tomato cages : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I'm tired of staking tomatoes. I want to build cages, but I can't use 2x4" welded wire because the holes are smaller than tomatoes are. I want 4x4 at least 4 feet tall, can't seem to find anything locally. Any ideas?

-- Debbie in Mo (, January 16, 2002


Cattle panels ?

-- Patty {NY State} (, January 16, 2002.

One trick that might work is to place sturdy stakes between the plants and then use twine to go back and forth between the stakes and form a twine cage for the tomatoes. At the end of the season, just cut the twine down and compost everything.

-- BC (, January 16, 2002.

I use 2x4 square wire and cut a few 4x4 arm holes to pick on the inside and get the fruit out.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, January 16, 2002.

Concrete reinforcing wire,, its about 4x 6 ,, comes in larger sheets, check around at constuction site and look for their cut offs

-- Stan (, January 16, 2002.

Hi Debbie, I just use leftover pieces of pasture fencing(stock fence?). The openings are nice and large, it's a sturdy, free standing wire(in a circle)and easy to handle. Being so sturdy it can handle the weight of the really tall tomato vines. hope this helps. LQ

-- Little Quacker (, January 16, 2002.

We've used the concrete reinforcement wire as previously posted. Cut to size and bend in a circle. Using a plyers, bend over the wire to attach the circle together. Ours are over 4 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter (at least). They work great for years and years; the only problem is storing them during winter.

-- Lisa in WI (, January 16, 2002.

We usually plant at least 40 plants a year. We do stake them...just do a few everyday until the job is done. There have been a couple of times that we didn't stake and the tomato plants were all over the ground but it really didn't stop us from having plenty of tomatos to eat and can. On a winters day like today I would love being in the garden with my tomatos. Spring is on it's way...I hope !!! Good Luck !!!!

-- Helena (, January 17, 2002.

I have a lot of 2x4 5 ft tall fence around here, I hadn't thought of cutting "arm holes" in it, Jay's idea. trouble is, it's WOVEN wire. Wouldn't eventually unravel if I cut bunch of wires out of it?

-- Debbie in Mo (, January 17, 2002.

If you don't have any leftover field fencing wire, buy a roll as cheap as you can. Probably more than you'd like to spend, but it will last forever, and you don't get rust on you like with the concrete reinforcing wire. Cut it into cage making length, and twist the cut ends around the wire after you make it into a cage to hold it together. Don't forget to secure it to the ground with a t-post or something - when the vines get tall the whole thing will blow over in a wind. Also, the good thing about these cages is you can stack one on top of another and lace them together with wire - again, make sure they are secure, may have to add another t-post or two if you do this. Wish I had done that last year when my Juliets grew over the top of my 5 foot cages, back down the sides, and halfway across the garden! What a mess. I plan to make smaller versions for my peppers this year, I'm tired of them being all over the ground, or having branches break off when they get heavy with peppers. Those commercial hoop things they sell don't seem to work too well for me.

-- Paula (, January 17, 2002.


With woven wire, simply thead a unravel stop of straight wire or plastic strip at the edges of the cut as a hem is on fabric.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, January 17, 2002.

I have seen pictured in a book an interesting way of "staking" tomatoes that I have yet to try. The picture showed a frame made with large posts (possibly landscape timbers) that surrounded the tomatoe patch. Across the top was stretched field fence. The tomatoes were not staked in any way, just introduced through the holes in the fence and allowed to lay there. The tomatoes once growing though the fence were allowed to ramble and all fruit was produced on the platform that the fence made. Looked like a lazy way to keep the tomatoes off the ground. Can't wait to try it.


-- Diana (, January 17, 2002.

