Tomato Cages - Building or Buying Tomato Cages
Increase Your Tomato Yields with Tomato Cages
Tomatoes plants often have higher yields when they are given proper support. Tomato support cages are the best way to help keep the fruit off the ground and keep your tomatoes disease free. Did you know that it is very important to not have any of your tomato branches touchings the ground? The ground carries diseases and without proper support, these diseases can damage or kill your tomato plants.
Here's a look at some of the tradeoffs between buying or making tomato cages.
Building or Buying Tomato Cages
Building Tomato Cages
What Works Best For You
Many folks like to build their own tomato cages. There are a few advantages to making your own cages. If you buy materials like a roll of chicken wire or reinforcing wire, the cost for several cages is much lower than buying individual cages, unless you buy them in bulk.
The most common way to build tomato cages is to use either a chicken wire fence or concrete reinforcing wire. You can find either of these with a mesh that's large enough to put your hand through, which will allow easy harvesting of the tomatoes when the time comes. The fencing is looped back on itself in a way that forms a large tube, which is set over the tomato plant and it grows up inside the cage. With this approach there is not as much need to tie up and prune the plant, the plants will just climb through the holes and naturally support themselves.
Another way to build cages is to use PVC pipes. These are usually durable and sturdy, as you can glue up a permanent structure. Alternatively, if you just snug the parts together it will be sturdy enough, but the other advantage is that it will disassemble with ease for storage, which is one of the biggest problems with tomato cages.
Another choice is to make cages from wood, although they tend to not last as long due to the elements. When wood is in the moist ground, insects can eat it away and it will rot if you live in a rainy area.
There are other similar techniques like the Japanese tomato ring (which is actually an American invention) that combines a large home made ring with some intensive gardening techniques to boost the yields of your tomato garden. This is not something you will find you can do with a commercially produced tomato cage.
Another common way to support tomatoes is to build a trellis with a pipe that runs along the row of tomatoes and then strings are tied to it and the other end of the string is anchored in the ground near the tomato plant. Then the tomatoes are tied to the string and they can grow as high as they like and just climb the string.
Buying Tomato Cages
One advantage to buying tomato cages or supports is the wide difference in how the problem of supporting a tomato plant is approached. You can find some that are simple cages, with 3 or 4 rings in an expanding radius as you move to the top. There are some spirals that are simply stuck in the ground, and the tomato plant is tied to it as they grow. Simple plastic or bamboo stakes are also often used. A trend in recent years is for these cages to be produced in vivid colors such as orange, purple, blue, red, yellow and green. Our tomato rows are colorful as we used six different colors of cages to add contrast to the green plants giving splash of color.
There are square tomato cages, that are actually four sections of mesh that form a small square, but have the advantage of unhooking and folding flat for storage. There are three-sided versions of this same basic idea as well. One year we used the three-sided cage to stake around the huge tomato plant and it's sprawling branches.
There's also the Ultomato stake system that is sold in the hardware store. I have not tried these yet because I have a plethora of tomato cages, but when I'm ready for some new ones, I may try this one!
Finally, tomato spiral stakes have become popular over the last few years as easy to store, inexpensive, and better overall support than a simple tomato stake.
Using a Combination of Cages and Stakes
We traditionally put out tomato cages but this year, we will be staking alongside the cages. Why? Because, we started some seedlings and did not properly thin them out resulting in two and three little sprouts in our peat pot. We did not have the heart to end any of their lives so we kept them all. The end result is we have these healthy growing tomatoes sprawling all over the place and some outside the area of the cage. We will have to stake them if we want any good production. A great experiment!
Hanging Tomato Planters - No room for a garden? No problem, grow tomatoes on your patio or balcony
A popular way to eliminate the need for tomato cages is to grow the tomatoes from a hanging planter. While you are limited in the size of plant that you can reasonably expect to grow in a hanging planter, they are ideal for small space gardening.