Ask a Question forum: diy tomato cage

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Name: Debbie
Ventura County, CA
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ChefDebbie
Aug 15, 2016 7:33 PM CST
I'm all about doing the diy thing whenever feasible/ possible. Instead of buying the needed materials to build a tomato cage, I thought I'd like to try it using what nature provides us... With twigs & branches. I'd like those with more gardening experience if that's a good idea or if I should buy chicken wire. I would like to find out what people recommend as far as degree of difficulty, efficiency, etc. Thank you everyone for being awesome!
A transplanted New Yorker now living in Southern California.....
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Aug 15, 2016 7:56 PM CST
Debbie, whatever else you do, definitely do NOT use chicken wire; you want a cage that you can reach into to pick the tomatoes (and to retrieve any that happen to get knocked off onto the ground).

I have big wooden cages that we built from 1x2 and 2x2 lumber (actually we cut everything from 2x4's). You could probably construct the same sort of thing from branches, if you were so inclined.

This was in early spring, with plastic still wrapped around the cages; they measure approx. 2' x 2' and about 5' tall (some of them are actually double cages that measure 2' x 4'). Easy access for picking, weeding, etc. We formerly used cages made of wire fencing with holes about 3" x 4" or so, but sharp edges from where we had cut the fence left me gashed up and bleeding every time I picked tomatoes!

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Name: Kat
Magnolia, Tx (Zone 8b)
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kittriana
Aug 15, 2016 7:58 PM CST
My tomato cages are never tall enough nor tough enough to handle 12' tomato vines. Careful if choosing woodtree saplings for towers- you dont want them rotting faster than you can build them- nor rooting either. Cattle panels make good tunnels and support- but you want to reach the fruit so curve them and use both sides.
Oxnard isnt going to be really easy to find wooden supports- cattle panels at Tractor Supply run 10-12$ - but have no clue how many you plan on planting!
kitt
[Last edited by kittriana - Aug 15, 2016 8:04 PM (+)]
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Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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Newyorkrita
Aug 15, 2016 7:59 PM CST
Yes for sure no chicken wire. You could never reach the tomatoes.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Aug 15, 2016 8:03 PM CST
Kat -- 12 feet! holy moly, I just had to rig up some extensions for some plants (Mexico Midget -- the name obviously does NOT refer to the plant height) that are about 8 feet tall right now...

Which brings me to another suggestion -- be sure to add some additional support to those cages or they can still topple over. (we have some heavy steel stakes that we pound in and tie the cages to). ("we" mostly meaning DH Whistling )
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Name: Kat
Magnolia, Tx (Zone 8b)
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kittriana
Aug 15, 2016 8:06 PM CST
The indeterminate types get some height if allowed
kitt
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Plant Identifier
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crawgarden
Aug 15, 2016 8:17 PM CST
During some seed trials, I made 16 cages out of concrete reinforcing wire they worked great, the square holes were large enough to get your hand through. The only problem was that once the plant got large enough they acted like sails when the wind came through. I originally used only 1 rod of rebar sunk approx 2 feet, after a storm came though I had to up the rebar to 3 per cage. Overall worked great.
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Horntoad
Aug 15, 2016 8:32 PM CST
ChefDebbie said:I'm all about doing the diy thing whenever feasible/ possible. Instead of buying the needed materials to build a tomato cage, I thought I'd like to try it using what nature provides us... With twigs & branches.

I think it's a excellent idea if you can find the right material. You want to make sure it is strong enough to support the weight of the plants and the straighter the better. I have access to bamboo and that has worked well for me.
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Name: Debbie
Ventura County, CA
Cat Lover Region: United States of America Salvias Region: California Herbs Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Region: New York Vegetable Grower Organic Gardener Bookworm Garden Ideas: Level 1
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ChefDebbie
Aug 15, 2016 9:24 PM CST
Thank you so much for all those answers. Was going to buy wooden dowels at home depot. The only tools I have are a dremel, claw hammer, ratchet set, allen keys & screwdriver set. I hate having to ask anyone to borrow tools for several reasons; so am trying to think of other creative ways that I can still achieve the purpose of my idea. It won't exactly be on the cover of any magazine, more towards on the "what in the hell is that thing" spectrum, but will be functional. I'm always being told that I can't do this or can't do that & really get overwhelmed with it all & want to give up. Then the feisty New Yorker in me says "Nah, you got alot of people to prove wrong".
My idea is to take the dowels & line them up. Then I'll evenly drill a hole through them so I'll be able to thread some yarn through making those different levels needed. Then I would gently tie up the tomato branch to the according level. That probably sounds stupid, but the only way I can get things accomplished is to use creativity- it's the only reliable resource I have that doesn't cost anything. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
A transplanted New Yorker now living in Southern California.....
[Last edited by ChefDebbie - Aug 15, 2016 9:34 PM (+)]
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Name: Kat
Magnolia, Tx (Zone 8b)
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kittriana
Aug 16, 2016 12:44 AM CST
Try to get the determinate tomatoes- they wont get so big. Yarn might work, but a hemp twine is best. A stick and twine has tied up more experiments than can ever be counted, chuckl
kitt
Name: Debbie
Ventura County, CA
Cat Lover Region: United States of America Salvias Region: California Herbs Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Region: New York Vegetable Grower Organic Gardener Bookworm Garden Ideas: Level 1
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ChefDebbie
Aug 16, 2016 1:10 AM CST
Awesome advice... It's not worth doing that work if has more cons than pros. I won't pursue that anymore. I appreciate it so much.
A transplanted New Yorker now living in Southern California.....
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
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porkpal
Aug 16, 2016 6:32 AM CST
I built great supports out of long, straight willow branches - big mistake - they all rooted and I was fighting willow sprouts for a couple of years. Cattle panels do work well but my Tractor Supply charges more than Kat's does.
Porkpal
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Aug 16, 2016 8:04 AM CST
Debbie, there are other ways to grow tomatoes besides cages, too -- simplest is just letting them "sprawl" (definitely best to use a good mulch underneath if you do that). Or, just stake them, by training and tying each plant to a single stake; this does require some diligence with the tying, as well as removing the "sucker" branches from indeterminate types. Or, quite a few people use "Florida Weave" -- with plants grown in a row and held up by stringing (weaving) twine around them, held by stakes at either end of the row and one or more in the middle (depending on the number of plants). There's a pretty good description of it at this site: http://modernfarmer.com/2016/03/florida-weave-tomato-trellis...