I use pvc pipe run through boards attached to a wood spile driven into the ground. The holes are drilled into the board at selected heights and the 3/4 or 1" pvc is run though the holes. Spile boards are on the ends and one in middle of a 10 ft pvc section. Run them over the tomato plants and use plastic ribbon (bought in rolls at any store (True Value, Kmart, Walmart etc)to tie them up. Tie them in a bow at the top so as to be able to pull up the brances when they grow. Keep moving them up. the plastic does break after sun and heavy fruit. But this works for me on my small 24 plant garden. Also I don't get poked by those rusty wires owwwwww. For hybrids, I have my holes at about three feet. For cherry tomatoes, I have two pvc runners one at 3 ft and one at 6 ft. It's not perfect, but it works for me. Good luck on a good crop this spring-summer.

-- Milam Gerick (, January 17, 2002.

Cement reinforcing can be gotten from contractors scrap. I cut and roll them into about 18" across tubes which are 4' tall. I cut the bottom ring off so there is little wire stakes on the bottom to push in the ground. I put a steel post at each end of the row and run a wire across the top and fasten with hog rings to keep the wind from blowing them over. If you can't get it from contractor it is cheaer than farm fence.

-- Mel Kelly (, January 17, 2002.

One way to store the tubes made from the wire, is to unhook them at the end of the end of the season, and store the wire flat, like against a fence or something. Then, in the spring, refasten them together in circles. Read in one of the older magazines of someone doing that. Jan

-- Jan in CO (, January 17, 2002.

Best method for us is idea from old Rodale Book: How to Grow Vegetables & Fruits by the Organic Method (Ninth Printing, April 1973) subtitled "Fencing Tomato Plants."

It involves two rows of fencing no further apart than 18" and planting the tomatoes 18" apart. (If you do it any further apart, then the tomatoes slump. This way, they are self-supporting.) Be sure to use fencing you can get your hand through.

End of season, just remove one of the fences, clean up, add manure or whater to the row. Come spring, replant and reattach the fence. We froze and dried probably 400 to 500 pounds last year, from two sections about 15 feet each.

We used upside down stock fencing, so you can easily reach through down low, though there are other fencing options. My husband cut two foot sticks with notches on ends, to help support any wayward plants. We used metal fence posts on each end and one in the middle, attached with metal clips which are easy to remove.

We'd never grow tomatoes any other way!!!

-- HV (, January 17, 2002.

Hey, Lisa from WI, where did you get that idea?? Your mom and stepfather maybe!? LOL!!!!!

-- Ardie /WI (, January 17, 2002.

I've heard of many people in Australia using a plan where they use flat slabs of mesh (as used for building welded gates, but any with 2"x2" or 2"x4" mesh and a width of 3' or more would do). They take three of these slabs, lay them out like tables supported by vertical steel posts at heights of 2', 3'6" and 5', and train the tomato plants up through them at the edges and in the centre. This gives three rows 18" apart, spaced your choice within the rows. You can reach in to pick the fruit growing more or less supported by the vertical mesh tables. If the vertical height is too much for you, you could reduce the separation and make the heights 2', 3' and 4'; or even 1'6", 2'6", 3'6" (and maybe 4'6"?); but you don't want to make them too packed, or you can't see caterpillars and other pests.

When the tomato season is over, break the construction back down into posts and flat slabs of mesh for storage. This method does well in Australia because here our problems are resisting dry conditions (self-shading blocks of plants) and maximising use of moisture; and we (most of us) don't have a problem with length of growing season. However, a solid block of tomato plants like this will resist the occasional early frost; and you can even throw a sheet of clear plastic over them at the end of the season to make a poor-man's greenhouse for a few extra weeks.

