Every passionate gardener loves their tomatoes. You can walk around several vegetable gardens, and you won’t miss seeing at least a few tomato plants. And tomatoes are such remarkable plants.
From a single seedling planted in spring to a vast plant bringing forth several large tomato fruits by summer. Quite remarkable. With that impressive growth also comes increased weight.
That means that you’ll need to cage up or trellis your tomatoes to keep their bulky and towering size in a position. Otherwise, standing upright will be an uphill task, and you won’t be surprised to wake up and find your tomatoes sprawled out on the ground.
That’s why you need to cage up your tomatoes to make sure they are supported throughout the growing seasons. Supporting your tomatoes is vital for their overall health and growth. Most tomato diseases come from the soil, so that’s another reason to ensure your tomato plants aren’t lying on the garden bed.
Furthermore, tomato plants thrive better in a dry encroachment. So a caged tomato is likely to grow healthier than uncaged tomatoes since the upright position allows air to flow freely around the plant after rain or watering.
Besides, you don’t want to be crawling down on the ground every day to look for rope tomatoes. And caged tomatoes are always easy to harvest. Enclosing your tomato plants also means you’ll be able to keep rabbits, mice, and squirrels off your ripened fruits if they are higher up away from the ground.
While caging up your tomatoes has multiple benefits, finding the best and effective tomato cages can be challenging. You want a tomato cage that will enable your tomatoes to thrive all season long. Unfortunately.
Most ready-made coops tend to be of low quality and therefore not reliable. That’s why you should opt for a self-made or DIY tomato cage if you want products that will serve you for a long time.
Qualities Of A Perfect Tomato Cage
Tomato cages assist in keeping your tomatoes upright, which significantly contributes to increasing the plant’s yields. But how do you know which tomato cages are the best when shopping for some for your garden? Which qualities should you look out for to determine the perfect tomato cages?
The three main qualities of the perfect tomato cages include the material the cage is made of, its size, and how conveniently it’s assembled. Let’s look at these qualities of the ideal tomato cages to use.
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Typically readymade tomato cages are made of metal. Some are made of uncoated metal, and some are constructed with coated metal, while others are designed with galvanized steel.
Although metal is a durable material to use for a tomato cage, it’s susceptible to rust unless it’s coated with powder or plastic. Coated metal is a better option and can withstand weather elements and normal wear and tear. They’re also not harsh temperatures.
For instance, if you accidentally knock down an uncaged tomato and it comes in contact with your ripe tomatoes, the temperatures can damage your fruits. This is especially true during summer when the sun is and heat is sweltering.
Consider the weather conditions of your location when choosing the best tomato cages. Go for products that are not hazardous when exposed to extreme heat and their general resistance to harsh weather.
There are two distinct sizes for tomato cages. The smaller size can measure up to 15 inches, while the larger ones can be as high as 75 inches. The size of your tomato cages should be proportional to the type of tomatoes you are growing if you are growing smaller tomato varieties, such as New Big Dwarf or Tiny Tim, or smaller tomato cages.
On the other hand, if you are working with larger tomato varieties, then it’s only natural that you want to invest in cages that will accommodate their size. For example, the laget tomato varieties such as Big Boy or Beefsteak will grow healthier and more upright in larger cages.
Some tomato cages are also designed to offer adjustable heights, making them a flexible option for working with different types of tomato varieties. When shopping for the ideal tomato cages, consider the size of your vegetable garden and if the size you choose can fit in.
Besides size and material, the next factor to consider when buying tomato cages is the shape. Tomato cages come in several different shapes such as triangular, curved link stakes, which can sometimes be rectangular and ring-shaped.
If you are growing stronger and heavier tomato plants, consider using the curved link type of cage since they are more stable and offer better support than ring style or triangular cages. Furthermore, they are versatile and can be easily folded up to convenient storage.
When it comes to triangular tomato cages, they are ideal for smaller tomato plants since the bases are built closer together, providing optimal growth for your tomatoes. Lastly, ring-style tomato cages offer ample room for tomatoes to spread out and grow comfortably. This may result in better yields and healthy plants.
Some tomato cages are pre-assembled; others require putting together stabilizing poles and connecting pieces. Most tomato cages do not require tools or assistance to assemble. Generally, larger tomato cages need careful assembling, while smaller ones may be pre-assembled or require simple assembling procedures.
If you are concerned about the procedure for assembling a tomato cage, or if you prefer an easy-to-build DIY tomato cage, we advise you to go through the manufacturer’s instructions for building the product before purchasing.
This will enable you to settle for something you can efficiently work with when deciding to make your own tomato cages. It will also save you time and frustration.
Why You Should DIY Your Tomato Cage
Tomato plants need support at some point in their development process. Their long and flexible stems cannot stand uprightly for long before succumbing to the overwhelming weight and toppling over.
