What do you use that has proven the most effective or cost efficient to support your tomato plants?

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What do you use that has proven most effective and cost efficient to support your tomato plants? I have in the past supported them with old peices of wire fencing made into cages,as well as given them no support at all. My husband has suggested seeing if the typical premade tomato cages are on sale yet as they could more easily be used year after year, thus justifying the initial cost.While I see his point, I have 25 plants and feel that it might get pretty expensive. Thanks for your help.

-- Linda Foster (rcfam@csinet.net), July 08, 2000


My favorite tomatoe cage is six inch concrete reinforcing wire. The ones you buy at the garde center just don't last. The wire cages I make last for years and years. My parents have some that are five years old. They have nice big holes and they are easy to pick through. Mine are about 3 1/2 feet high. These cages will hold up a big plant. I grow a lot of big beefsteaks and this is important to me. The ones you get at the garden center just bend and I end up propping them up with something else.

Little Bit Farm

-- Little bit Farm (littlebit@calinet.com), July 08, 2000.

We use steel fencepost driven 8 to 10 feet apart bracing the ends and string 4 or 5 wires like it was for grapes or something. Then tie the vines to the wires with strips of cloth. Only works well when plants are in a straight row. We have 50 in a long row. Don

-- Don (dairyagri@yahoo.com), July 08, 2000.

I used a circular saw (metal cutting blade) to cut off the bottom of 3 gallon pails to sit around my 50 some plants. They work very well and even stood up to a cow running through the garden :o) It didn't cost me a thing, as we picked up the buckets at food processing plant.

-- Abigail F. (treeoflife@sws.nb.ca), July 08, 2000.

We use 4'-"hog" wire, cut into sections (13 squares long) and bend the cut edges together! We drive 5' metal, "T" fence posts in the ground and wire the cages to the posts with old electric wire! Works like a charm! At the end of the season we pull everything up and lay them in a stack, on their sides! We have used most of ours for five years with great success! We have 80+ tomato plants and it only takes about 5 minutes per cage, to set up! We did the cages over 3 years! Spreads the labor and cost out! Good luck! Debbie

-- Debbie T in N.C. (rdtyner@mindspring.com), July 08, 2000.

Linda, I agree with the concrete reinforcing wire cages. My very strong husband made them into circles and used the ends to loop around, and catch the other side, I hand them up in the shop and they last year after year. The small Walmart cages are a joke, they break and if you grow in good soil with lots of compost (and composting kills bacteria including EColi :) your plants will soon outgrow those little cages! Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh (vickilonesomedoe@hotmail.com), July 08, 2000.

Not used myself yet, but will do - read of someone who used four slabs of mesh (3"x6" mesh, about 4' wide - used for making gates) they had lying around, in layers, arranged flat like wide shelves, supported by metal posts. This covered an entire 4' wide garden bed of tomatoes, with the layers at 18" above ground, then 12" spacing. Ran slit hose along the ends to cover/make safe mesh ends. Just trained the tomatoes up through the mesh, let them sprawl, then train the leaders up through the next layer. The mesh supported the plants and tomatoes, easy to reach in from both sides, well-ventilated but not too sunny, easy to water. Packs flat when not in use.

-- Don Armstrong (darmst@yahoo.com.au), July 08, 2000.

My husband makes 9 ft. tall teepees from tree branches. Lashes them together with 50 cent per roll twine. We then weave twine in around and thru the tomato plants every other week all season. Plant 5 or 6 plants per teepee. Total cost per year 50 cents. Works great. Looks cool.

-- Stephanie Masters (ajsd@gateway.net), July 09, 2000.

Count me with the concrete reinforcing wire folks. I drive cruddy metal fenceposts in next to the tomoatoes while they're only a foot or so tall (or sooner, but then you have to start handweeding around the bases sooner) and put a ring of the wire over the post and plant. I tie each ring to the post in one or 2 spots. Some years I drag them up to the barn for the winter, other years they are stacked between a tree and a bush. I've been using the same ones for over a decade. Worth the cost.

For smaller things like peppers and eggplants, I use either the concrete wire tubes cut in half (usually don't bother with posts) or those "tomato cages" made of three wire rings and three legs. I only have them because I picked up a bunch (like 50) on closeout one year for a quarter apiece. I have maybe half of them left. They just don't hold up. Nor are they big enough for a healthy tomato plant.

When I market gardened, I'd have at least 350 tomato plants. Virtually all of them had to be left just sprawling on the ground. I never had a problem with pests or diseases. It certainly is the cheapest way to go. But my back is twinging just thinking about harvesting them. Of course I had to harvest by the bushel basket in a severely restricted time frame. When I've let tomatoes sprawl in my home garden it wasn't so hard on my back to harvest them. Gerbil

-- Gerbil (ima_gerbil@hotmail.com), July 09, 2000.

We have done two things that are a little different than the other suggestions. One idea has lots of potential-but there is more investment at the beginning. That is called the Florida Weave. It consists of strong stakes (bamboo covered with some sort of plastic coating is what is recommended) that are 4-6 ft high depending on the variety of plants (indeterminate or determinate). The plants are planted with a stake then two plants all the way down the row ending with a stake : X o o X o o X (X being the stake)

The after teh plants have gotten about a foot high a weave is done (figure eight style) down the row and back at about half way up the plant. The as the plant grows it is woven and slightly pruned as needed every foot or so-this obvioulsy is less labor intensive with the determinate varieties of tpomatoes. It can be done with the other varieties but at some point it is helpful to pinch off the tip of the vine so it grows less vine and concentrates on fruit.

the advantages are supposed to be a more upright growth but with much less pruning-and yeilds are supposed to be beter than with cages. We tried it and the method has potential as long as you use strong stakes (t-posts would work if they are handy). We ddn't have good success in the end because of major rains that caused blight and other problesm for us last year in our neck of the woods.

This year-we thought about giving the method a try-but our budget didn't allow for the proper stakes in the right number of our plants (100 of them) So we scrounged some cattle panels and t posts around our place, and made long fences rows to plant the tomatoes on. We planted them about 15-18 inches apart-mulched them well, and also have tied them up right as they needed it. so far the work is less, and the crop looks really good! This set up is pretty flexible-you can use whatever combination of panels you want to make your rows long or short-and we have planted on both sides of the panels (a staggered double row. With lots of good compost and fertiliser and plenty of water (we live in a typically dry area so we did make a trench parallel to the rows for watering-so far have not needed it.

I would probably plant the plants a little further apart if you live in a dry area, and make sure you get the first ties on early! Pruning is not time consuming at all-and so far no problesm with bugs or disease because of the dense foliage.

Hope that helps, Eric

-- Eric Cate (heartsong85@juno.com), July 10, 2000.

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