Those cages that I have now are a fairly recent development after about 40 years of gardening and looking for a better way to keep my tomato plants growing. I've tried a lot of different things over the years... they all work, some better than others though. Hilarious!

There are also compact plants that need very little, if any support. Lots of options!
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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Name: Debbie
Ventura County, CA
Cat Lover Region: United States of America Salvias Region: California Herbs Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Region: New York Vegetable Grower Organic Gardener Bookworm Garden Ideas: Level 1
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ChefDebbie
Aug 16, 2016 9:36 AM CST
That's what makes it so confusing is all the options. All you guys must have the best gardens in the world, I could only wish that I one day could have at least 1/4 of what you all know.
A transplanted New Yorker now living in Southern California.....
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Birds Butterflies Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Weedwhacker
Aug 16, 2016 2:00 PM CST
I can't speak for anyone else, but I know for sure that I don't have the best garden in the world... I sure have tried a lot of different things over the years, though! nodding
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
- John Powell / Cubits.org - A Universe of Communities
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Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
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Newyorkrita
Aug 16, 2016 2:10 PM CST
Weedwhacker said:I can't speak for anyone else, but I know for sure that I don't have the best garden in the world... I sure have tried a lot of different things over the years, though! nodding


Gardens are meant to be ever changing. That is just the way that it goes.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Aug 16, 2016 3:51 PM CST
ChefDebbie said: ... Was going to buy wooden dowels at home depot. ...

My idea is to take the dowels & line them up. Then I'll evenly drill a hole through them so I'll be able to thread some yarn through making those different levels needed. Then I would gently tie up the tomato branch to the according level. ...


I think you want those dowels to have a good amount of strength even after drilling holes. If I was going to DIY myself, out of wood, I would use 2x4s or at least 1x2s as uprights. Admittedly, they might be more expensive than small dowels, but they need to be strong enough to take some weight even after drilling holes.

>> Then I'll evenly drill a hole through them so I'll be able to thread some yarn through making those different levels needed.

Do they make any yarn as strong as STRONG twine? I think you need a lot of strength in the strings, since if you just thread it through holes, the weight of every branch will be stretching the entire length of twine or yarn.

Also, it might be desirable to tie or at least wrap the twine around each upright, so that it is more like that length of twine supporting only the branches right on top of it. Then the weight would be transferred to the wooden uprights instead of stretching the twine or yarn for the entire length of the row.

>> Then I'll evenly drill a hole through them

Do the holes need to be closely aligned? It won't help any unless the uprights are all pounded into the ground to the exact same height. I would guess that the holes can vary in height by a few inches, especially if the twine is tied to each upright.

Probably the uprights can be more flimsy if you have one upright for each plant, instead of every-other-plant or every-third-plant.

Maybe use light-weight uprights as plant stakes instead of row stakes: 2-4 stakes per plant, and still tie branches to twine wrapped around the stakes. Like making lightweight cages instead of Florida Weave. If the materials are much cheaper or free, you could use 3 times as many free uprights to get the same strength as fewer store-bought uprights.





Name: Debbie
Ventura County, CA
Cat Lover Region: United States of America Salvias Region: California Herbs Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Region: New York Vegetable Grower Organic Gardener Bookworm Garden Ideas: Level 1
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ChefDebbie
Aug 16, 2016 3:55 PM CST
I kinda had the idea, just needed to be more refined! Hopefully at least I was in the neighborhood a bit.
A transplanted New Yorker now living in Southern California.....
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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stone
Aug 16, 2016 4:38 PM CST
Good plan to make your own tomato cages, those pre-made tomato cages are junk.

Dunno about cattle panels and rebar, seems like it would be a bit on the heavy side...

Personally, I purchased a big roll of hog wire... a number of years ago.

Make all the tomato cages I wanted, and cages to support flowers that want to flop... problem is... it doesn't last forever... and wire is expensive...

By the way... I planted the running bamboo... all the stakes I can cut... just gotta go out in the spring and knock over the outliers... where it tries to spread...
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Tip Photographer Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Hibiscus
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Horntoad
Aug 16, 2016 4:43 PM CST
porkpal said:I built great supports out of long, straight willow branches - big mistake - they all rooted and I was fighting willow sprouts for a couple of years.


I made the same mistake using fresh bamboo. You have to make sure it is completely dry before sticking it in the ground or you will have another clump of bamboo.
wildflowersoftexas.com
texasnatureonline.com


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