This is especially true once they are heavy with fruit. Without the support of a durable good quality tomato cage or trellis, tomato plants will eventually succumb to their increasing weight.
Therefore, caging or trellising is necessary to save your fruit from pests, diseases, or damage. It also helps mitigate the breaking of the stalk or central plant stalk or even the branches due to inadequate support.
While tomato cages are the ideal tool to curb this inevitable catastrophe, there are a few drawbacks. For one, most ready-made cages are too expensive or not too durable.
The last thing you want is to work with a lousy cage that won’t function after a few weeks or months 9f use. For another, most cages cost around $15 or $20 apiece. Suppose you want to cover a large portion of your garden with tomato plants, then that means investing more in the tomato cages, which is expensive.
Furthermore, homemade tomato cages are ideal for both determinate and indeterminate tomato plants. Determinate tomato plants can be a little shorter, usually between three to five feet tall. They bring forth most of their fruit within a shorter time, which guarantees one big bountiful harvest.
Since pruning and extra training are unnecessary for determinate tomato varieties, cages are great for such determinate tomato varieties. When the branches are pruned away.
It significantly reduces the overall yield from determinate tomato crops. You certainly don’t want to invest in a tomato venture only to come up with lesser yields.
Indeterminate tomatoes, on the other hand, grow larger and consistently bring forth fruit over a prolonged period. Some of these plant varieties can grow as tall as seven feet or more.
This is even more possible if the branches are properly pruned and the main plant is trained. Due to their aggressive vining nature, some gardeners train their indeterminate tomatoes using strings, taller stakes, or even flat trellises instead of caging them up.
However, cages are still ideal to use for indeterminate tomatoes, especially if moderately pruned. When caged, you can essentially let your tomato plants run wild and spread out.
And all that you’ll be required to do is visit your plants a few times per week to ensure any long branches are kept within the confines of the cage.
That isn’t to say you can’t prune an indeterminate plant within a cage. Therefore you need to work with an ideal and durable tomato cage that will serve you in the long run, and the only way to achieve that is by making some on your own.
When To Rely On Ready Made Cages
Of course, there are few instances where you may need to use the tomato cages that are readily available in your local store. For example, you may have tomato plants in an advanced stage of growth and need urgent caging.
In such a scenario, it makes common sense to grab ready-made cages and save your tomatoes from sprawling all over the garden as you figure out how to make tomato cages. Additionally, you can use ready-made cages if you don’t plan on planting your tomatoes for a more extended period.
If yours is a one-time project, you can use what is available for the moment rather than investing in a DIY project. Otherwise, homemade tomato cages are highly durable, cost-effective, and long-lasting, making them ideal for longer projects.
Ideas For Making Tomato Cages
Since you now understand the drawbacks of using ready-made tomato cages, you might want to try out a few DIY tomato cages ideas. YouTube is an excellent resource for learning how to make tomato cages from scratch.
If you want step-by-step guidelines for making tomato cages besides the YouTube tutorials, we have listed a few basic steps for creating a unique tomato cage. However, there are several types of tomato cages, depending on which type you prefer. Here is a list of 10 tomato cage ideas you might want to consider:
Wooden Tomato Cages: Small wooden tomato cages are perfect if you are growing determinate tomato plants. They’re not only easy to make, but they’re also easy and convenient to use. Furthermore, they’re sturdy and less expensive. Tutorials are available at Ella Claire Inspired.
Cattle Paneled Tomato Cages: With long sturdy wire measuring 16 feet tall, you can make several durable tomato cages. Making a tomato cage from hog wire is one way to ensure a durable cage that you’ll use in the long run.
PVC Tomato Cages: Not only is PVC light in weight and easy to use, but the cages, once done, can be used repeatedly on different tomato plant varieties for a long time.
Obelisk: A DIY obelisk is a creative way to keep your tomato plants upright and healthy. It’s also perfect for indeterminate tomato plants, which are naturally tall.
Folding Tomato Ladder: There’s nothing as convenient and flexible to use as a piece of equipment that you can easily fold up and store away when not in use. That’s what a folding Tomato Ladder is.
Stake and Twine: How about playing with some stakes and twine to create simple tomato cages? Just tie some twine around the stakes, and voila! You have yourself some inexpensive tomato cages.
Hybrid Cages/Stakes: This is a combination of hog wire and stakes. If bound together, it creates secure and easy access to tomato cages.
Steps For Making Cost Effective And Durable Tomato Cage
Having experimented with several different types of cages and trellising options, you might want to settle for a single caging idea that is both convenient and long-lasting. We have gone through other caging options like those mentioned above, and this DIY tomato cage option carries the day.
Not only is it easy to build and install, a bit easy to install, but you will use it for several years to come since it can last up to 20 years! The cage is made of the same type of wire used to reinforce concrete, hence the guaranteed durability.
