It's certainly interesting and fun anyway.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 4:53PM
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LostOwl

We have our first tomatoes; about the size of Skittles. They appear on one staked and on one caged tomato, both of them Jetsetters. No fruit seen yet on the others.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 8:23PM
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Centurion_(Verde Valley AZ Z8)

What? No new pics? :-).

How's your daughter's write up of the project going?
What a great way to get her started with gardening..

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 11:24PM
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christacharlene(6)

We always ending up staking our cages. We start out with cages (the kind with 3-4 rings). Our plants always get huge and our cages start leaning. At that point we bring out the stakes and kind of weave them between the rings in the cage and then pound the stakes into the ground. It works really well.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 4:09PM
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LostOwl

We are showing fruit; 10 showing on the staked tomatoes, and 6 on the caged ones.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 8:19PM
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