No More Wimpy Tomato Cages

One thing about growing tomatoes in the greenhouse — the plants get big. They get all the sunlight in the world, and are watered with lovely pond water every other day. If there is a tomato heaven, in my experience, it is in a greenhouse.

We have a couple of problems with our tomatoes each year. First, we plant too many, and so many of them survive and thrive, that we pack them into the greenhouse too tightly. Second is the wimpy tomato cages that are out there. We’ve been buying these cone shaped wire creatures for years, and while they don’t cost much money, they are flimsy. When we plant our little tomato plants and cover them with these cages, we are temporarily optimistic. The little plants are so fragile and tiny, and the cages so huge and sturdy in comparison, that we often dust off our hands, and stalk off to the next project with the mistaken belief that that is now taken care of.

But when the little tomato plants start growing, they just don’t stop. They reach up inside their cages, overtop them, and just keep going up and out. They grow asymmetrically, such that they overcome the strength of their steel enclosures and topple over. You walk out of the greenhouse the night before and all seems well; walk in the next morning and it looks like a twister touched down. So out comes the nylon rope, and support knots are tied between the cages and the greenhouse hoops. The tomato cages are often twisted out of shape from all the stresses, and many last only one season.

During the winter, when there is little gardening to do but plenty of dehydrated tomatoes to eat, I sometimes do a little googling to see if an answer to this problem exists. I’ve found nothing commercially available that gives me hope. During one of these sessions, I stumbled on this article at Rodale ™

Super-Sturdy Tomato Cages

“Yes right,” I thought skeptically to myself.

cage2Fast forward to spring 2016, and I found myself at the local Tractor Supply ™ with my bolt cutters and credit card. I came home with 6 50″ x 16′ cattle panels. Following the directions, after a couple of days of intermittent pretty hard labor, I had 12 tomato cages that I’d spent about $10 each on that I challenge any tomato plant to try to weaken. I’m a pretty strong guy, but after bending the substantial steel in these panels into cages, I had to take a hot bath and lay down.

This year we did not grow our own tomato plants for various reasons, so all of them were store bought. The advantage here is we didn’t overdo it as much as we usually do. Instead of shoe horning 40 of them in, we planted just 12, and spaced them out so they can be watered, pruned, and harvested without feeling like we’re crawling through a tropical rainforest.

cage1I’m very optimistic after installing these monsters, and publicly dare any tomato plant to damage them. They do not nest with each other, which makes off-season storage a challenge, but if they perform as they look like they will, it will be a small price to pay.

Happy gardening.

4 Responses to “No More Wimpy Tomato Cages”

  1. hello ted and alice, in response to your good writing about ‘wimpyness’, i can only recommend using sidewalk construction wire, it is stiff, strong, and has many other uses, such as bean and pea climbing support. only the imagination limits the potential uses. about here, a 150 foot roll costs about $78. lasts a long time. i am still saving wine bottles for you, for when we meet again. hope you are well, hope to see you soon. pete lehnert

  2. Ted says:

    Hey Pete, thanks for the idea. I’ll be pouring some concrete someday anyway, so could always use some. I’ll give it a try. Thanks for saving the wine bottles for us. Ted

  3. Marcia Anderson says:

    Hey, Ted and Alice. Nice to see that you’re getting your garden in . . . mine is doing well, though some of the plants (onions, broccoli, parsley) has already “bolted” and gone to seed. The corn is about 4 feet tall, and I’m looking forward to THAT CROP going to seed. Yum!

    See you later?

    marcia

    • admin0 says:

      Hello Marcia. It was nice to hear from you. Our travel plans have been interrupted this summer, but we still have you on the agenda when our motorhome makes a swing south. Sure looking forward to seeing you again. Best.

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