They come as flat panels or rolled cylinders, and you can buy them at your local hardware store. The wires have big openings, which you need to stick your hand and prune or harvest your tomatoes flexibly. Here is the step-by-step process for making this particular tomato cage.
Step 1: Purchase And Organize All Your Supplies
First, you need to source all the supplies and have them ready before planting your tomatoes. There’s nothing as frustrating as having to source for the correct concrete reinforcing wires at the last minute only to realize you don’t have them in your local stores.
It would be even more inconvenient if your tomatoes are already growing at an accelerating speed and sprawling all over due to delayed caging. Therefore, confirm if you can quickly obtain the wires near you or arrange to deliver them to you sooner.
The wire comes in a ten gauge capacity, which makes it extremely thick and not easy to bend. This makes them ideal if you’re looking for a long-lasting cage. Furthermore, the gauge is quite heavy, meaning you’ll be able to make sturdy cages that are good for heavy tomato plants and fruits.
Besides the concrete wires, you will also need beefy bolt cutters to cut those thick wires onto the desired shapes and sizes. Lastly, buy yourself a pair of thick work gloves to prevent cutting those delicate hands.
Note that the particular wire we’ll use here is 5×150 inches big, featuring 6×6 inches openings. One roll of this allows you to make more than 20 cages, and the ample spaces will enable you to access large tomatoes.
Step 2: Choose The Right Cage Size
As much as DIY tomato cages are easy to make, you will need some help, especially if it’s your first time and just starting. Have a neighbor or friend lend you a hand if they happen to know something about making tomato cages, the better.
For this step, unroll the wire, making sure you hold the corners in place with a hook or stone to avoid it rolling back and walloping you. Then decide how large you want the circumference of the cage to be. This will depend on the types of tomato plants and how far apart you have spaced them.
Step 3: Cut Out a Sample
Since you are just starting, it would be better to cut out the first piece of wire to use as a sample cage. If you like the size and design, you can cut out the rest of the same size and tweak them to suit your preferences.
Step 4: Roll Out The Cage
Roll the piece you have cut into the shape of a cylinder. Bend the horizontal and vertical wires sticking out and hook them together to form a circular structure.
Step 5: Create Stakes To Stabilize the Bottom of the Cage
After securing the wire into a cylinder, cut the bottom off to create stakes that will stand firmly on the garden bed.
Step 6: Test It Out
Take your sample tomato cage to the garden and test it out. Drive the stakes to the ground and test if it is firm. Keep adjusting until you are satisfied with the size and posture. You can continue cutting the remaining cages and rolling them out until you have used the entire wire.
Step 7: Plant The Tomatoes
With your cages ready, now you can go ahead and plant your tomatoes if you hadn’t already done so. Depending on the type of tomato varieties you are using, use the instructions provided with seeds or seedlings to determine the correct spacing.
Step 8: Do Some Mulching
Immediately after planting, mulch up the whole tomato garden. This is beneficial in many ways. First, you need to know that your tomato plants are susceptible to soil-borne diseases that attack the plants when it rains. Mulching helps mitigate the spread of such diseases, as well as cutting down on watering.
Secondly, it helps to break down organic matter and increase nutrients for the plants. Mulching also helps ward off excess weeds, which reduces the time you’ll spend weeding. It is advisable to mulch your garden throughout the seasons of the year to exploit these benefits.
Step 9: Time To Utilize Your DIY Homemade Tomato Cages
After planting and mulching your tomatoes, it’s time to install your DIY tomato cage. Place each cage over each tomato. Forcefully push the stakes deep into the ground and ensure they are firm, stage, and upright.
If you live in an area prone to strong winds, consider using reinforcements to keep the cages in place. You can secure the cages together using wire or twines. The extra stability is more necessary when your tomatoes bring forth fruit and doubles in weight, then spills over the cages.
Step 10: Done!
See, that wasn’t so hard and didn’t take too long to accomplish. The process was relatively simple. Now that you are the proud owner of a beautiful tomato garden growing wonderfully inside beautiful cages, you should pat yourself on the back.
After this, there’s really not much to do except to keep checking the progress of your plants a few times a week. After a few weeks, you can begin pruning or tucking in some overgrown tomato branches
Here and there to ensure they stay within the cages When your tomato plants become heavily laden with fruits, you can fasten them gently over the cell to avoid the branches breaking with ripening fruits.
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Tomato cages are every tomato grower’s best friend. The benefits of having one, whether for a single plant or a whole garden, are worth the process of making them at home.
Preventing soil-based disease to increase yields, improving plant life, and ensuring a bountiful harvest are all excellent reasons to have your tomatoes caged up. And if you need additional information on everything tomatoes, we are here to help. Check out our posts on growing tomatoes, plus other helpful insights.