After an embarassing number of years, we've come to the conclusion
that home-improvement store type tomato cages don't work, at least for
us and indeterminate tomatoes.
Is there some recognized 'good' support? Cost is an issue;
construction (including welding) isn't.
I've heard rebar before; but, I don't have the picture. Is it like, a
'rebar fence', or a horizontal surface, or ...?
The only rebar I'm familiar with is 4' rods; does it come in some kind
On Mon, 21 Mar 2005 14:02:58 -0500, GA Pinhead
That is odd, the reply never showed up for me... it sent before I was
done. Oh well.
If you are staking rather than caging, 8-10 foot piece of rebar, for a
Otherwise the reinforcing wire they use for concrete. Get at least 6
foot tall though. Our tomatoes can go up, down and up again in one
year. As someone else suggested make a couple of prongs on the bottom
and put at least 4 bricks acrosss the bottom wire. Nothing like a six
foot cage of tomato geeting blown over and ripped out by the roots.
I'd trip and impale myself or at least put my eye out! The pink eye
purple hulls always find them and take full advantage. And gives they
some shade in the late summer after the late blight and the blister
beetles come through.
I have not tried it, but I saw a suggestion in this group some time ago
which used short lengths of rebar.
The idea was to drive them into the ground vertically, leaving about a foot
or so exposed and then slide a 6' to 8' length of plastic electrical conduit
onto the rebar. The conduit is UV resistant so it will last a long time and
will stay there under its own weight.
I agree about the cages. One, they're not tall enough. And two, they fall
This year I'm going to use those cheap metal fence posts and 6" x 6" wire
mesh, the kind you submerge in wet concrete. It comes in sheets or rolls, and
I'll cut it in half length-wise to make a five foot tall fence. Then weave
the plants through it. The mesh is big enough to where you can reach through
it to pick tomatoes.
I use wire mesh. Here's one way to do it...
I think I got my directions from Kitchen Gardner a magazine that is
unfortunately no longer in print. Their directions also had you cut the
bottom horizontal wires so that you had "spokes" to push into the ground
to keep the cage from tipping over.
Learned the hard way myself last year. At the end of the season, when
the tomatos were 7 feet tall, I wound up having to drive rebar 2' deep
and tie to the darn cages to keep them only slightly listing instead of
falling over. This year I'm going to use physics to my advantage.
The typical tomato cages are narrow at the bottom, wide at the top.
This is a good way to create a high center of gravity. This year, I'm
going to get a bunch of 8' cedar fence boards and rip out a pile of 8'
long 1 1/4" stakes on my table saw. I'm going to use these and my air
stapler to build teepees where the wide part is on the bottom and the
narrow part is on the top. I'll stake them in the ground a bit, but
with that design, I figure the more weight on them, the more stable
they will be.
Or, you can tell me I'm crazy. This is only my second year with the
I use a combination of cages and tee-pees. Cages are cheap -- less than $2
each -- and 7' oak or maple samplings cut from the woods for the tee-pees.
Cages provide early support, then when the vines began to outgrow them, I
lash the poles together with twine over each cage.
I would think that layers of chain link fence (spaced about a foot
apart) would do the job satisfactorily. However, you wouldn't want the
fence layers to be too large as they'll probably block out sunlight.
They may rust too, so keep that in mind.
Last summer I built a tee-pee out of 1x2s and used it to support a cage
with two rather heavy tomato plants in it. Once I got it set up, I
never had a problem with the plants falling over again.
Old computers are getting to be a lost art. Here at Uncreative Labs, we
OK, I'll try to explain this without a diagram. First you need to go to
a lumber yard or home improvment stroe and get a roll of concrete
reinforcemet wire and a set of heavy duty bolt cutters. Now cut the
reinforcement wire into 6 foot lenghts leavinging the spikes of the
wire on one end, these will be used to wrap around the other end of the
six foot lengths to bend them into a cylinder. After you have made the
cages into a cylinder, you will use the bolt cutters at the bottem to
remove two rows of the horizontal wires thus providinging the stakes to
anchor into the ground. Supplemental two foot rebar can be used to
anchor the cages by driving into the ground and wiring the rebar to the
I used to just plant some on the fenceline. My fencing is the 2" x 4"
welded farm fencing and is 6' tall. It always worked well to tie them to.
Alternately, for the past couple of years I've had excellent luck with
the large "plastic rebar" stakes from Lowe's garden section. The poles
are about 3/4" thick and are 7' long. I sink them about a foot into the
ground and just tie the vine to it as it grows, and tie peripheral
branches to each other to keep it reasonably upright.
This has worked very well, FAR better than cages! They are just too
flimsy for "real" tomato vines.
I bought 6 of those stakes and used each one for 2 vines for the season.
I think they are about $3.50 or so each? They are very re-usable from
year to year.
Sprout the Mung Bean to reply...
There is no need to change the world. All we have to do is toilet train the
Last year I had good luck with Tomato Ladders from Gardener's Supply
company. They are only about 5 feet tall when put in the ground but are
made of heavy steel that is coated. Much stronger than the Home Depot style
cages . And they go straight up. The vines intertwine themselves so little
is needed to keep them up.
On 3/21/05 10:21 AM, in article email@example.com,
This is the easiest, most effective way I have ever seen. I saw it done on
an organic farm and duplicated it last year with great success. It is a
simple cheap way to support tomatoes:
I plant my tomatoes in a row...I pound a 8' 2x2 into the ground at one end
of the row and another one at the other end. A third 2x2 is put on top of
the two in the ground...use long screws to secure the horizontal one to the
ones in the ground. (one screw per). Now above each tomato plant tie some
hay bale string (a coarse cheap twine) and let it hang down to the plant.
Leave extra lengths on top (wrap it around the horizontal pole). Tie the hay
twine to the base of the tomato plant. As the plant grows 'roll' the new
growth around the string...
My rows are longer than 8 feet so I have to put another vertical post in the
That is the general idea. Because there is no wire mesh in the way the
tomatoes are easy to harvest, to prune...etc. etc. :)
Hi George, I can appreciate your pain. What we did is DH built wood
trellises. The first consists of two 2" x 2" poles that lean against a
building, wall, or fence depending on your set-up. Set the poles about
5' apart. At 1'-2' intervals add a bracket and string a pole in
between. The result is like a very wide ladder. Simply tie up your
tomatoes as they grow. The second design is like a hobby horse. Each
side is 7' tall. These are screwed into each side of our raised beds.
Then, 1" x 2" slats run up in between. The result is like a swing set
with the slats running up the long sides. Inside the rectangle is a
frame of slats. The tomatoes are tied as they grow. This support was
designed so it can be dismantled for storage. HTH
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