-- Don Armstrong (from Australia) (, January 17, 2002.

whoo hoo! just in time mr./ms.? HV! i was searching & searching this winter for the spacing recom. for the fenced tomatoes. & had decided that i was going to have to re-invent the wheel & experiment on my own!

i had it last year with my tomato pillars of fencing,hog wire, contruction site wire,welded wire,woven wire,etc. in my southern organic garden the tomatoes drape over the sides 2-4 feet so my 4-5' high tomato pillars were pretty top heavy.

they were just perfect at my old farm but here the wind is to strong & gusty, even 4 point tie downs did not do so well, but that could have been because i was loosening them by tripping over the blamed things all the time. :0 i do not reccomend a 'face plant' into a carrot bed! those things hurt & the nieghbors horses follow you around all day thinking [from the smell] that you are one big carrot.

the construction/concrete/rusted wire would never unroll again [shoot i think it could stop a tank!] so i am laying it down to let the malabar spinach eat/ramble over it & try some cukes on it too.

i'll try & unroll the rest & cobble it to the leftover fencing from this summer. another advantage to the caged or fenced 'maters is that it is easy to add mulch & compost and have it stay right on the root zone. lettuce seems to like to grow in the tomatoes shade too.

i'm planing on using the metal 't' bars, you know those green things w/ a white top to support the fencing.

-- bj pepper in C. MS. (, January 17, 2002.

I'm with Lisa and Mel. I have "cages" made from reinforcing wire that are over 20 years old, and going strong. The wire is a little evil to work with, but once you have them made, you are done for the rest of your life, unless you have incredible genes and are now about 10. Mel's system is pretty close to mine. You WILL need a pair of good fence pliers to do the cutting and bending. Now, I will divulge Uncle Brad's foolproof method of growing the best tomatoes. Gather ye some plastic buckets. The 4 gallon size used by restaurants that come filled with mayonaisse, salad dressing, and the like are best. But the ubiquitous 5 gallon size are fine too. Cut off the bottom, best accomplished with a table saw, but be careful. Slow is good. If you use the 5 gallon size, leave a 2 to 3" bowl which is very handy for feeding or watering small critters. Take the "cylinder" (The bottomless bucket) and push it about 4" into the ground around your just planted tomato plant. This will protect the little beauty from the wind, from the frost if you cover it with a slab of plywood or something similar, and from other evil empire nasties, such as cutworms. When it attains sufficient maturity, place the aforementioned cage around the bucket and tomato plant. Here's the real secret: When you water, you just fill the bucket to a depth that you find sufficient. Instead of the water going to nourish weeds, it ALL goes to the roots of the plants. I find that a serious watering every week (4" to 12" of water inside the bucket, depending upon Mother Nature} will make for the happiest and most productive tomato plants you have ever experienced. And every 3rd or 4th week, add a little Miracle Gro, or equivalent, and be amazed at the proliferation of tasty tomatoes. Don't over-do the nitrogen, but otherwise, you will have the best system imaginable. Really! GL!

-- Brad (, January 17, 2002.

i do something a little different. i drove 4 posts in a row about 20 feet. so about ever 5 feet. i then stretched woven cattle fence and tied it to the posts. then i planted tomatoes on both sides. as the tomatoes grew, i used old strips of cloth to tie tomatoes to the fence. that part worked great. at the end of the season i un tied the wire from the post and pulled up the tomatoe plants, but left them tied to the fence. i then rolled up the fence, old plants, cloth ties and all. let them dry good and added some leaves and burned everything off. it got rid of the plants, that i did not want to add to my compost pile anyway and cleaned the wire. then thefence does double duty. i tie the ends together and add all the leaves in the fall and make a big compost pile. after it compostes awhile, i untie the fence, move it, make it alittle smaller, fork everything back into the circle. works great, never needs storing, because i am always using it.

-- randy wybrant (, January 20, 2002.

I use twist ties to close the remesh circles and make mine about 2' in diameter. This calls for a piece about 6' long. In the fall when the tomatoes are done, I remove the twist ties and use the remesh to support plastic or floating row cover for temporary cold frames over beds of late greens, etc., that just need a little protection. I use bricks to hold down the edges and ends and can slip the plastic up a little to vent on sunnier days or to pick the vegetables.

-- marilyn (, January 20, 2002.

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