You need to ‘cage’ your tomatoes before they get unruly. I hate those tomato cages they sell in the store. They are too little and flimsy and the tomato plant will quickly outgrow them. I found a great way to make cages in ‘The New Victory Garden‘ by Bob Thompson.
First use concrete reinforcement wire to make your cages. It is heavy-duty wire that has 6 inch openings so you can get your hand through the openings with a fat tomato. Think optimistically – you’re gonna get a 2 lb giant juicy tomato on you plant and need to get out of the cage! You can buy it by the sheet, which is 4 ft high, or by the roll which is 5 ft high. One sheet will make one cage. The only trouble with the 4 ft height is it is too short for many heirloom tomatoes but some people stack two of them together to make an 8 ft high cage!
I buy the roll, which isn’t cheap, but is a one-time cost and the cages you will make can also be used for beans and cucumbers, in fact almost anything you want to grow vertically and will last a lifetime. A roll is 120 ft in length and will make about 18 cages so if that is too many than I suggest you go in with another gardener friend (or 2) and share the cost. Cut the wire with bolt cutters or an angle grinder not hand wire cutters-your hand will be wrecked-I speak from experience. Here’s how I do it:
1. If using a roll unwind it and hold it down with some BIG rocks or bricks so it doesn’t wind back up. Count 13 squares and cut off one side of the wire leaving it long.
2. Then bend the long wire into a ‘u’ and hook it back on itself as shown in this photo.
The cage will be approximately 24 inches in diameter when finished. Then I cut off the bottom leaving all the ends pokey (not shown) so I can push the ends into the ground so it won’t blow over.
3. If using a sheet, I wouldn’t cut the bottom edge as I do with the roll to keep as much height as possible.
4. Stake either cage with a 3 ft high green t-post pounded next to the cage and tie the cage to the green post to keep the cage from falling down from wind as shown in the top photo. This is important when the plant gets top heavy. If you are next to a fence, you could tie it to that. The point being that you don’t want your tomato plant to fall over. Some people growing in pots just put the cage over the whole pot and the pot keeps the cage from falling over as the plant gets bigger.
Those are sturdy and nice but, like the ones made from cattle panels, they have to be stored somewhere when it’s not tomato season. I don’t have a good place to put these when I’m not using them.
Your absolutely right, they need some space to store. Maybe you could flatten them out and store on the side of the house out of sight if you have such a space.
[…] at the cost of tomato cages? Giant Veggie Gardener shows how to make your own tomato cages – I love the idea of making a “u” on one end to make it so much easier to place […]